By Robert DiGiacomo
In a tight job market, what you wear to an interview could be the difference between getting an offer and getting rejected.
"By not really investing in your appearance, it can actually cost you the job," says New York City-based image consultant and personal stylist David A. McKnight. "Nine out of 10 employers say, when all else is equal, they select the most attractive candidate or the candidate that presents themselves the best."
Here are six style tips to ensure your look is a career asset, not a liability.
Create Your 'Visual' Resume
Make sure your attire is sending the right message about your capabilities, says Mary Lou Andre, a Needham, Massachusetts-based image consultant and author of Ready to Wear: An Expert's Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe.
"Shift your thought pattern on dressing from a fashionista type of approach to one tied to competency, communication, respect and appropriate boundary-setting," Andre says. "You don't have to be boring, but you do have to think about it."
Unless you're told otherwise, always wear a suit to a first interview. For women, a pantsuit is no longer a fashion don't, and is as acceptable as the traditional skirted power suit.
"A suit is a sign of respect for the company as well as the person interviewing you," McKnight says. "It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed."
The Rules Apply
Knowing an office's "rules" -- whether written or not -- is critical, especially for younger job seekers, according to Andre.
A young guy who doesn't wear socks to an interview at a financial firm won't be taken seriously, while a young woman should be careful not to bare too much skin.
'Mad' for Tradition
More than one in three people say their workplace has gotten more formal over the past 12 months, according to a poll.
But while the fitted suits and skinny ties made popular by the retro TV series "Mad Men" can work in most office settings, it's important not to go overboard.
"You don't want people to stop and stare," McKnight says. "You need to understand the balance between looking trendy and looking current."
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Clothes may make the man, but beware the wrong shoes, especially if they're unpolished.
"When you look at men's shoes, if they're square toed, chunky or have rubber soles, that completely dismantles the whole appearance," McKnight says.
Stretch Your Fashion Budget
If your budget doesn't allow for major purchases, Andre recommends spending $100 on tailoring to update key pieces or improve their fit.
Another wallet-friendly purchase is a basic dark suit, which doesn't show wear and tear and can be worn with different ties or accessories to first, second and third interviews.
Finally, weed out anything you're not wearing on a regular basis.
"Shop in your closet first," Andre says. "We wear 20 percent of what's in there 80 percent of the time. Give yourself permission to get rid of that other 80 percent. Turn it into cash by selling it or give it to charity."Articles in This Feature: