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Working Women: 10 Must NOT Do's When Dressing for a Successful Interview

So, you’ve landed the interview for that dream job you’ve been working so hard to get. Congratulations! But you don’t want to blow it by making critical errors when it comes to dressing for that interview, right?

Well, here are my top 10 Must Not Do’s for working women when dressing for a successful interview:

1. No out-of-date or trendy suits.

All working women know the importance of a good business suit, but it’s also important that your suit doesn’t set you up for failure by being too out-of-date or too trendy. Dusting off your 80’s padded shoulder jacket that is two sizes too small or large will not make the impression you will want to make. This is an especially common problem for moms who have spent the last few years at home raising their children and are beginning to head out into the workforce for the first time in years…or decades! It can be tough relearning how to shop for business attire…particularly if your body has gone through some changes of its own since the last time you graced an office building.

So…keep two things in mind when shopping or dressing for an interview:

No out-of date suits with padded shoulders, large bell bottom pants or anything that fits too tight or is too big. These are suits that have lapels that are too wide (three inches or more) or too narrow (one inch or less).

No trendy suits. You’re much better off investing in a classic suit that will last for years than a trendy suit that will leave you looking dated by next season. Chances are your interviewer will be dressed conservatively- it is safe to go that route yourself.

2. No open-toed or backless shoes….or flip-flops….or sneakers.

Open-toed and backless shoes should be kept for other occasions. Your interviewer doesn’t want to look at your bare toes whether they are manicured or not. And flip-flops and sneakers should be saved for the weekend – it’s that simple.

3. No perfume.

Even the best smelling perfume can be risky to wear to a job interview, and here’s why….we all associate certain scents with certain people, events or times in our lives. And, while your perfume may smell lovely to you, it may very well be the same scent your interviewer’s ex-wife or late mother wore. Without knowing it this could negatively effect the impression you leave behind. It’s also important to keep in mind that your interviewer may be allergic to perfumes. Whether you’ve chosen perfume you feel is strong or not to you it is not a good sign if your interviewer is sneezing throughout the interview.

4. No fishnets or patterned hosiery.

Sure, working women wear them on television, or on the runway, or maybe in your own office. That doesn’t mean you should too. The safest bet is for working women to stick with stockings in neutral colors or black when it comes to interviewing. Save all those other choices for your private time!

5. No flashy jewelry.

Keep it simple. Avoid flashy jewelry or jewelry that jangles. You want them to see you coming, not hear you coming. A good guideline for working women is no more than two rings per hand and one earring per ear….and no face jewelry please!

6. No backpacks or fannypacks.

Backpacks were fine in college; but this is the business world, and in the business world working women replace their backpacks with briefcases or portfolios.

7. No stains or wrinkles.

Many of you may think this is simply common sense….but you’d be surprised! I actually interviewed a woman one time who had an unfortunate stain right in the center of her blouse (coffee, perhaps?) and although she seemed to be oblivious to it; I, unfortunately, couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Not only are stains and wrinkles distracting to the interviewer, they also say a lot about you….and none of it is positive! So, if you end up with a 4pm interview time slot, don’t dress for it at 8am. Take the time to change into something fresh beforehand if possible.

Let’s wrap up our look at the top 10 must not do’s for working women when dressing for a successful interview with tips 8-10:

8. No visible tattoos

This can be a tricky guideline for working women if you have tattoos in conspicuous places (think Angelina Jolie). But, if you can cover up your tattoos, do so. Again, this depends on where you are interviewing and what type of job you are interviewing for. But, bearing your tattoos might not only turn off your prospective boss in the interview room, there are some companies out there who actually have policies limiting tattoos. So, you may be out of the running before you even have the chance to show them how perfect your are for the job!

9. No short skirts

“Ally McBeal” didn’t do working women any favors in the business dress department by putting its female characters in ultra-short skirts. Sure, they looked great; but working women need to know when it comes to dressing for success, wearing short skirts in the interview room will jeopardize their chances of getting the job. Your skirt must cover your thighs. A simple way to make sure your hemline is long enough is to make sure its no more than 3 inches above the knee. Anything shorter can put you at risk.

10. No underwear that shows

Your underwear shouldn’t be visible – at all. Period. Even if your bra straps match your top, nobody should be able to see them.



Remember, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you are still among the stars!

Valerie Fitzgerald

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