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Job interview attire for fresh graduates

Fresh out of college I was able to attend plenty of exams and interviews in different fields. Honestly, I was saddened at the lack of preparation men my age went through to present themselves. I saw my potential peers with unshaved beards, earrings, and even tattered jeans.

You really want to give the HR team a great first impression even before you get to talk to them. Otherwise, they could just pick from any of the hundreds of applicants out there. Unfortunately, first impressions really are everything, especially when it comes to hiring people. How you dress affects how people perceive you. The moment you walk through their door, they’re scrutinizing you: how you greet, how you move, and yes, how you dress.

Some more tips and reminders after the jump!

Basically, you don’t want to draw attention to how shabbily you’re dressed. By not dressing right you’re already giving yourself a huge obstacle to overcome even before you get to the interview. You want to dress as professionally as possible. Get that out of the way and the company can focus on how you can be a good fit with them.

Interview attire need not be complicated or fancy. You’re looking at conservative, muted colors and classic designs. Here are some things you need to remember when dressing up for a job interview:

Always ask your contact person what the attire is

This is the first step to assembling a good interview outfit. First of all, it gives the impression that you care and will score you at least a few points. Second, you don’t want to show up in a suit when the interviewer expects you to show up in jeans.

If there are any lingering doubts, however, it’s always better to be overdressed. If the company says it’s okay to wear jeans, go to the interview in chinos and a neat button up shirt.

Just because it’s a button up, it doesn’t mean it’s “corporate attire”.

Not corporate attire

This is something I have been noticing a lot. Some seem to think that plaid shirts with two buttoned chest pockets and epaulets (those shoulder straps) are appropriate for interviews that call for corporate attire. Worse, they wear these with black slacks, creating an unsightly contrast between formal and casual.

Not corporate attire

In relation to this, short sleeve “dress shirts” are not corporate attire. I don’t even know why they’re called short sleeve dress shirts. Despite what Dwight from the office might suggest, they’re not dress shirts if they have short sleeves!

I would recommend you wear a simple long-sleeve dress shirt in a light, muted, solid color like white or blue. Again, you don’t want to draw too much attention to your clothing for being too bright or flashy. You don’t want to be remembered as that guy in a bright checkered shirt. Dress well, get that good first impression out of the way, and leave the rest to how you handle your interview.

Is a suit necessary here in the Philippines?

In the US, suits are mandatory for all interviews. However, here in the Philippines, suits aren’t really that commonplace unless you’re gunning for a top position. Suits are a huge investment and I believe companies understand that not everyone can afford one straight out of college. There’s also that issue of extreme heat and humidity. It just won’t be practical for someone to ride a jeepney in a suit and arrive for his interview drenched in sweat.

I don’t want to tell you it’s a must, but if you already have a suit, I would say go for it. It can really give you an advantage over everyone else who comes in short sleeved shirts. However, do take into account practicality, as always.

However, if you do know beforehand that the workplace requires suits as part of their uniform, you have to come in a suit. This is especially true in 5-star hotels, where arriving in a suit can really give you an advantage in your interview. Suits can go for as little as P 3,000.00 for the pants and the jacket. I own a polyester suit from Wallstreet, which I bought from Robinson’s Galleria, and it’s held up pretty well. It might not be of the best quality, but hey, a suit’s a suit. For those whose interviews don’t require a suit, I’d suggest you just look your best, ace the interview, and save up money for a real wool suit.

If you don’t have a suit, at least wear a simple, real tie (no clip-ons)

Every man should know how to tie a tie. One knot you should master is the Half-Windsor. If you don’t know how, here’s a visual guide from The Art of Manliness. Never wear a clip-on tie. It’s obvious and comical if you do.

The tie should not be more than 3.5 inches wide. Anything wider than that and you’re approaching power tie territory. It shouldn’t be emo rockstar skinny, either.

Keep the tie color simple. If you’re going for a solid color, different shades of blue are always good choices. Red is a color you want to wear if you’re looking to project a sense of power in your interview. Simple, small repeating patterns like small dots or checks may work depending on the formality of your interview.

Wearing a tie instantly puts you one step above everybody else. For those without the funds to invest in a good suit, this is a good enough alternative in our country to show that you put forth effort in how you dressed for the day.

What color should my dress pants be?

Unfortunately, everyone equates dress pants with “black”. I personally hate black pants. I hate how it fails to look good with anything (black jeans exempted). I really do prefer charcoal grey. However, it’s become the gold standard for interview attire in the Philippines that anything less might be misinterpreted as informal. When I went to work in charcoal grey dress pants, my manager brought up the formality — or lack thereof — of my attire. I then weeped at the thought of several more months in black pants.

So, yes. Corporate attire = black pants. Sadly. Just keep them slim and properly hemmed at the bottom. The Effortless Gent has a great article on how to choose the pants length suitable for you. Oh and please do not wear the black pants you wore as part of your high school uniform. You can get decent dress slacks for less than P 700.00 at most department stores.

Always make sure everything’s neatly ironed and wrinkle-free

Showing up in wrinkled clothing just means you don’t care.

Jewelry

Only a wedding band and a simple wristwatch are acceptable jewelry. No fancy bracelets, pins, earrings, nothing.

Grooming

Keep your hair looking kempt — don’t overdo the gel though, it will make you look greasy — and your face free of facial hair. Spray some cologne, but don’t fill the entire room with your scent.

Your shoes

Shining your shoes gives off the impression that you actually care. You want that hiring manager to think that since you care about those little details, you’ll care about similarly small details at work.

If you want to know the best way to shine your shoes, here’s another excellent guide from The Art of Manliness.

On the style of your shoes, I would recommend a pair of lace-ups in a classic round toe. No square toes, please. None of those chunky Doc Marten stuff either. I won’t be too meticulous about leather soles. Rubber soles are acceptable here because you are going to do a lot of walking and it can rain any time. Just keep the soles simple. No lug soles or contrast color soles.

This is the silhouette you want to go for.

None of this lug-sole crap

Always plan ahead

Whatever your situation, whatever the formality of the interview, you should always plan your outfit the night before. Put together your outfit, make sure they’re spotless and free of any wrinkles, shine your shoes, and go to bed. The morning of your interview should be spent focusing on the interview itself, not frantically ironing shirts that you thought were already ironed, or going through three neckties looking for the perfect one.

Remember, this is just the first step of your interview process, and is by no means a guarantee that you’ll get the job. The results of your exam and interview are still going to matter the most. However, you don’t want to be mentally written out by your hiring manager just because you showed up looking shabby.

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