There is nothing worse than walking into an interview or job and starting off 10 feet behind your competition. The workplace is like a race: not everyone wins. In this race, that 10 feet can easily become the difference between getting an offer or a promotion and not. What I am talking about in this situation is how you dress.
When you walk into an interview or a new job, how you look is the first impression. Now, for the accounting world, you don’t need to look like a supermodel walking down the runway, but you do need to look competent. Think about it this way, if you can’t even dress yourself (something that most of us learn at a very young age), then how is someone going to trust you with any kind of professional work. This is not to say that you can’t do the work; you may be the smartest person out of the whole start class or interview pool. I am only saying that your first impression can force you to make up ground in your interview or everyday work. In other words, you might have to work twice as hard to put yourself on the same playing field as your competitors. I think that it is safe to assume that you don’t want to do this.
To avoid fighting an uphill battle, take some time to think about how you are going to present yourself. Especially for an interview, you do not want to wear anything that is distracting. You want the interviewer to listen to what you have to say, not to stare at your neon yellow shirt.
Think: “no suit, no service.” Everyone should have one suit in their closet. Stick with a pantsuit (or the ladies could wear a skirt). Make sure that you buy your pants and jacket together! You really want to avoid having pants and a jacket that looks like they almost match. Even plain black pants and jacket purchased separately can look different (often times because of the material). People can tell, and it looks messy.
Next you want to wear a solid or stripped shirt. If you have a dark suit, wear a light-colored shirt and vice versa. Try to not wear extremely bright colors or extremely fashionable items. Remember that what you say is more important than how stylish you are (at least when you are applying for and accounting position).
Limit your jewelry to four pieces; each earring counts as one piece. Your make-up should be natural looking. With make-up, less is more. Pantyhose are not necessary but will not hurt. Get a nude tone that matches the color of your skin. Heels should be an appropriate height. If you would wear them past 8:00 p.m., don’t wear them to an interview. They should be closed-toe. Make sure that you can walk in them.
Watches are the most appropriate item of jewelry to wear. Stay away from earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Clean-shaven is the most appropriate form of facial hair. If you just can’t live without your goatee, make sure that it is well-trimmed. Shoes should be shined. Invest in a package of black socks. Yes, people do see your socks when you’re wearing pants.
Wedding bands, obviously, are also appropriate for both sexes. Visible body piercings (nose, eyebrow and cartilage) are never appropriate. It would be wise to cover up any visible tattoos. Make sure that your hair is a natural color. Even if it’s not your natural color, it’s okay. Just try to stay away from blue and green hair. Hair should also be clean and styled. It should not look like you woke up two minutes ago. Make sure that your teeth are brushed.
One last note: you don’t need to buy high-end items, but they do need to FIT you. If you buy a $300 jacket that doesn’t fit, it will look bad. Kohl’s, Ross, H&M and even Target all have appropriate work/interview items. Find a good tailor in your area and use him/her. Clothes that are too big or too small are a huge mistake. Can’t find your size? Buy the bigger option and take it to a tailor. Tailors are your new best friend.
Can’t remember all of this? Here are a few easy tips: (1) Stay natural; (2) If you’re not sure, don’t wear it; (3) Find and use a tailor.