Graduate Image: Interview Tips
By Expert Image Consultant, Sandy Dumont

Your image in college may not have been that important to you, but as a college graduate you will soon have to put on a suit and begin interviewing for jobs. If you want to get hired in a traditional business arena, you’d better be prepared to look like you’ve been working for years and wear a suit every day. The competition is stiff these days, and most companies hesitate to hire people who look like complete greenhorns.

Image is more important now then ever. Without a doubt, the days of Casual Friday and Business Casual are coming to a screeching halt.

First of all, it is an oxymoron to talk about Business Casual. You are either dressed for business or for casual activities. Secondly, casual attire never gives you the advantage over the competition. The way you look and dress announces the outcome other people can expect from you, and casual attire suggests so-so results. No one is looking for an average plumber, a run-of-the-mill realtor, a so-so attorney, a not-so-bad hairdresser, or a sales person who just got hired and can’t answer all your questions. Got the picture? You need to look extraordinary, not ordinary, when you head for your interview—as well as on the job in the succeeding days after you are hired!

Serious professionals know instinctively that in order to be taken seriously, a serious appearance is required. Most people make an effort to impress when interviewing for a job or calling on an important client because they know it affects the outcome. But what about the everyday encounter? Does it matter? You bet it does! Once you get a job, make certain you continue to dress to impress. It will be noticed, and you will be more likely to attract a mentor or receive extra help in moving up the ladder.

There is a distinct difference between “fashion” attire and “business” attire. Fashion attire is often fleeting and sometimes not flattering. Pastel shirts in lavender, moss green, and sky blue with perfectly- coordinated ties belong on quiz-show hosts and not in the office. If you want to establish immediate credibility and look like a polished professional, you want an upper middle class look. Old money is discreet and doesn’t “shout” with loud colors or unusual patterns and designs. Consider wearing a navy blue suit and power tie in a bold color (red, burgundy, yellow) with small (discreet) repeating patterns or stripes. Avoid large patterns or abstract designs because they look scattered. The whole idea is that your tie must dominate and “make a statement.” Do not wear a blue tie with a blue suit ever. This is a common mistake and results in an “invisible” tie. Consider a mostly-red tie with a small blue pattern or stripe. That way, the small touch of blue goes with your shirt but doesn’t disappear into it. A classic Oxford blue shirt of light French blue will give you a very professional look. A white shirt is the most formal and, therefore, more appropriate for higher levels. If you do not have a navy blue suit, wear a blue blazer and nice tan pants in a khaki color but not khaki material, which easily looks rumpled.

The safe, classic looks that are touted for interview dress will make you look ordinary, not extraordinary. Do not wear a classic blazer in a safe earth tone that looks like “daddy’s jacket” to an interview. Instead, wear a more fitted, stylized jacket in a business color such as navy blue or dark royal blue. Earth tones suggest country weekend, and that’s not what you want to suggest. Women are attracted to pastels, but they can easily cause you to come across as sweet but not very assertive or dynamic. Save them for social occasions or for lingerie. Wear professional-looking makeup and accessories. You will look much more worldly and experienced with a soft shade of mauve or orchid lipstick than in brown-toned, so-called natural shades. If you have darker hair or skin, you can try a soft shade of fuchsia. Do not wear eye shadow or liner in blue, aqua, or green as it shouts “makeup.” Earrings are important because they give you a finished look. Studs are fine, even though they are not adding “presence” to your image. Thin wire hoops are not recommended. They suggest “teenager” and lower your credibility and presence. Consider chunky hoops, but make certain they hug the face and do not stick out like Mickey Mouse ears, in which case your earrings wear you instead of you wearing them. Wear either a suit or a jacket with a plain black skirt that is knee length or just above it. Pants are fine, but a skirt will set you apart because most teens and college students live in pants and say they do not feel comfortable in a classic skirt. You will have a better chance of being noticed and remembered in a skirt than in pants because you won’t look like everyone else. Above all, do not wear a lingerie-style top that shows cleavage under your suit. Serious university studies have shown that you will be labeled a “bimbo” rather than an intelligent young woman by doing so.

Author's Bio: 

Sandy Dumont, THE Image Architect is an image consultant and professional speaker based in Norfolk/Virginia Beach, with 30 years of international and national experience helping individuals and Fortune 500 companies improve their image. She conducts customized Branding for People™workshops on a regular basis.
For a free copy of her 5-part Image Course, visit
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