In theory, potential employers are most interested in your skills and qualifications, but what you wear to a job interview can play a key role in determining whether you get the gig. No matter how perfect you are for the job, showing up with a stained shirt or dangling nose piercing could take you instantly out of the running. On the other hand, dressing too fancy could make you look out of place—particularly as more and more companies embrace “business casual” and move away from the traditional suit-and-tie thing.
In an insightful piece for the Fiscal Times, a team of experts highlights some of the worst fashion mistakes you can make on a job interview. If you wear the wrong thing, says author Vicky Oliver, you won’t “convey the impression of success,” and in a world where competition is fierce and there are plenty of qualified candidates for any given position, that could be a deal-breaker.
1. Don’t Over- or Underdress — It sounds like a no-brainer, but before you go in for your interview, do a little research on company and culture and figure out what people are wearing. At a hip Internet startup, you’re not apt to find suits and ties, but at a major New York City law firm, expect lots of formalwear.
2. Tame Those Nails — “You don’t want your fingernails to be like daggers,” says Karen Roth, president of the Hunter Search Group, so be sure to trim those nails and wear sensible polish. Otherwise, interviewers might doubt your ability to type.
3. Hide Those Tattoos — You’re proud of your body art, and rightfully so, but there’s a time and a place to show off your sweet ink, and a job interview is neither. If your arms are covered in tatts, wear long sleeves or keep that jacket on. “Distinctive tattoos can distract from the interview,” says Hilary Pearl, founder of the executive-coaching firm Pearl Associates.
4. Tone Down the Sexiness — The office and the club are too very different places, so when choosing interview attire, nix the miniskirts and low-cut tops. You want them to respect you for your mind, not your physical assets.
5. Don’t Be Too Casual — Those boat shoes you wear to the beach sure are comfortable, and if you wear them to an interview, you’ll have plenty of time for lounging in the sand, because you probably won’t get the job. Don’t be too casual, in other words.
6. Leave the Gadgets at Home — If you want potential employers to know how comfortable you are with new technology, talk about it during the interview. But don’t pull out your smartphone or laptop and give them a demonstration. And leave the backpacks and messenger bags at home. Some copies of your resume are all you need.
7. Watch Those Piercings — As with tattoos, body piercings have become socially acceptable, but only to a point. If you’ve got 15 holes in your ears and a chain connecting your lip to your nose, you might shock your interviewer and blow your chances right off the bat. And if the building has a metal detector, you’re really in trouble!