What NOT To Wear To A Job Interview

From Diversity, Inc.

Knowing what not to wear to an interview is as important as knowing what to wear. In today’s tight job market where many people are qualified, you want positive differentiators to separate you from the pack. Wearing an ill-fitting or frumpy suit, a tie that distracts, a skirt that is too short or a blouse that is too low are just some of the ways you can undermine your interview with attire that pulls focus away from your résumé and experience.

Recruiters can judge people. It’s human nature to judge people based on physical appearance, and that’s why it’s important to err on the side of caution with what you wear, say and how you appear in an interview,” says Carlos Monteagudo, staffing manager for J. P. Morgan Chase and #15 on the Diversity Inc. Top 50 List.

10 things not to wear (or take) to an interview:

1. The short skirt/the tight suit
“Don’t look as though you’re dressed for a party versus a business interview,” says Monteagudo. “Don’t wear clothes that are too short, too tight, or too revealing.”

A skirt is too short when it rises higher than just above the knee cap, says image stylist Mimi Dorsey, co-author of Style Source. “So many women think, ‘This is cute or fashionable,’ rather than thinking, ‘This is appropriate,'” says Dorsey. “You have to research. [Before the interview,] you can walk into the lobby or look online to check out pictures of the company’s senior officers. But wear classic-contemporary clothing that is not too severely detailed.”

Dorsey adds that tight clothes can stifle an interview. Clothes are too tight if when worn they “have horizontal wrinkles. If they pull anywhere, that wrinkle is an indication that the garment is too tight.”

2. Nose rings, unusual piercings, and, if you’re a man, earrings
“The other extreme, which seems to be happening more lately, is people with tattoos and piercings,” says Monteagudo. “That’s happening a lot and can get tricky. Everyone wants to highlight their personality, but too often, people don’t realize that some of these physical trinkets turn off customers as well as managers. Some managers see a person with a piercing and they don’t know how to handle it. And a lot of guys wear earrings, and that doesn’t always translate well.”

Monteagudo contends that things like nose rings can distract an interviewer from an applicant’s qualifications: “Anything that distracts [a recruiter or manager] from evaluating [an applicant] based on skills, then that’s a key that you shouldn’t go there.”

Dorsey adds that women should make sure their jewelry is small, not sparkly and not noisy. “Keep it simple and don’t wear rings on every finger,” says Dorsey. “For men, wear a watch, a wedding band and that’s it. No earrings for men.”

3. Leather, strappy sandals and other evening or casual wear
Leather blazers and pants are not conservative enough for office interviews. They are considered evening wear, not daytime office attire. Dorsey says men and women should wear suits made of a wool blend.

Backless and open-toed shoes are too casual and are also considered evening wear. They could force an interviewer’s eyes to focus on toes and feet rather than on the applicant’s face and the conversation. Women, if wearing heels, should also make sure they are not too high. That means leave the 4-inch stiletto heels at home.

Men should always wear shirts with collars. Turtlenecks and collarless shirts are too casual. For men, it is preferred that they wear a collared shirt with a tie, say Barcelos and Monteagudo.

4. Tattoos
Tattoos should be covered, if at all possible. “I’ve seen people who have tattoos on their fingers,” says Monteagudo. He adds that visible tattoos are not an automatic deal breaker but they do distract interviewer’s focus on body art rather than the applicant’s ability to perform on the job.

5. Fancy nails and excessive makeup
Women’s nails should not be so long that that they prevent their fingers from hitting the keyboard when they type.

“I’ve seen very interesting patterns on nails,” says Monteagudo. “If someone working for us wore that, we’d have to coach them on proper business attire.”

6. Earphones and transit pieces
Transit pieces are iPods, sunglasses, headphones, etc. They don’t characterize a person as a professional. So take off the transit gear before entering the lobby.

“About a year ago, I had an applicant in for an interview for a senior position, and the individual came in with his Bluetooth on,” recalls Barcelos. “I looked and thought, ‘Really?’ Throughout the entire interview, he didn’t take it off. It was definitely something that made an impression.”

Applicants want to impress interviewers with their focus on the interview and the job, and wearing an ear phone doesn’t send that message. Things like this can lead an interviewer to make assumptions about your work ethic, adds Barcelos.

“What you don’t want to do is have your iPod on while you’re waiting in the lobby,” says Barcelos. “People don’t realize that the interview starts the moment the interview was scheduled on phone. When the applicant comes in, he or she is being looked at–how they walk or dress and carry themselves in the office.”

7. BlackBerry devices and cell phones
“I’ve had at least three times where a candidate pulls out a BlackBerry and has to interrupt the interview, a cell phone rings in the candidate’s bag, or they put the cell phone on vibrate and the chair starts to vibrate,” says Barcelos.

“Answering your cell in the middle of the interview is not a good thing to do. It sends a clear message about whether they would have sound judgment when working,” says Monteagudo.

8. Cigarettes and coffee
Says Barcelos, “Don’t bring the Starbucks cup into the interview with you. You have a humongous cup and you can see if the person is a caffeine addict or not. It’s OK to have your coffee, but don’t bring it in with you. That goes for water and soda as well. You don’t bring drinks with you. Most interviewers will bring it to you.”

“People will smoke a cigarette outside the company’s door and throw it on the ground, then waltz into the office, say hello and basically exhale smoke,” says Dorsey. “So if you’re a smoker, don’t smoke prior to the interview.”

9. The five o’clock shadow and heavy cologne/perfume
Men should be clean shaven, says Monteagudo. “Men who are clean shaven can’t go wrong” because it demonstrates a professional attitude, he says. “Always err on the side of caution … always keep it professional no matter what.”

Applicants should also keep in mind that they don’t know the olfactory peculiarities of their interviewer, so it is best to go without the colognes, aftershaves and perfumes on the day of an interview. The stakes are too high to allow an overpowering fragrance to distract an interviewer.

10. Too many bags
If you don’t have one, invest in a professional, small briefcase.

“You don’t want to come in with the roll-in briefcase or the briefcase that’s so heavy or tattered it will burst while there,” says Barcelos. “Also, don’t come in with too many bags in addition to your briefcase. If I see a huge briefcase ready to burst, my question is, ‘Is the person going to be unorganized at work?'”
“For women, if you have a briefcase, then only take that into the interview,” says Dorsey. “You’re establishing your capabilities by how you look, so you don’t want to look disorganized or inappropriate.”