Knowing how to ‘dress for success’ can aid students while entering work force

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

By Bailey Brammer | Editor-in-Chief

While some professors may assist students in formatting resumes or building portfolios, few share with students the secret to dressing for an internship or job interview. Should your belt match your shoes? Should you always wear a blazer?

The Office of Career and Professional Development (CPD) offers a variety of resources to Baylor students to prepare them to enter work force, including giving prospective interns and employees advice on what to wear to interviews. Adam Kaye, director of employer relations for CPD, said that it is always best to “dress to impress” when pursuing a potential job.

“Employers expect you to dress up for an interview,” Kaye said. “If you want to make a good impression and show that you’re serious about being considered for a job or internship with a company, your attire needs to be reflection of that.”

Kaye recommended that an interview-appropriate look for men typically includes a dress shirt, tie, slacks and a jacket with a matching belt and shoes. For women, Kaye said, there are a few more options, but pant suits or long skirt with a dressy top and jacket are best.

However, today’s standards for interview attire have evolved since the introduction of John Malloy’s revolutionary novel “Dress for Success,” published in 1975.

Dr. Rochelle Brunson, senior lecturer in the department of family and consumer sciences and division leader of apparel design and merchandising, said Molloy’s book was treated as a Bible for what to wear and what not to wear for years. Molloy presented the idea that women had to be clad in a navy or black suit with a cream or white colored blouse in order to be presentable in the workplace.

“If people wanted to be successful, they thought they had to look like that,” Brunson said. “Going into the workplace, why did women wear a tie and a jacket and a button-down shirt? Because when women went into the workplace they thought they had to look like men. It’s all gone through a cycle and now women go, ‘We don’t have to look like men or be men. We can wear what we want to.'”

While women may have more options today than they did in years past, Brunson cautions her female students about wearing skirts or dresses to interviews that may be too short, especially while sitting down. She recommends sitting down in a chair in front of a full-length mirror before meeting with a prospective employer to make sure an outfit fits appropriately.

“I tell girls all the time, if you’re sitting there tugging the whole time, then the person interviewing you is distracted,” Brunson said. “You want to be comfortable, because you’re taking away from the interview if you’re tugging or pulling on your clothes. It’s something you don’t think about, but you need to be comfortable, in whatever you’re wearing.”

Brunson said certain fields such as design or the arts may allow for a bit more creativity and color when choosing a professional outfit, but overall, it is “better to be overdressed than underdressed.”

Kaye and Brunson both said that for some companies and organizations, how you dress for the interview may be the most dressed up you will ever have to be. However, you need to be informed of the company’s dress code before assuming you can dress a bit less professionally.

“Different careers and companies do have different definitions of what is professional and what is not when it comes to dress attire,” Kaye said. “One of the best rules to keep in mind when starting a job is to observe what your manager chooses to wear. There’s a well-known saying: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

Along with hosting career fairs and resume-building workshops each semester, CPD held an event in early September called “Suit Up,” where Baylor students could visit JCPenney and purchase proper business attire for up to 70 percent off. Kaye said this event had more than 500 students in attendance, and that CPD plans to offer the same event in the spring semester.

For students who may not have the means to obtain professional clothes for an interview or career fair, Kaye said CPD has a Career Closet that has a selection of gently-used clothing, donated by students and alumni, that anyone is welcome to browse and borrow from.

Students can stay up to date on CPD events and information by visiting their website or through the Handshake website, where students can apply for jobs and internships.

Regardless of what job someone is seeking, Brunson hopes students know that even though their skills and experience are what will ultimately get them the job, their choice of clothing can aid them in making a lasting impression.

“If you’re somebody that goes, ‘I don’t want the clothing to open the door; I want it to be me that gets the job,’ OK, but do you want the clothing to be the barrier that means you didn’t get your foot in the door?” Brunson said. “Putting that best foot forward can open doors. Once you get in the door, you still have to do the interview and you still have to do well. It’s not going to get you the job, but it’s going to get you in the door.”