Dress For the Job You Want

Black Dress Full Body

[Photo Credit: Shot by Kelley]

There is a common phrase “dress for the job you want”. Someone may argue the point “Look, I’ll be presentable for work but I’m not going out of my way. If my ideal job is meant to be, it will be.” Understandable. But how you present yourself has a significant impact on your possibilities for advancement. Looks aren’t everything but effort and pride in appearance go a long way. Picture your company is looking for a new manager and has to pick from a group of 2 current employees. Suppose these employees have similar experience, education and current job performance. One employee comes to work daily “as is” and the other may not dress super fancy or spend a lot of money on work clothes but always appears put together with what they do have. Would you agree that this information plays a key factor in the decision process? This is especially important when it comes to pursuing a position of leadership. Now obviously there would be other factors involved but professional appearance is something employers look at in both future and current employees.

Consider this real life example…

I was looking to hire a graduate assistant back when I was a manager in Student Services. It was an office position and the staff dressed in business casual attire. We allowed the students to wear jeans (since they were often coming from or going to class around their shifts) yet they were still expected to be presentable. So when it came to the interview, I thought it’d be a good time to evaluate what “presentable” looked like to each candidate. Most candidates wore business casual attire, one wore a suit and a couple dressed in attire I’ll label as “comfortable”. Take my token example for instance who entered with green hair, sweatpants and a t-shirt. I got the impression that she had something more suitable to wear (even if it was just jeans and a nice top) but she chose not to. Immediately this was a red flag waving that she wasn’t serious about the job. Turns out through the interview she confirmed her disinterest but sharing conflicts she had with items stated in the job description.

It should go without saying that she didn’t get the position. Also, I shared this information with my colleagues in case she continued to apply around the office for “just any job”. So if you still don’t think dressing for the job you want is important, try showing up to an interview in sweats and let me know the results.

Realize that it does not take a lot of money to look your best. However, it does take effort. So may sure you put that in. Investing in yourself now will open more doors in the future.

[Outfit details: Dress (Sears); Heels (Forever 21); Purse (old- Irene’s Story); Pearls (vintage); Cuff (Francesca’s); Watch (New York & Co.)]



  1. Great points raised about your personal appearance. It holds true during the interview process as well as consideration for any promotion. Dress for the level you aspire to become.

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