Let's Talk About Your First Impression

The first impression you make on a potential employer is the most important one. A large part of the interviewer's initial reaction to you will be based on your overall appearance and presentation, and that includes what you are wearing. It is very important to think carefully and dress appropriately for each and every job interview you go on.

At JobGiraffe, we ask every client we represent about their office atmosphere and dress code, and then we share that specific information with our candidates.

But in case we do not have specific information, here are some general guidelines you can use in any interview situation to help you make your best first impression.

Giraffe Tip:
Do your research!

Have you researched the company where you are about to interview? Have you spent time on their website?  Can you draw a conclusion about their office atmosphere or dress code based on the type of job or the firm's industry?  Certain types of jobs and industries frequently require specific dress.

Giraffe Tip:
Conservative or Business Professional?

Law firms, banks, financial service firms, investment firms, corporate offices, consulting firms, management positions, positions with heavy public contact such as a Corporate Receptionist, etc., frequently expect the following modes of dress:

Women's Interview Attire: Conservative
  • Suit (the jacket and skirt or slacks are of the same fabric) with a coordinated blouse
  • One or two piece dress
  • Top (no jacket) with coordinated pants or skirt
  • Any skirt or dress should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably
  • Conservative, well cared-for shoes
  • Limited jewelry (no jewelry is better than too much jewelry)
  • Neat, pulled-back, serious hairstyle
  • Neutral pantyhose or well-cared for bare legs
  • Light make-up and light perfume
  • Manicured or neatly trimmed, clean nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase
Men's Interview Attire: Conservative
  • Suit (the jacket and slacks are of the same fabric)
  • Coordinated sport coat and slacks
  • Long sleeve shirt (white or coordinated with the suit)
  • Tie
  • Belt
  • Coordinated socks
  • Conservative, well cared-for shoes
  • Little or no jewelry
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Light aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase
Giraffe Tip:
Business Casual?

Creative companies, advertising agencies, marketing and design firms, sales offices, insurance or real estate offices, departmental or general office staff generally have a looser dress code, which can include the following:

Women's Interview Attire:  Business Casual

  • Slacks and a top
  • Skirt (not too short) and top
  • NO jeans, although they may be OK to wear once on the job
  • NO tee shirts, although they may be OK to wear once on the job
  • NO leggings or athletic wear
  • Hose optional
  • Shoes can be more fun or casual, but make sure they are well cared for
  • Jewelry can be in line with your personal style
  • Hair can be in line with your personal style
  • Make up in line with your personal style
  • Perfume - always in moderation

Men's Interview Attire:  Business Casual

  • Slacks and shirt - long or short sleeved
  • Khakis and a shirt - long or short sleeved
  • Sport coat optional
  • Tie optional (wear it and you can take it off in the waiting room!)
  • NO jeans, although they may be OK to wear once on the job
  • NO tee shirts, although they may be OK to wear once on the job
  • NO athletic wear 
  • Socks
  • Shoes can be more fun or casual, but make sure they are well cared for
  • Jewelry can be in line with your personal style
  • Hair can be in line with your personal style
  • Cologne or aftershave - always in moderation
Giraffe Tip:
Truly Casual? 

Companies with a casual dress code usually have manufacturing on site, distribution on site, are smaller companies, smaller offices and/or family-owned businesses.  The following dress will be appropriate even for the interview:

Women or Men: Casual

  • Casual pants or NICE jeans
  • For Women - Nice shirt or top with pants or a skirt, but nothing too short or too bare
  • For Men - A polo shirt or a solid color tee shirt or a casual over-shirt with pants or nice jeans
  • Reasonable shoes or sandals but avoid flip-flops or backless sandals.  Hose or socks are not necessary.
Giraffe Tip:
What NOT to bring inside the building/office for your interview?
  • Gum or candy - please do not think you can hide either in your mouth.
  • Your cell phone - leave it in your bag or briefcase and make 100% certain it is on airplane mode or silent.
  • Tablets, laptops or other electronic device - unless the interview specifies you bring a device or must have digital examples of your work available.
  • Your own coffee or soda - definitely do not walk into an interview and place your Starbucks cup on the interviewer's desk or table.
  • Any companion or animal - especially your mom or therapy peacock - unless you require a licensed service animal, all companions and therapy pets should be left at home.
Giraffe Tip:
Three final tips on preparing for your interview...
  • Make sure you research the Client Company across multiple platforms (don't just look at their website) and formulate questions or comments that appear well prepared and thought through.  More research tips can be found on the "Your Interview" page.
  • Make sure you select, try on and then lay out your clothing well in advance of getting ready for your interview to be sure you have an appropriate outfit selected AND that everything fits correctly. By preparing in advance, if you find you do not have the correct outfit, you still have time to regroup, borrow or buy something.
  • Also, lay out any items you need to bring with you (resumes, cover letter, references, portfolio, pen or pencil, preparation materials, company address, etc.) so you will not be running around at the last minute trying to find a pen or figuring out where you can print your resume.  This could cause you to arrive late or be frazzled or nervous and not do well with the interviewer.
Giraffe Tip:
What's the most important thing to bring? 

In addition to being dressed appropriately and having all your materials at hand, be sure to bring YOU!  Try to leave your jitters at the door (with your gum!) and be at your best and "in the moment".

In addition to being well prepared, you will also be judged on many other points such as an easy smile, a pleasant demeanor, a solid command of your accomplishments, your positive energy and your ability to make eye contact.

Good luck!

JobGiraffe – Reach Higher®