Dressing for success to help snag the job

Rachel Jones

Now that you’ve secured the first interview, it’s time to dress to impress: but it’s more important than you think.

Carla Owens, associate director of The Career Services Center at Kent State, said she’s had interviewers tell her they’ve decided not to hire people based on their appearance during the interview.

“First impressions are critical,” Owens said. “A first impression is made during the first 20 to 30 seconds.”

When it comes to dress, the position in question certainly comes into play. Someone aspiring to work in fashion may wear something completely opposite to someone aspiring to work in computer science.

Regardless, Owens said there are certain parameters, in terms of appropriate attire, that apply to every job.

Other Tips:

Say Cheese!
You may not consider it wardrobe, but one of the most important things to wear is a smile. It shows you are friendly and trustworthy, adding to a great first impression.

Have a Follow-up Outfit
It usually takes two or three interviews to secure a job, so make sure you have a follow-up interview outfit planned. Change it up in case the same interviewer is present. Owens suggested buying complimentary pieces for easy mix-and-match outfits.

Don’t be Fashionably late

Being late for an interview is never a good look. Owens said interviewees should arrive on time or 10 minutes early at most. Arriving too early shows you don’t know how to properly manage your time.

Ask the Experts

If you have an outfit in mind for an interview but still aren’t sure if it’s appropriate, show someone at The Career Services Center. Owens said they will provide advice for the outfit you have in mind and other last-minute tips. Call for an appointment at 330-672-2360.

“Our thought is it’s better to edge on the side of being more professional and conservative than less,” Owens said. “Someone could be offended or misconstrued by your apparel and judge you in some way.”

The most common way to spark negative judgment is through inappropriate tattoos or piercings.

“People judge others,” Owens said. “It’s not right, but it does happen. Sometimes people feel very strongly about it and say, ‘If a person will judge me based on my tattoo, I’m not sure I want to work for them.’ But it’s a competitive job market out there. If you can something as minor as cover up a tattoo to get an interview, it might be worth it.”

Even if the employer does allow piercings and tattoos, it’s better to look professional for the interview, Owens said.

The same goes for a job where professional dress is not seen day-to-day.

In this case, Owens said it is acceptable to ask what’s appropriate to wear. Just make sure you do not sound uneducated.

“Say something like, ‘I would love to look professional and was considering wearing a suit to the interview. Would that be appropriate?’” Owens said. “It’s better to act like you were planning on dressing really professionally then let them say it’s appropriate to dress down.”

Here are the best ways to dress professionally:


  • Matching suit (pants or skirt)
  • skirts should not rise more than two inches above the knee when seated
  • stockings if wearing skirt
  • Blouse that’s not low-cut
  • Heels (no more than a few inches high, no open toed shoes)
  • A little color is appropriate as long as it’s not too bold
  • Conservative jewelry (one set of small earrings)
  • if hair is past shoulders, keep out of face
  • No overpowering fragrances, or avoid them altogether in case interviewer has allergies
  • Well-groomed fingernails (not too long, no flashy colors)


  • Matching suit
  • Avoid sports jacket and dress pants
  • Dress shoes
  • Dress socks that match pants
  • Nice shirt
  • Nice tie that’s not too bold
  • Freshly shaven face
  • if facial hair is important, keep it trimmed
  • Short, clean nails


  • Fresh breath
  • Shined shoes

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].