First Posted: 3/6/2013 3:04:31 PM | Last Updated: 3/6/2013 3:04:32 PM
Unfortunately, lots of people are desperately seeking jobs right now. For many, months and months of job hunting have resulted in a loss of confidence and feelings of hopelessness.
Hopefully, according to all reports, things are finally looking up, and more jobs are becoming available. Maybe it’s time to get back out there and give it another try. If you’ve taken a position that you aren’t excited about, it might be time to start looking for your dream job again. (Just remember, don’t give up a sure thing until you lock in your new career.)
Go out there with a new attitude. You have something to offer to an employer, but you have to believe in yourself, and sell your own skills and personality.
Many of us, however, need a bit of a refresher course in how to present ourselves at that initial interview. I have a friend who works in the HR department of a large, Fortune 500 company, and she tells me some real horror stories about people who lose the job before they say a word, just by their appearance at the interview. Even if the job is in a casual location, or you’ve been told it’s a Business Casual environment, the employer doesn’t expect you to show up in a logo tee shirt and jeans or shorts.
Words of advice. Clean up!! No matter what kind of job you’re looking for, no employer is going to hire a person who doesn’t even bother to shower and wash and comb her hair for the interview. Go a bit further and put on a little make-up. Make sure your shoes are in good condition and your clothes are freshly washed and pressed. You’re trying to make a good impression, for heaven’s sake. That means no flip-flops, or holey jeans. No mini-skirts or teetering five-inch heels. No tops or dresses that show a lot of cleavage. And nothing that is dirty, torn, missing buttons, safety-pinned, or so tight you look like you were sewn into it.
Remember, you can’t erase that first impression!
If you’ve been looking for a job for a while, you may not have the funds to go out and buy a new interview outfit. I can certainly understand that. In that case, just try to find your nicest skirt or dark-colored dress pants, and take them to the drycleaners. The garment will be nicely pressed and look 100% better than it did. Add a simple blouse or basic shell, and, if you have it, a coordinating cardigan sweater or blazer. Pick out your simplest dress shoes and clean them up as well as possible, and a small handbag (leather if you have it) to finish up the look. Check yourself out in the mirror to be sure everything hangs right, everything important is covered, and that you feel good about how you look. You will have made the effort, and a prospective employer will see that and know that you are serious about working.
If you can afford to buy a new piece or two to add to your interview wardrobe, it will be worth it. Just putting on that great-fitting skirt or top in a flattering color will give you the confidence you need to give it your best shot.
The following are some suggestions for additions to your interview and work wardrobe that can carry you through the job-seeking process and into the weeks until you see that first welcome paycheck.
A slim skirt looks good on almost any body type, and can be business-like and attractive, too. I found this one at www.macys.com for a budget-friendly $29.98. I chose this gorgeous purple http://bit.ly/YRd1JY, but it also comes in more conservative black or navy. It’s lined to keep its’ shape, and is designed to hit at the knee, so it’s not too short and not too long. You can go for several different looks here: a plain tailored tuck-in blouse, something print or striped for a little more punch, a blazer or jacket topping a simple tee or shell, or maybe a cardi like this one http://bit.ly/ZbUjyL from www.nyandcompany for $42.95. (They almost always have a coupon or promotion of some kind.) This one has three-quarter length sleeves, a button front and soft pleats at the shoulders for a feminine look.
I love this yellow button-front sweater http://bit.ly/ZbuX0z from www.loft.com for $54.50. These fun polka dots would look terrific topping khaki dress pants or a casual skirt, and could do double duty on the weekends with your favorite jeans. You would even brighten up a plain shift dress for another different work look.
A tailored blouse in a plain, bright color http://bit.ly/ZYDaYr like this one from www.chicos.com complements almost anything you choose to put on the bottom. Wear it tucked in to emphasize your tiny waist, or out with a skinny belt for a more casual look. The three-quarter length sleeves make it perfect for year-round wear, and it comes in lots of great colors. I have a couple of these in my closet, and love them for their slightly fitted lines as well as for the way they wash. A simple touch-up with the iron, and they’re ready to go and always fresh-looking for $75.
If you’re interviewing for a position in a more formal setting, like a large office or a banking environment, you might want to step it up a bit and add a jacket to your outfit. I think this short, fitted polka-dot jacket http://bit.ly/14mvRu4 in blue with navy dots and trim is young and fun but still work appropriate at $118. This one is from www.thelimited.com. It has three-quarter length sleeves, patch pockets, a back vent and is fully lined, and would look fantastic paired with these navy dress pants http://bit.ly/W0R5gG (also from The Limited for $74.90). A white or navy skirt would be another alternative, or it would dress up a plain shift. And wouldn’t this jacket be adorable with skinny jeans in a dark wash, or navy or white ankle pants or slim capris for a summery evening concert or dinner?
A dress is another way to go, and you won’t go wrong with this one from www.anntaylor.com for $98. This cute, color-block sweater dress http://bit.ly/ZYFJtr is in contrasting shades of blue with a white band around the dropped waist. Three-quarter length sleeves (again) and a flattering (but modest) neckline combine to make this a perfect choice for work or play.
Finally, if you’re looking for a job in a very professional setting, like a law office, something in business services, or a higher-level management position, invest in an interview suit. After you get into the job, you may find you don’t need to wear a suit all the time, or you maybe able to do some dresses or separates, but a good conservative suit is a necessity. Beautiful suits, of course, can run into hundreds of dollars, and you may not be in that salary range yet, but do try to get something that will convey a professional demeanor and a real commitment to the company. The people at www.anntaylor.com do some nice suiting separates http://bit.ly/WrHty2 such as this jacket for $148 and matching skirt for $78. This one is in black, but a grey or navy would do just as nicely. Suitable for all seasons, these pieces are crafted for a flattering but not too tight fit. This particular skirt has a kind of kicky little peplum in the back, and the suit can always be dressed up with a top and accessories in your own unique style for individuality.
One last thing to complete your outfit is shoes. You may not generally wear pumps in your life outside working hours, but they really are the best choice for an interview. I’ve chosen a couple of examples of a moderate-heeled pump that would look good with pants, skirts or dresses. This first one from www.macys.com comes in khaki and black http://bit.ly/YKoTv7, both good neutral colors, with a 3-1/2 inch heel and a shiny metallic detail at the front that makes them a little less basic-looking. The $59 price tag is nice, too. My second choice is from www.nordstroms.com and Nine West for $78.95. Again, a basic pump, http://bit.ly/VwWNI3 this time in blue or black patent, with a 3-1/2 inch heel, that is high enough to be dressy, but still comfortable enough for a long day on the job. There are lots of shoe choices out there, in all price ranges. A good leather boot or bootie is also a nice option, but they tend to be pricey if you don’t already have them in your wardrobe. Just be sure you don’t give into the temptation to wear a mule or flip-flop (that flapping sound is really noticeable and annoying in an office), a party shoe because it’s the only heel you have, or athletic shoes because “you don’t see them with pants”. (Believe me, you do.)
Finish up with a smallish bag or a slim-fitting leather tote. Remember to bring along a copy of your resume, any letters of recommendation and any other pertinent information, and a small notebook and pen, just in case you need to make notes or fill out any forms. Don’t bring along lots of bags, big, bulky totes, or bunches of other paraphanalia that will just get in the way. Also, don’t bring anyone into the interview with you. The interviewer doesn’t want to meet your Mother, your sister, your boyfriend or your kids at this point.
Keep a good attitude, look your best, and stay confident! That’s a winning combination! Good luck in your job search! You’re all winners!