How to Present a Positive Image | Southwestern Illinois College

A candidate’s appearance and interview attire directly impacts the responsiveness of a recruiter toward the candidate’s qualifications for employment. Although your answers to interview questions are the overriding factors in determining a positive outcome, the majority of recruiters believe that is very important to consider interview attire as an indicator of a future professional image. Wearing the appropriate attire tells the recruiter that you care enough to learn about the corporate culture and to demonstrate how you fit in.

The typical description of interview attire is the blue suit. The description still applies even though we live in a more casual society. The dark blue suit is still the preferred attire by college recruiters. Black suits are the second choice followed by a light gray suit. Dark blue in particular seems to convey a sense of strength while not being too somber. Of course, an individual’s personal coloring would impact the color choice in attire. Some candidates coloring brightens a black or gray suit which are both acceptable colors for interview attire.

For Men

  • A two piece suit in navy or another dark color
  • A tie in a simple pattern that matches the colors of your suit
  • button down dress shirt (white or pastel)
  • polished dress shoes in a dark color
  • No earrings! If you normally wear one, take it out
  • Get a haircut. Short hair always fares best
  • clean trimmed fingernails
  • minimal cologne
  • Light briefcase or portfolio case

Female candidates have more options when considering interview attire. A business suit with a skirt is the most traditional and desired form of interview attire. A traditional business suit with a skirt conveys a sense of responsibility and serious approach to the business at hand – finding the best candidates to fill the employer’s hiring needs. Skirts should be knee length or lower and have no slits. Micro mini suit skirts are inappropriate for interviews as they are very difficult to wear gracefully when seated. Pantsuits are a viable option for interviews. They are more common in the workplace and some employers are very open to candidates wearing pantsuits. The best advice in determining whether to wear a skirt or pantsuit is to check on the corporate attire for your interviewing company.

For Women

  • A neutral colored suit in navy or another dark color with a skirt
  • Skirt length should be a little below the knee and never shorter than above the knee
  • Blouses should be cotton or silk (white or light pastel color)
  • Pantyhose should be flawless (no runs) and conservative in color. (You may want to bring an extra pair with you)
  • Basic pumps with 1″- 2″ heel (No strappy sandals or platforms!)
  • Simple Accessories. No visible body piercing (nose rings, eyebrow rings, etc.)
  • Make-up should be minimal and in conservative tones
  • minimal cologne or perfume
  • Light briefcase or portfolio case

Tips for Dressing for the Perfect Interview

  • Dress for the level of position one level above the position for which you are interviewing. This shows the employer that you will represent them well in higher level positions.
  • Match your shoes to the belt color and make sure that each is well polished and not worn. Shoes should be closed toed and have small to medium heels. No platforms, sneakers, or sandals.
  • Women’s hosiery should be skin colored and men’s socks should be dark and high fitting. No hairy legs protruding between the pants and socks!
  • Shirts should be white, off-white or blue with a conservative neckline. In certain industries, shirts should be starched and professionally laundered. Women should not wear shirts with ruffles.
  • Hair and nails should be clean and well groomed with no bright colors like green, orange, etc. Hair should be understated as you want the recruiter to focus on what you are saying, not how you look.
  • Use a breath mint before the interview and use a minimal amount of cologne.

What is Business Casual?

Business casual has become a major recruiting tool for many employers. However, the definition of business casual can vary from industry to industry. In the conservative financial services industry, business casual might be the absence of a necktie for men and the use of pants by women. In the more trendy high tech industry, business casual may include sneakers and jeans. When in doubt about the attire for a business casual meeting, the best rule of thumb is to avoid denim and instead use khaki pants and casual, collared shirts. Business casual is often the appropriate dress for employer information sessions the evening before on-campus interviews.

It’s all about Attitude

Recruiters are seeking candidates with the right qualifications to perform the technical aspects of the job, but they are also seeking candidates who have a personality profile that matches their corporate culture. Most recruiters are seeking candidates with a positive orientation toward work and a desire to work well with others. Recruiters want candidates who are eager to accept a position with them. A candidate’s smile, posture, questions, knowledge of the company, and eye contact can leave nonverbal cues for the recruiter which affirms interest in the company. Other attitudes that recruiters seek are enthusiasm and motivation. Find ways to show these attitudes during your interview through your smiles, questions, and statements.

Business Etiquette–Mind Your Manners!

Having polished social skills is an asset during the hiring process. Employers believe that candidates who demonstrate good business etiquette will represent the employer appropriately to clients, associates, and the community.

Some common business etiquette includes:

  • Arrive for your interview 15 minutes before it begins.
  • Be respectful and friendly to the receptionist or secretary.
  • Smile and offer a handshake when you first meet your interviewers.
  • Be prepared for small talk following your greeting from the interviewer.
  • Address your interviewers as Mr. or Mrs. unless they ask you to address them by their first name.
  • In the interview room, don’t sit until invited to do so.
  • Do not listen to phone calls that may interrupt your interview. Occupy yourself with your notes or resume.
  • Stand up and greet each person who enters the interview room.
  • Don’t smoke or chew gum.
  • Remove your sunglasses as soon as you enter the employer’s building.
  • Know the name of your interviewer and the phone number to ease clearance through security.
  • Have good posture and sit straight in the chair.
  • Don’t make derogatory or negative comments about anything.
  • Watch what you say and how long you take to say it – This ranges from how you address others to avoiding slang expressions such as, “you know” or “like”; an intelligent response to an interview question should be between 2 and 6 sentences, not 6 paragraphs or 6 words.
  • Don’t bring anyone to the interview with you. If someone accompanied you to the city, they should remain outside of the employer’s building unless the employer specifically requests you to bring a guest.
  • Don’t carry your coat into the interviewer’s office unless directed to do so. Leave it with the receptionist.
  • Remember–smiling is never out of style!


How you look only establishes the first impression as a credible candidate. Once you have set an impression of credibility, you must answer the interview questions in a manner that shows that you have the skills, knowledge, and ability to perform the job that you are seeking.