Dress the Part: Stand Out from the Crowd!

Dress the Part: Stand Out from the Crowd!

Optimizing your Career Fair Experience #3 To Stand Out, Dress the Part!

One of my clients was preparing for an interview. This was interview #3 but the first in-person interview. He was an IT Project Manager facing a team of 12 in the interview.

He asked me to clarify dress. What do you wear in today’s business environments for an interview?

He checked the corporate dress policy — business casual and had someone at the company define that as Dockers and polo shirts. But he knew that didn’t mean he should dress business casual for the interview.

I asked the opinions of a panel of career professionals: Gayle Howard, Dawn Bugni, Jason Alba, Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, and Barb Poole.

I knew I could trust this career savvy group of colleagues for cutting edge opinions.

Jason Alba: “Just because the environment is business casual doesn’t mean he’s “in” yet. I remember an interview where only ONE person wore a suit… the rest were business casual. It was not too much, and it left a very favorable impression.”

Photo by Ori Neidich; http://ori.neidich.com/Dawn Bugni: “I’m with Jason. Err on the side of caution. It’s easy to take a tie off and “get casual” if need be. Not so easy to add a tie to a polo shirt.”

Gayle Howard: “I always think of business casual as nice trousers, well pressed, and a shirt with no tie. Maybe (if it’s cold) a sports jacket, but not a suit jacket. Something that tones in but doesn’t look as formal as a suit. Something like you’d wear to a nice dinner out. Shoes wouldn’t necessarily be suit/black leather, but instead maybe a comfortable brown shoe that goes with the rest of the outfit.”

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter: “If I were to err, I’d err on the side of ‘too-dressy.’ Many suit/tie looks, it seems, don’t look stuffy; they can still be a bit hip/biz casual but still include the closed-button shirt with tie <–that’d be my initial recommendation, based on what I’m hearing.”

Barb Poole: “I missed getting in on the dress comments. You got sage advice from great minds!”


  • Dress more conservatively than corporate culture.
  • Know the culture going in.
  • Determine that you need to go up a notch from the reported dress style.

What to wear to a career fair? — same concept.

Do you want to make an impression and leave an impression?

  • Dress up!
  • Leave the blue jeans and t-shirts at home.
  • Cut the hair, trim facial hair, dress the part.

Job search is challenging enough. Make sure your clothes leave the right impression. Don’t let your fashion statement leave you out of the running for your new job.

Need help? I get to know my clients and use a collaborative strategy to create your story while helping you to really understand your strengths. Learn More here


  1. Mohammed Al-Taee, PMP on February 12, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I cut my hair yesterday 🙂

    Can you share some photos of your recommendation for dress?

    By the way, what is the plugin name that shows the commenter latest posts?
    .-= Mohammed Al-Taee, PMP

  2. Gregg Zban on February 13, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thank you for this article. My “day job” is with Coca-Cola and I have interview hundreds of people over the last several years and appropriate dress is very important. I view it as playing in a golf tournament. You can’t win it on Thursday but you can certainly lose with a bad hole or two.

    Appropriate dress for an interview is similar. It won’t get you the job, but it can certainly disqualify you if you are not dressed appropriately.

    All the best,
    Gregg Zban
    Keeping Internet Marketing Simple
    .-= Gregg Zban´s last blog ..How to Make Your Links “Clickable” =-.

  3. Julie on February 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks, Gregg, for your comment in general and for your perspective. With the decline in dress in general, the challenge for everyone at interviews or any where that they go professionally is that they may have to invest in clothing. But it is important to do that and you just need to keep your eyes open for value and sales.

    Thanks for the visit and hope you will return!

  4. Charles Pellicane on February 14, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    As a current University of Wisconsin – Madison student I found this posting very helpful. I recently attended a Spring Career Expo with many Fortune 500 companies recruiting. I would absolutely over-dress because there is no such thing. A business suit in conservative colors is par for the course, do not go overboard and do not wear jeans.

    Also, research who is going to be in attendance and know their companies, have a target list and go for it. My knowledge of companies differentiated me as a candidate and guaranteed me multiple interviews.

    Thanks again for all your pertinent advice Julie~

  5. Melissa on February 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Just wanted to share an anecdote:

    Last summer, my husband was flown out for an in-person interview for an international company. The opening was as a supervisor in a factory. He wore a long-sleeved shirt, tie, nice pants, and black leather slip-on shoes to the interview. Their reaction to his dress: “We don’t see ties much!”

    He didn’t get the job; there were some good internal candidates under consideration. I don’t think he was necessarily overdressed, but at the same time, I don’t think skipping the tie would have hurt his candidacy, either.

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