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Wardrobe 101: Interviewing


Overly-casual dress in the workplace (during interviews or client meetings) has been the topic at hand here at C&C. Much of my new business lately involves helping grads and employees to 1) use their personal style to secure jobs and build relationships, and 2) avoid fashion faux pas that can hurt one’s reputation and chances of promotion. For many young people new to the workforce, this last part is often overlooked.

Hiring managers and HR execs are not pleased. In fact, a recent article states that college grads are performing poorly during interviews:

Human resource professionals say they’ve seen recent college grads text or take calls in interviews, dress inappropriately, use slang or overly casual language, and exhibit other oddball behavior.

…HR executives say such quirks have become more commonplace the past three years or so, and are displayed by about one in five recent grads. They’re prompting recruiters to rule out otherwise qualified candidates for entry-level positions and delay hiring decisions.

Don’t despair! Years of experience working in business-professional environments has prepared me for this challenge. I love creating stylish interview looks that are professional, yet show you care about details and are self assured.

One client, Nick, a recent PhD graduate, was set to attend a marathon hiring event for professors. He’d have 3 days to network and interview with 30+ universities, including Ivy League giants. His look would need to portray a professional who was ready to teach at a top-tier university. Above all, he needed to stand out among a crowd of 300+ qualified applicants.

Here’s what Nick said while at the conference, “I think I’ve been killing it in the grey suit today. It helps a little to stand out from the same very conservative navy suit and tie almost everyone else is wearing.”

I’m happy to report that he’s accepted a professorship at Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Another client, Ethan, worked with me to create a business-professional wardrobe that would help him transition from a college kid to professional with ease. For Ethan, having the courage to wear bow ties landed him a job,

“When I walked into my first job interview I wore a suit and a bow tie. After I was hired, my boss let me know the bow tie set me ahead and thought to himself, “If this guy has half a brain he’s hired.” I learned that your “look” shouts who you are before you even utter a word. Wearing a bow tie said, “I am confident, I think outside the box, and I’m not afraid to take a chance. I like be different.” To sum it up, it showed that I am bold and helped me get the job.”

Above we've included a snapshot of Ethan on his way to work. I’m always impressed with his shirt and tie combinations. (We found these pieces at Escalator Style for Men and Billy Reid.)

Curating a professional wardrobe that represents your personality and personal style is a cornerstone of our business here at C&C.

For students and recent grads, we’ve coined a couple amusing adages: “If you’d wear it to a bar or the mall, you’re not dressed for work.” and “You have 3 seconds to make the best first impression. Wear 3 pieces to impress: Blazer, Blouse/Button Down, and Trouser/Skirt.”

From there, details are key. Is your look properly pressed and in impeccable condition? Do your shoes coordinate and are in perfect shape? Does your accent piece (such as a brightly printed tie or jewelry) accentuate your look or take away from it? Adding a bit of detail polishes a look. These accessories should be kept to a minimum: stay away from chunky jewelry and too many pieces. For women, standard accessories include a professional-looking watch, elegant necklace and coordinating earrings. For men, a professional watch, tie or bow tie and pocket square are key. Add a tie bar for extra panache.

Finding and landing the perfect job is hard work. Having personal style that’s work-appropriate and unique to your personality will make securing your dream job that much easier.

Have an interview or promotional meeting coming up – or know someone who does – call Donna at Cotton&Cashmere!

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