The best dress for success at a job interview

Want to project a good image? Save flip-flops for a day at the beach.

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Want to project a good image? Save flip-flops for a day at the beach.

One person showed up in leather pants and cowboy boots. Another wore a plastic skirt. Yet another was dressed in a cat suit.

Problem was, this was not the attire on display at a costume party. These were outfits that prospective employees wore to job interviews, according to a survey by a California-based professional staffing firm.

"That's not the right way to go about interviewing," said Jennifer Vasicek, division director of the Pittsburgh branch of OfficeTeam.

Uh, obviously. A cat suit or plastic skirt just doesn't evoke professionalism.

OfficeTeam surveyed 670 human-resources managers in the United States and Canada recently and asked for the strangest interview outfits they had seen or heard about.

Other wardrobe combinations that made the list: a Star Trek T-shirt, jeans with suspenders, yoga or exercise clothes, Gothic-inspired clothes, a top held up with a big safety pin, and a blanket worn as a shawl.

Why would someone show up at an interview dressed in such attire?

Vasicek offered a few observations.

Among them: Maybe the sluggish economy has some people on the job hunt much longer than they expected and they don't think they need to dress up for yet another interview. "A lot of candidates have interviewed quite a bit," she said. "They may feel they are doing it all the time so it's not a special occasion anymore."

For her part, Vasicek has been surprised at candidates who show up in flip-flops and sundresses in summer, and very low-cut blouses any time of year.

Another reason people may be dressing down for interviews, she said, is that many companies have relaxed their dress codes in recent years. For the inexperienced job candidate, it may seem natural that a cutting-edge-technology company where everyone wears jeans and sneakers would welcome interviewees in casual clothes.

But potential hires should still put on a suit for that initial meeting, said Vasicek.

"Hiring managers expect people to be dressed. A more polished appearance can lend credibility and help someone be seen as a valuable contributor to the team. Overdressing is more appropriate than underdressing. You want to look polished and prepared."

OfficeTeam, which is a division of Robert Half International based in Menlo Park in California's Silicon Valley, handles temporary placements for office and administrative support jobs. Some of the temporary positions lead to full-time employment, Vasicek said.

During its first meeting with job candidates, she said, OfficeTeam frequently provides tips on the upcoming interview. "We tell them how to present themselves, and nine out of 10 times we advise both men and women to wear a professional suit. They find out the culture of the (company) after the fact."

The best dress for success at a job interview 11/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 3:30am]

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