Dressing for interview success

You have spent hours researching jobs, filling out applications, sending out your resume and finally you get that coveted interview call back. All seems great, until you start to wrack your mind for what you will be wearing and how exactly you will “dress to impress.’ While most might simply think of age-old rules such as a white shirt and skirt or trouser combination, it is important to go beyond those classic rules and show your character while still maintaining professionalism.

Etiquette specialist Julie Blais Comeau had many helpful tips for students as they begin the hunt for summer placements and graduate into the workforce. “You have seven seconds to make a good first impression,” said Blais Comeau, meaning that how you look says a lot about you before you even go over your credentials.

Know the dress code

Blais Comeau’s most important tip was to know the dress code. She explained how you can even call the company’s human relations department and enquire if you are unsure. Once you have established the dress code, follow it strictly. Your clothing should adapt to the position you are applying for and also to your age. It is important to remember you are dressing for your clients and your clothing should make sense to them.

There are three categories of potential jobs that require different interview outfits: creative, corporate and fashion. The creative field includes publishing, design, marketing, music or anything of the sort where you want your creative vision to shine. By incorporating a professional piece, such as a blazer, it anchors the rest of your outfit. Try including simple prints and jewelry that shows your eye for design and creative accessories, be it your shoes or bag.

In the corporate field, professionalism is certainly key. Here the fit of your pieces are crucial, not too baggy nor too tight, you want to look polished. Invest in quality shirts and suit sets, with simple yet understated jewelry and proper shoes in a classic neutral palette. Lastly, fashion is the field where the boundaries are less strict. Here you want to incorporate trends while still remaining true to your personal fashion sense.

Keep it clean

In regard to the work attire, Blais Comeau suggested that firstly, clothing should always be clean, in good condition, pressed and adjusted. She advised that your biggest investment should be in a full-length mirror, making sure to look at the complete 360 degrees before you leave. That salt stain on the cuff on your pants could be speaking much louder than you are.

Show your personality

As students, the range of creativity in our clothing runs the gamut, but once in the work field we tend to tame it down a little. Still, that does not mean that you cannot inject flair or creativity into your clothing, perhaps in a white blouse with a bow or even an architecturally structured bangle or ring. Blais Comeau advised that the best way to show creativity was in accessories, but to never go beyond 12. While that might seem like a lot, these accessories can include your nail polish, bright makeup, rings, necklaces, cufflinks and hair colour.

“Every element you have on outside of your clothes can distract,” explained Blais Comeau. “What you want is for them to listen to what you have to say.”

Tips for guys

It is commonly assumed that only women fuss over what to wear to a job interview, but when Blais Comeau provided a “Dress for Success” workshop at the University of Ottawa for students this past November, it was the men who had more questions. They wanted to know about fabrics, sizing, styles and even details like how long the cuff of their shirt should be and if it needs to be longer than their suit jacket.

With guys just as concerned about making a positive impression, Blais Comeau suggested men use the K.I.S.S. rule: keep it simple and stylish. That means guys should keep their attire simple, while still remaining professional. Items like a well thought-out classic tie, with either diagonals or a small plaid print can balance out what might seem like a bland white shirt, although she advised no funky prints.

Today, most (if not all) mass market retailers carry a good selection of professional yet stylish clothing, from more high-end stores such as Club Monaco, to H&M and even more budget-friendly ones like Joe Fresh, where all of the classic pieces needed for work can be found. With a winning attitude, clothes that sparkle and of course your polished resume, your job hunting will be a cinch.

Five key pieces

Whether searching for a temporary job or permanent one, Blais Comeau advised that both girls and guys should own the following:


1. A well-fitting suit jacket and pants or a well-tailored pencil skirt

2. A long sleeved blouse

3. A classic white shirt

4. A straight-legged trouser

5. A classic cardigan


1. A proper well-fitting suit jacket and pants. Blais Comeau recommended a navy or a charcoal grey palette because black is a colour associated with authority, and in an interview, you want to avoid coming off too strong

2. A dress shirt and tie

3. Like girls, a classic white shirt is a necessity

4. Casual pants like khakis

5. A casual blazer or cardigan

For more etiquette tips visit www.julieblaiscomeau.com

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