Summer Interviews

Have you ever been sitting in the reception area of an office, perhaps scoping out how people dress so you can look like you fit in when you get an interview? Worse yet, you’re actually sitting there waiting to be called in for your interview and noticing how they dress for the first time?

Just imagine you’re sitting there already stressed about the questions you’ll be asked, putting pressure on yourself to make this the last interview you go to in a long time because it has taken so long just to land this interview itself. Your power suit is clean and pressed, consisting of killer black heels, black pin-striped skirt and blazer, starched white blouse, and your hair is up to deal with the heat and so you are less inclined to play with it or have it dangle in front of your eyes.

And then you look up as some employees come in from their break and that’s when you see how they are dressed. Open-toed sandals, shorts and polo shirts on the guys, flip-flops, bright airy short skirts and spaghetti straps on the ladies. Are these really the employees or just some beach-loving young people who have come in to get out of the heat? However, they all bear the hallmark symbol of an employee identification card dangling from their clothing and you realize you are over dressed. Furthermore, it’s Wednesday, not casual Friday; it appears this is the regular attire. What’s a girl to do?

Well it’s good to remember that a first impression is of critical importance. What you’re demonstrating is your ability to treat the interview as an event in which you place a great deal of importance as well as respecting the employer. This is you at your professional best. Most employers believe you have the ability to dress down when called upon, but what they don’t know is to what degree you can dress to impress when needed.
And by the way, those employees you saw coming in might be summer student interns or from another division, or perhaps they are on some kind of relaxed training day where they’ve been told they can dress casual. Best not to place too much significance on their manner of dress at this point.

Consider too the level of the position you are applying to. If you are going for a top executive position, you should be dressing conservatively and it is business all the way.
Many women have told me that they arrive early enough to visit the ladies room and check themselves out for any areas of concern. They carry spare pantyhose, touch up their makeup, lipstick, make sure the eye-paint isn’t running, the lapels on the suit are straight, the hair is brushed, and…well…essentially they are put together the way they want to make a strong first impression. This is all part of the self-branding that will later create synergy with the words they speak, their body language, and the content of their answers.

Sure you might be envious of those staff in their cooler clothing, and some might argue that you should dress exactly the same to show you can fit in. However, those staff can afford to take it down a notch because for one thing they’ve already got a job! Keep in mind that the very people you are considering dressing like may themselves have received notice earlier the same day that their choice in clothing is not office appropriate, and so never take your cues on how to dress in the summer from a single person such as the receptionist. This is especially true if you are applying for any job other than receptionist.

If you are fortunate, the room in which you interview will be air-conditioned. That may be one of the nicest things to happen to an applicant so they don’t start to resemble a living waterfall with beads of perspiration rolling down everywhere. One less thing to worry about if it does. On the other hand, I’ve known some men in interviews to remove their sports jackets and roll up their sleeves during an interview to consciously portray the very picture of someone getting down to work. Risky, but again it depends on the job you are interviewing for.

Interview clothing in the summer generally consists of lighter materials, brighter colors, white’s etc. One last thing you should consider is whether these lighter colors wash you out, make your look paler, or show off your tan better. It’s the whole package. Get out your clothing before the day you need it and make sure it’s clean, ready to wear, and shows you the way you want to look.

All the best in your summer job interviews!

Kelly Mitchell, BA

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