College students are often faced with the daunting task of preparing for an interview. One of the main concerns revolves around deciding a proper interview outfit.
“First impressions are really important; we make judgements based on how people look,” Gary Schwantz, a mass communications and business communications instructor at Texas Tech, said. “It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.”
Schwantz said he often has students ask him what type of clothes business attire refers to exactly.
“I’m not sure what it means,” he said. “It’s defined by the different environments.”
Students should research the company to decide what level of formality is expected for an employee’s attire, Schwantz said. If information is scarce, a few staple interview outfits are usually safe to wear.
When dressing for an interview, male students can typically wear any shirt when paired with dress pants and a sports coat, Schwantz said.
Although he said he is not as well-versed on female attire, Schwantz said he recommends wearing a blazer and slacks or a skirt that ends below the knee.
“It never hurts to overdress, but it definitely hurts to underdress,” Schwantz said.
In addition, many college students have body modifications, which can affect the outcome of an interview.
“That’s becoming more common,” Ashley Penner, associate director of student development at the Tech University Career Center, said. “To have tattoos and piercings and things that were typically associated with a lack of professionalism in the past.”
Many professionals have tattoos and piercings of their own, Penner said. However, it is usually better to be more conservative with body modifications when interviewing for an entry level position in a company.
Professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, will often have noticeable tattoos and piercings, Christina Rankin, a senior journalism major from Hobbs, New Mexico, said. Tattoo art that is vulgar or piercings that are extreme are usually not acceptable.
“I think it has become more acceptable within reason,” Rankin said.
In addition, colors can play a role in an interview.
A business outfit often consists of muted colors, such as blacks, grays and browns, Schwantz said. Black, in particular, is a strong color when trying to make a good first impression.
“I think color has a mental impact,” Penner said.
When dressing for an interview, pops of color are not necessarily a bad thing, Penner said. One must still be strategic with the colors they pick.
“Say you’re interviewing for Texas Tech; you wouldn’t necessarily wear A&M colors or UT colors to that interview,” Penner said, “and, red is traditionally seen as a power color; it kind of exudes confidence.”
The typical lifestyle of student usually does not allow large sums of money to be spent on a business outfit.
“Think about how much we spend just eating out in a month,” Schwantz said. “If you invested that one time into a nice business outfit, that’s going to pay off in all kinds of ways.”
Still, some students may have budgets that are too tight.
Penner said the university has a couple of different options for students on a budget.
The Career Closet, which was created by Toni Krebbs, the assistant director of employer relations at the Career Center, provides lightly used professional clothing to students who are struggling financially, Penner said.
The Career Closet typically loans one professional outfit to a student for either a semester or a full year, Penner said. However, situations do arise when students may not find what they are looking for or clothes that fit them properly.
“Then I think it’s about: wear what you do have, but wear it with confidence,” Penner said.
The Career Center also hosts the JCPenney’s Suit-Up event every semester, Penner said. Student will receive a coupon for 30 percent off all the business clothing the store is currently selling. The spring semester event is scheduled for March 8.
“I think this topic is of interest because the world of work is changing,” Penner said. “I wouldn’t let clothing hold you back.”