Peg DeMarco

Peg DeMarco

In my last column I wrote about unusual college courses that differed greatly from the cut and dry typical ones for those high school graduates on the fence about whether to go on to college. However, for those graduates who want to venture out into the working world, it’s exciting when you receive that call for your first job interview.

Your initial appearance needs preparation because the business world changes with each new generation of workers. An article in Business Insider listed what to wear and, equally important, what not to wear for that coveted first meeting with hopefully your new employer.

It’s probably best to do a little research on the company before you plan your interview outfit. Is it a suit-only environment or more like business casual? If the company has a website, you may be able to tell simply by the pictures or narrative – is it trendy or packed with information about its history, management, etc.?

Whatever the dress code, the top of the taboo list is showing up with any clothing that’s wrinkled, especially if you have to travel by car, bus, subway, bike, or even if you only have to walk a few blocks to get to the interview, especially during hot, sticky summer months. Most fabrics are a mixture and kind to wrinkles (except linen), but carefully ironing your clothes the night before is a good idea (a little spray starch will help – do they still make it – I’ve been ironless for too many years to know). According to human resources and fashion experts, "People make an assumption about you before you sit down in the seat and start talking," so looking well put together is important.

Next, for ladies, is the dress you wore a few months ago too tight after graduation parties and barbecues? And for men, could your black shoes use a little polish so they’re not mistaken for gray shoes? Check also for stains on clothing that miraculously show up once you get outside in the daylight – it’s happened to me. Dressing in the dark brings all sorts of surprises when you’re outside seated in your car.

In today’s culture, you also have to be careful about overdressing. In a business casual office, a three-piece suit can make you feel out of place. Asking about the company’s culture as far as dress isn’t rude because even on Wall Street, dress has changed dramatically during the last few years, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Business Insider also suggests avoiding light colors that could stain easily on your way to the interview and anything too trendy. Interview wear should be conservative, so choose neutral or earth tones, simple makeup and jewelry, and quiet patterns. Your interview look isn’t going to get you on the cover of Vogue, but your goal is to be remembered for your confidence and abilities, not your clothes.

Those entering the job force probably know this already, but jeans and a T-shirt should be avoided, no shorts or capri pants. Even if you know that the entire staff dresses casually every day, a nice pair of slacks, cotton shirt or blouse, or simple dress would put you in the middle – not too conservative and not too eager to fit in.

Even though athletic wear has crossed over into some work spaces, don’t choose yoga pants or other gym clothes for your interview. And as far as hair color, tone it down for the interview and keep makeup at a minimum. Super long black acrylic nails? That would put any interviewer off, wondering how on earth you’d pick up a dime rather than listening to your credentials.

For the interview, lean toward quiet colors – navy, black, gray or brown, and stay away from loud patterns or offbeat colors, such as hot pink.

Another major no is wearing sandals to the interview. Even if it's a casual office, you’ll want to go a notch or two above what everyone else is wearing and choose flats or a simple heel – leave the stilettos for celebrating when you land the job.

I used to spritz one spray of Chanel No. 5 on daily, but I wouldn’t do it for an interview today. No perfume is preferable – have pity on your interviewer who might be allergic to any kind of perfume even if you love bathing in Juicy Couture.

Now, this next one never came up for me, but it’s worth mentioning today that for your job interview, remove your nose ring. And, again, keep jewelry simple – one small hoop or stud on each ear, would be all you’ll need in the jewelry department.

I’m old fashioned – I admit it – but ripped jeans annoy me and I’d have a difficult time looking at someone sitting in front of me with a tear anywhere and inclined to whip out my sewing kit. Black jeans are best, but no rips and no stone washed.

Most of all, bring a smile to your interview, be warm and friendly, and extend your hand for a handshake before and after, especially if offered first.

And land the job!

Peg DeMarco is a Morganton resident who writes a weekly features column for The News Herald. Contact her at

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