She left the room after about 15 minutes. My colleagues debated. How did they like her answers? Does she have potential? Will she be committed to the job? When they asked me if I thought she was the top pick, my quick answer shocked them. “Absolutely not.” I told them she lost my vote the minute she walked in the door. Why? Because her incredibly wrinkly blouse distracted me the entire interview with thoughts on why, in a role where she is expected to meet with people and serve as the face of the office, she didn’t bother making herself presentable to a search committee.
I’ve interviewed quite a lot of people, and it always amazes me what choices they make about what to wear. Here are some of the most memorable interview attire blunders I've witnessed that hopefully, these candidates have learned from since:
1. The Flip Flop: One candidate was wearing maybe a half size too big of a shoe, and when showed around the office, the back would continuously pop off her heel, making that slapping sound one only wears with flip flops. Keep it simple. Wear a shoe that fits and is quiet!
2. The Sneak Peek: I’ve seen this in two ways. A woman will wear a shirt that is a bit too snug around the bust, resulting in puckered buttons and an unwanted sneak peek at some cleavage. The other wears a colored or dark bra under a light colored shirt. Always pick the proper under garments and take a test run with a shirt or suit you haven’t wore in a while to be sure everything fits.
3. The Unintentional Clown: I had seen this person numerous times prior to the interview, which made her decision to wear makeup for the first time even more shocking. Her eyeliner was incredibly thick and her lipstick looked like it was put on with one of the jumbo crayons my three year old uses. If you don’t wear makeup everyday, an interview is probably not the time to experiment.
4. The One Man Band: I love my bangle bracelets, and will wear two or three at a time. They are pretty and trendy, but if you talk with your hands or even move a bit, you will be remembered more for what is heard on your wrist than out of your mouth.
5. The Fashionista: Loud, bright colors, or choosing this as the time to wear those leopard print shoes is not the best. While, yes, there are some industries that expect you to demonstrate the latest trends, the majority do not. Know your audience. Use the interview and your words as self expression. You don’t want to be remembered for making me dizzy with your hot pink nails.
Nicole Wolfrath is mom to two feisty girls in elementary and nursery school and has worked full time as a college career counselor for the past 15 years. She holds leadership roles on her children’s school boards and PTA, loves to create art when she can find the time and is passionate about women’s and parenting issues, which she advocates for through teaching and blogging.
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