Posted by Erik Even on Jun 23, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Men assume that because proper interview attire isn’t the minefield for them it is for women, they don’t have to worry too much about what they wear to a job interview.
You may think your resume or cover letter gives a prospective employer their first real impression of you. Nope — that just gets you in the door, and by the time of the actual interview, an employer may have forgotten everything in your resume, or not even have read it yet.
It’s the first moment that an interviewer sees you that gives them their most important impression of you. Is this prejudice? Only if they’re judging you based on race or ethnicity. You choose your hairstyle, choose your hygiene, control your own gait and posture, and you select your own clothes. These are all messages you select and control. If you’re not aware of them, controlling them, then who know what you are telling the world about yourself?
As the great David Byrne once sang, “I am just an advertisement for a version of myself.”
Let’s talk clothes.
Have at least two suits — a formal suit and a casual one. I guess what I mean by “casual suit” isn’t really a suit — it’s a coordinated shirt, slacks and sports coat combo, usually a medium-to-dark earth tone. This is what you wear when, and only when, the employer instructs you not to wear a suit to the interview. The rest of the time, wear a nice two-piece suit, purchased within the last five years, excellent condition (no wear or stains), dark blue or charcoal. Black is acceptable, but makes you look like you’re going to a funeral — wear a colored tie to cheer it up.
Wear a nice shirt. White is best, properly fitted, with stays in the collars. If you know how to coordinate a colored shirt, go ahead — but white is safer. No French cuffs unless you’re French. Cuff links are nice — silver, not gold — but not necessary. No stains — eat before you change for the interview.
Also, make sure your suit and shirt are all newly dry-cleaned and pressed. Or at least iron them yourself.
Wear a tie. The tie should be silk, either a solid color or a subtle pattern. Absolutely do not wear any kind of novelty tie to a job interview. You can wear a college tie — if you know in advance that your interviewer went to that college. Otherwise, keep it simple and conservative. Clip-on ties are for blue collar workers circa 1953. Are you a blue collar worker, circa 1953?
If you don’t know how to tie a tie, look here.
Wear nice shoes. Yes, people look at your shoes. Wear leather business shoes, lace-up or slip-on, preferably black or brown. Spend some money, if for no other reason than pricier shoes will be more comfortable than cheap ones, and you never know how far you will have to walk from the car, or how long you might need to stand. Don’t think you can get away with black sneakers — this screams “I’m a recent college grad and I live in my Mom’s basement.”
Match your socks. Buy nice socks, and make sure they color coordinate with your suit and shoes. This is one of the little trivial things employers notice. If you’re wearing white sports socks with your black suit and loafers, you will not make a good impression.
Wear a belt. Like shoes, belts quickly wear out and become damaged. Have a recently purchased belt that fits properly — no extra long belt poking out of your suit. A slender belt is better than a thicker one. And absolutely no novelty buckles. Unless you live in Texas.
Groom your facial hair. If you are clean shaven, then make sure you really are clean shaven — take extra time to shave before an interview. Get under the chin. Even up those sideburns. Trim your nose hair.
If you have facial hair, you’re already at a disadvantage — some employers still think it’s 1947, and frown on beards and mustaches. Some firms even have policies against facial hair — you do not want to work there, unless you enjoy mandatory calisthenics, “WWJD” mugs and daily venerations of Walt Disney.
So if you have facial hair, trim it closely and evenly. Long beards are for pirates and hermits. Shave the edges to keep the beard neat.
Also, it’s 2009 — mustaches with no beard are appropriate only for cops and gay men. Tom Selleck can get away with it — you can’t.
Wear a watch. You will need to know the time. Actually, you can get away with almost anything for a watch — unusual watches make good conversation pieces. If a firm is unusually conservative, stick to a conservative watch.
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 18, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
The rules for proper business attire for men are quite simple. Sure, men get them wrong all the time, but they are simple.
For women, things are more complicated. This is because male hominids are genetically programmed to sexually objectify female hominids, especially the hot ones. It’s in the female hominid’s best interests to dress asexually, so as to be taken seriously as a workmate rather than a sexual conquest. Yet she must dress provocatively enough so as not to invite scorn. It’s a balance between a burka and Dr. Lisa Cuddy.
Here are some quick tips for female job interview attire. One general rule: while it’s generally undesirable to dress as generally undesirable — that is, too much “like a man” — it is better to dress less feminine than to wear an outfit that is too sexy. Yes, dressing provocatively may very well help you get hired — if the boss is a guy. But he’s not the kind of guy for whom you’ll want to work. To put it in terms familiar to D&D players: you want to be charismatic, not comely.
Wear a suit. Make it navy, black or dark gray. Some misguided people will tell you that a red outfit is a “power” outfit. Unfortunately, there are still people in the 21st Century who think a red outfit on a woman means she is a prostitute. Also, avoid lavender, aqua and other ’80s colors. These colors say “I collect unicorns and watch QVC while I cry into my Ben & Jerry’s.”
