Career & Education

Why should I bother to dress up for an interview?

Sunday, March 04, 2018

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Dear Career Advisor,

Why is there so much ado about dressing up for an interview? Isn't it a double standard that interviewers assess how you dress for the interview, when in reality, for most days you can dress down on the job? I have an interview coming up and I am really struggling with this issue of dress. I just want to be me; showing by my dress my comfortable, relaxed nature. After all, the job I am interested in requires someone with whom clients will interact in a relaxed setting. What do you think?

Darien S.

Dear Darien:

Appearance, which in the interview process is reckoned by dress and grooming, forms a very important aspect of any first-time encounter and the perception or assessment of your professionalism and potential for success. The adage “first impressions last” remains true and is especially relevant in a setting where the complete you is being assessed. Bearing in mind that the outcome of the interview can be life-changing it would be prudent for you to take all reasonable steps to be polished in your appearance.

With that being said, let's take a look at presentation of self in respect of dress and grooming and the cues that help to form a positive or negative impression of a candidate's professionalism and potential for success. These tips are summarised for males and females in the table above.

While it is not what you wear to the interview that will secure for you the job, you can severely damage your chances by dressing inappropriately. Most companies have a dress code policy; find out what are the stipulations of the policy before your interview. If one is not available, take your cue from how others in that organisation or in a similar job function in other companies dress when at their best, and if possible, step up your dress a notch.

Permit me to end with a very frank response. It is better to be on the ‘inside’ addressing perceptions of double-standards and assisting with establishing or modifying dress code policies than to be on the ‘outside’ in protest. The benefits of dressing for success far outweigh any assertion of double standard, especially when you do not yet hold a position of influence within the organisation.

All the best in your upcoming interview.

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at careeradvisor@




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