6 Professional Tips to Dress the Part: Never Wonder What to Wear Again!

Education, experience, and confidence are definitely key ingredients to land the initial interview. But when the big day arrives and you meet your potential boss, their first impression of your physical appearance can be a bigger factor than you thought.

A communications class, led by Business Chair DeAnn Perzel was able to learn this lesson when they took a field trip to a local TJ Maxx and were given a hands-on shopping experience by Merchandise Manager Courtney Kubly. Here are six tips that will help you dress to impress!

1. Small details deliver big results

“Choice of hairstyle, makeup, fingernails/hands, etc., all may weigh in on the decision to hire you or not,” Courtney said. “It is a very competitive market; a manager at a well-known company eliminated a final candidate because she had chipped, worn nail polish.”

Courtney Kubly with students and their interview outfits

Samantha Treanor, who is working on her medical administrative assistant degree, took this advice to heart.

“When it comes to your appearance, remember the little things,” she said.“When you sweat the small things, you’ll gain a competitive edge.”

2. Have options

Courtney stressed the importance of variety in a woman’s wardrobe. “We [women] have far more choices in selecting our wardrobe, and because of that, it’s important to know some basics,” she said.

Student Elizabeth Stetzer could relate. “Before the fieldtrip, I had one outfit I would always wear to interviews,” she said.

“Finding an outfit to wear for an interview is much easier to pick out than I always thought.”

3. Appropriate dress

What you wear could give you an edge on the competition or drop you out of the running. Courtney reminded students of one of her favorite quotes by Oscar Wilde: ‘One can never be overdressed or over-educated.’

She finds this quote very applicable for interviewees. “No one has ever not gotten the job because they were overdressed, but certainly, the opposite has occurred.”

Elizabeth noted that deciding what to wear was a source of anxiety. “I used to hate finding something to wear and wonder if it was appropriate enough, or worry what my interviewer was thinking,” she said.

Courtney acknowledged this difficulty for female applicants. “It’s more difficult for women to navigate ‘professional dress’ because there are so many gray areas as far as what’s acceptable,” she said. “You can wear a skirt, but not too short. You can wear a blouse, but not too sheer. You can wear a dress, but it should have sleeves.”


Courtney also stresses that any applicant, male or female, do their homework. “Research the company’s dress code policy before you interview,” she said.

Some tips for men include: “Always err on the side of overdressing; that may be a suit and tie, or dress pants with a button down shirt and tie.” Courtney also noted the importance of fit. “Pants should fit your body without being too long or baggy; having them altered is inexpensive and will increase your professional look tenfold.”

Despite the season, Courtney said, “Shorts are almost always unacceptable for the workplace, as are sandals or tennis shoes. Your shoes should be in good shape and clean without scuffs.”

4. Keep accessories simple

Courtney displays how to appropriately accessorize

Courtney suggested that one statement necklace in gold or silver should set the tone for the rest of your accessories.

“Choose one fabrication and coordinate other jewelry to that choice,” she said.

Furthermore, don’t let your jewelry become a distraction. Twisting or jingling a bracelet or constantly touching your hair only highlights nervousness.

“What I learned most from Courtney was, if you’re not comfortable in it, don’t wear it,” Elizabeth, a vet tech student, said.

5. More money-saving tips

If your interview takes place while you’re still in school or have just graduated, you probably don’t have a lot of extra money to purchase all new items, but there are alternatives.

“At TJ Maxx, check the clearance area first for staple items,” she said. She also noted that Goodwill and Target often have inexpensive accessories and clearance apparel.

6. Listen to the Professionals

Jenna Perl, who is earning a degree in business administration, had learned more about dressing professionally. “I didn’t want to learn it from just anyone; I could go on Pinterest to do that,” she said. “Courtney has 10 years of experience at TJ Maxx, therefore, she gave incredible tips and advice.”

Through her experiences, Courtney also recommended several websites for interview inspiration, such as HuffPost Women and WI Women Leaders.

Finally, Courtney stressed feeling good about your appearance. “It goes beyond what you are physically dressed in, it’s also about how the clothes fit, how you carry yourself, and confidence,” she said. “Nothing will look good on if you are not confident in yourself.”