Wear a skirt or pants. Well, obviously — don’t show up in a thong. If you wear a skirt, keep it below the knee with no provocative slit along the side. If an employer requires its female employees to wear skirts, do not work there. You do not want to associate with those people. Unless you enjoy “Power Prayer Breakfasts,” “No on Prop. 8″ rallies, glass ceilings, and anti-Semitism.
Coordinate your blouse. You are safer with a perfectly opaque blouse, but a VERY SLIGHTLY transparent one should be fine. If I can read the label on your bra, it’s no good. Make sure the color coordinates with your suit. Oh, and those blouses with frilly junk along the front? Don’t do that. You’re not a pirate.
Minimal jewelry. Small earrings (non-dangling), a thin necklace and a ring. That’s it. Wear all silver or platinum — gold jewelry is for Jersey mob wives. (Whatever your wedding ring is, even if it’s awful, you can wear it. No one expects you to take off your wedding ring. Although your next husband should have better taste.) Avoid cheap jewelry — better to wear none.
Also, wearing multiple rings implies you lost your virginity in the wheat germ hut at Burning Man. Save that stuff for your off-hours.
Wear pantyhose. For the interview, anyway. Yes, in 20 years this ridiculous clothing item won’t exist anymore. But for right now, wear the damn things. Wear neutral pantyhose — colored hose are for porn stars and Harajuku girls.
Wear sensible shoes. First, keep them dark and coordinate them with your suit. Avoid buckles, frills and bells. “Light-up” clear plastic heels are right out.
Second, wear comfortable shoes. DO NOT WEAR HIGH HEELS. It’s not necessary, and you walk like a hobbled calf. Why spend your interview in severe pain? Men may notice if you wear high heels, but they won’t notice if you don’t. It’s time to end the tyranny of the cruel shoe.
Got any advice about female interview attire? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 3, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Did you know that neckties were invented by Croatian mercenaries during the Thirty Years’ War? Neither did I. But at least now we know who to blame.
The most common necktie knot, and the only one I know, is the “Four-in-Hand.” Sure, James Bond uses the Windsor, but the simple Four-in-Hand has worked great for me since high school graduation.
Here, for the benefit of our male readers and Annie Lennox, is how you tie a necktie:
1. Place the tie around the collar the right way visible (i.e. the seams and label not visible). The relative length of the narrow and wide ends can be adjusted with practice so that the tie is the desired length. A good starting guide is to have the wide end 30 cm or 12 inches lower than the narrow end.
2. Place the wide end of the tie across the front of the narrow end about 12 cm or 5 inches from the collar.
3. Fold the wide end behind the narrow end and loop the same (wide) end over the front.
4. Put the wide end through the back of the large loop (which is around the neck).
5. Push through the same (wide) end through the smaller loop (around the tie) and pull it through carefully. Be careful to make sure that the wide end does not begin to fold near the forming knot and straighten it if this occurs.
6. Pull the larger end until the shape of the knot is what you want.
7. Pull the thin end carefully, to move the knot closer to your collar.
8. Make small adjustments until you are happy with the knot.
There. Now that your airway is properly restricted, it’s time for that interview! And don’t feel too put upon, boys — at least we don’t have to wear heels.
Posted by Erik Even on Apr 17, 2009 in Advice
Chances are, today is “Casual Friday” at your office. As of 2,000, 50% of American businesses have a Casual Friday.
Even businesses that don’t require suits, ties and skirts will relax their already lax rules on Friday.
Unfortunately, many employees make the mistake that “casual” means “wear whatever you want.” This is almost never true. Unless you work in the adult entertainment industry, your workplace will have rules and expectations regarding “casual” dress.
Pay attention to what your colleagues wear, both on Casual Friday and during the rest of the week. Take your cues from them. Don’t worry about what people in other departments and at different levels wear. Just because they let that guy in Shipping wear shorts, doesn’t mean you can wear them at the Friday business development meeting.
Casual doesn’t mean sloppy, dirty, old or torn. If you’re firm is going to let you wear jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers on Fridays, make sure they’re relatively new and in excellent condition.
It is never appropriate to dress provocatively at work, and Casual Friday is no exception. No skin-tight clothes, no bare midriffs, no inappropriately plunging necklines. Of course women are in greater danger here. If you’re wearing a sexy dress to work because you’re going out Friday night, just cover up with a jacket or vest.
Sexually provocative clothes aren’t the only problem. Don’t wear clothes with inappropriate slogans on them, such as t-shirts with religious or political themes, or profanity. And those jeans with the word “sassy” embroidered across the seat? No.
Work is not a gym. Unless you work at a gym. So no workout clothing, please.
No sandals or other unusual shoes. It’s Casual Friday, not a Grateful Dead concert. And I know your Birkenstocks are probably the most expensive shoes in the building — save them for the weekend. Also, I once knew a woman who caused an uproar at work by wearing clear plastic high-heeled shoes that lit up when she walked. Save them for the stripper pole.
Finally, unless you have some kind of important business meeting with a client, or a funeral, or a secret job interview with a rival firm, don’t wear conservative business attire on Casual Friday. You’ll make everyone who is more casually dressed feel uncomfortable. Be a team player — go get a casual collared shirt and some Dockers. You’ll be glad you did.