You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.


  1. Wear a solid color conservative dress or suit.
  2. Avoid open toe, sling back or stiletto shoes.
  3. Be conservative in your jewelry. Avoid big earrings, and things that jingle.
  4. Wear nude or tan hose. Avoid patterns and bright colors.
  5. Hair should be kept neatly combed, not hanging in the face.
  6. Keep make-up light and natural.
  7. Do not over perfume.


  1. Wear a suit (navy, gray or charcoal) with a white shirt neatly pressed.
  2. Keep ties conservative.
  3. Wear dark, over the calf socks that match the suit.
  4. Black leather shoes (wingtips or loafers) that are polished. No boots.
  5. Minimal jewelry – watch, wedding ring and school rings are acceptable.
  6. Conservative haircut – collar length, above the ears, neatly combed.
  7. Either clean shaven or neatly trimmed facial hair.

Those are the old rules, and although we want to adhere to them in tone and style, things have loosened up a bit. With more and more offices going casual, it has become difficult to know what to wear to work and even more difficult to figure out what is appropriate attire for an interview. Every company has it’s own unique culture and ideas on what are acceptable modes of dress. Adding to the confusion is that there are different dress codes for different job functions and levels. A CFO candidate should not show up for an interview dressed in the same way as an entry level graphic designer. What to do?

Listen to your recruiter. Part of his job is to know the company and where it resides on the clothing map. Sometimes you will need to follow “the old rules” and sometimes things can be a little more casual. But what is casual? Generally we want to err on the dressy side of casual: No jeans, khakis, sneakers! If you are a woman, you can wear earrings. If you are a guy and you are a designer, you can wear one subtle earring. The rest of you…can’t. As for other piercings, (and I really shouldn’t have to say this) feel free to express yourself AFTER you get the job. For women, a pantsuit is probably okay, but a skirt suit or skirt and blazer is safer. Men, slacks, sport jacket and a button down or pullover sport shirt with a collar – sans tie. What do I do? Navy or charcoal suit with a high-end white shirt – no tie, or (in the summer) sport jacket, slacks, button down shirt – with tie. Find out what the company thinks is appropriate and then take it up one notch to the dressy side.

Below is the most recent survey I could find – from May 2012

And as always, remember to. . .

. . . have a firm handshake, but do not over do it
. . . maintain eye contact
. . . and always wear a smile!

©Tom Keoughan 2015