- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

What do fishnet stockings, fake eyelashes and low-cut blouses all have in common? None should be worn to a job interview. If this is obvious to you, then you aren’t the young lady my friend — a financial analyst for a major investment firm — interviewed last year.

To this day, he can still vividly recall the young applicant’s outfit, and the flowery scent she left in her wake. Yet, as you may have surmised, she was not offered a job, or even a second interview, despite impressive credentials, as her outfit selection led her interviewer to call into question her good judgment — a valuable asset in just about every occupation.

Indeed, the first few moments of an interview are usually the most critical, as you have only one chance to make a first impression. Your skills are important, but those have already been identified on your resume. Now is the time to show your prospective employer how you handle yourself in a business setting, and your attire plays an important role in this evaluation.

As noted in last week’s column, a suit is a must for a male interviewee, and it’s a pretty good idea for the ladies as well. A conservative dress is also acceptable, and depending on the position you are seeking, you may choose to go this route. However, nothing looks as professional as a nice, conservative business suit. Select one in a neutral color, such as blue, gray, beige or black, making sure the color complements your complexion. Sticking out like a sore thumb is not advisable, but neither is blending in with the wallpaper. If you go the skirt route, it should fall at least to the knee. Suit pants are equally acceptable.

For your blouse, select a simple style — no big ruffles, dcolletage-revealing lace or low-cut necklines of any sort. White or off white are safe blouse color selections, but if you’re wearing a conservative suit a colorful blouse will add some panache to your outfit without overwhelming it. A soft pink, cobalt blue or pear green will provide a nice contrast to a black or grey suit in particular.

Select shoes with a medium-level heel in a color and style that match your outfit, making sure the leather is polished and that the shoes show no dirt or scuff marks. Avoid spiked heels, lace-up ankles and backless shoes. Sheer black panty hose make the most professional appearance, but neutral hose are acceptable in cases in which black is too dark for the outfit.

As for accessories, it is a good idea to carry a simple briefcase or leather handbag. If nothing else, you will need to have someplace to carry extra copies of your resume and any other pertinent items in your employment portfolio. Keep jewelry simple and to a minimum: You should wear no more than one of any type of jewelry (earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches) and preferably not all of the above. Avoid flashy rhinestones, large bangles and wide-hoop earrings. If you have body tattoos, do your best to cover them up. Makes sure your nails are clean and your hair well groomed.

In short, if you’ve been called for an interview, remember this: You’ve already got your foot in the door, just make sure it’s not clad in a metallic pink stiletto!

Dear Jordan:

Is it okay to wear nail polish to an interview?

Christie - Herndon, VA

Dear Christie:

Yes, but keep it soft in “traditional” shade, such as a pink or tan or clear.

Dear Jordan:

I am returning to the working world after years in business school. All of my suits and dresses are more than three years old. Can I wear these for interviews or should I freshen up?

Colette - Oakton, VA

Dear Colette:

The more conservative your suits and dresses, the more likely they are still acceptable. Fashion trends have changed many times over in the three years you have been in business school, but a tailored suit on sale today will not look much different from what hangs in your closet.

Dear Jordan:

My office is planning an off-site summer bash at a lake, to include picnicking, sunbathing and water sports. By that time, I will be in my 7th month of pregnancy. Is it appropriate to wear a bathing suit in front of my colleagues?

Marla - Washington, DC

Dear Marla:

We are long past the age when women cover up their growing tummies and hide inside. My favorite maternity bathing suit is a switch up on the tankini: a two-piece whose bottom completely covers the belly: a more comfortable alternative to a one piece.

Ms. Jordan Speer is the senior editor of an apparel business magazine and has been writing about the industry for more than nine years. Send workplace or corporate fashion questions to [email protected]

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