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How to Dress Conservatively for a Job Interview

Dressing conservatively for a job interview means no surprises. Your interview appearance is traditional or restrained in style. Conservative dressing means you not only wear the established team uniform, you wear it well from the tip of your white collar to the closed toe of your dark shoes. You avoid showiness.

For women, a conservative checklist includes the following:

  • Suit: Wear a two-piece suit or a simple dress with a jacket. Good colors are navy blue, gray, dark green, dark red, burgundy, or black. Make sure your skirt length is a bit below the knee or not shorter than just above the knee.

    In a dark color, a pantsuit is a tasteful choice. Accessorize it with a simple shell and silk scarf. Caveat: If your research shows you’re interviewing with a super-traditionalist, stick to skirts.

  • Shirt: A white, off-white, or neutral-colored blouse is a safe choice.

  • Shoes: Closed-toe pumps with low or mid-heels suggest that you’re work-minded.

  • Accessories: Briefcases look more serious than purses, but a handsome leather purse is fine. Avoid distracting jewelry or watches, and make sure you wear stockings.

  • Make-up: Moderate makeup for daytime wear is appropriate.

  • Hair: Simply styled hair looks contemporary; observe styles on TV anchors, for whom maintaining a professional image is essential.

For men, the following conservative checklist applies:

  • Suit: Power suit colors are navy or charcoal gray. (Black on men is seen as somber.) Tans and medium-tone colors work well if your research shows they’re included in the company’s color chart for team uniforms. Suits should be well-tailored.

  • Shirt: White is the first choice for shirts; blue is second. In either case, wear only long sleeves.

  • Tie: Dark or low-key (blue, black, navy, blue, or gray) or power red colors look executive-like. Geometric patterns are okay, but only if they’re minimal. Be sure your necktie knot is neat and centered on your neck; the bottom of the tie should just reach your belt. Don’t don a bowtie.

  • Shoes: Wear lace-up shoes in the same color as your belt. Wear black shoes if your suit is gray or navy; dark brown shoes for tans or medium-toned colors — polished and clean shoes that are in good condition, of course. Rubber-soled shoes are a bad match for a professional suit and tie, as are alligator shoes or sandals.

  • Socks: Wear dark socks in mid-calf length so no skin shows when you sit down.

  • Accessories: Limit jewelry to a wristwatch and, if you wear them, cufflinks. No surprise earrings, necklaces, or body piercings.

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