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Stepwise Success

What Not To Wear (To An Interview)

Published October 31, 2012 7:30 AM by Scott Warner

My first management interview was in-house, and I dressed the way I normally dressed for work every day: casual and comfortable. I didn’t get the job, in part, because I didn’t dress with confidence for success. For my next interview I borrowed my brother-in-law’s three piece suit, and I was hired. The suit may not have landed me the job, but it didn’t hurt.

Appearances matter. Most people dress nicely, but there are exceptions. Here’s how some people have dressed in interviews I’ve conducted: scrubs, jeans and flip flops, cocktail dress, sweatshirt and sweatpants, and a far too revealing top.

I’ve heard these sartorial indiscretions explained away by youth, inexperience, or being hurried, but everyone notices. Like it or not, we are all initially judged by appearances if nothing else is known. Healthcare is generally conservative, valuing professionalism over individualism. And interviews are not “come as you are” affairs. The first impression really counts.

One expert on About agrees, writing, “The image you present to a potential employer is the first thing they are going to notice about you - before you even have a chance to say a word or shake a hand.” What else should we expect? There isn’t any reason not to infer details from appearances.

This means forgoing personal style -- you want to be a new member of an existing team -- and giving up the flip flops, visible underwear, short skirts, low cut tops, sunglasses atop the head, heavy makeup, heavy scents, body jewelry, visible tattoos, poorly fitting clothes, stained or rumpled clothes, and (arguably) clothing that is too bright or that doesn’t match. The idea isn’t to wipe away what makes you look like you, but to make sure the person conducting the interview concentrates on your qualifications and not your appearance.

Anyway, why not look your best?

The bottom line is people are impressed by extremes. Many applicants dress forgettably, but the slobbish and sharp alike stand out. When I walked into my interview in that three-piece suit my future boss said, “You look really good!” It felt good, too.

NEXT: Drill For Disaster

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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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