How you present yourself during an interview can have just as much impact on your success as the achievements on your resume, and showing up dressed inappropriately is an easy way to get off on the wrong foot.
In today’s more casual and creative business world, a traditional suit and tie or high-heels and a skirt may no longer be the standard interview uniform for every industry. But according to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, that doesn’t mean you can take a relaxed approach to your interview wardrobe.
“The burden is on you to pick appropriate attire for wherever your job search takes you,” she tells CNBC Make It. “Don’t worry — the workplaces of today may be less strict about attire, but there are still guidelines.”
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Welch offers these four rules for dressing for interview success:
1. Do your homework
Before going on an interview, Welch recommends getting a clear idea of the environment you’ll be walking into, and that includes the attire of its current employees. She suggests asking someone you know about the dress code at the company or doing a Google image search for pictures of what professionals wear at that organization or in that industry.
“I know a Stanford grad who sat in the parking lot the day before his interview at a Seattle startup to check out what the employees were wearing,” she says. “He really wanted the job — and he got it.”
2. Don’t worry about being overdressed
After you’ve done your research on a company’s dress code, Welch says it’s time to take it up a notch. First impressions are powerful, and your interviewers will likely expect you to be dressed a bit more formally than usual for your first meeting with an employer.
“Dressing up is a signal that you understand your interviewers are in the power seat,” she says. “You’re showing respect; that’s always attractive.”
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3. Wear something that makes you feel confident
To avoid the urge to tug on your skirt or tuck your shirt in further every time you sit down or stand up, Welch says you’ll want to wear something that makes you feel comfortable, confident and like your best self when interviewing.
Don’t discount the impact your outfit can have on your performance. “Clothes do make you feel a certain way,” says Welch, “and during an interview, you should feel good about yourself.”
4. Avoid wearing anything flashy
While you want to appear comfortable and confident, the last thing you want to do is wear something that takes the focus off of you and your qualifications. To avoid this issue, candidates should stay away from anything that calls extra attention to their appearance.
“I’m not telling you to conceal your individuality,” says Welch, “but let it shine through your answers.”
Choose an outfit that’s flattering and appropriate, and eliminate any elements that could be considered a distraction.
“At the end of the day, and interview, you want people talking about your ideas after you leave, not your outfit,” says Welch. “Keep that front of mind, and you’ll look just fine.”
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker.