Know the Territory
Even before you sit down for a job interview, you should be boning up on the dress code of your prospective employer. Proper attire is key to a successful job interview, and if you can show up clothed as a model of official dress policy, your interviewers will definitely take notice.
But how to find out a company's dress code? Start by checking online. Many large firms, such as General Electric or Goldman Sachs, will post their dress codes directly to their Web site. You can also check with a company's human resources department. Feel free to call up a representative and quiz him or her on the basics of office attire.
Keep in mind that your dress will be heavily influenced by your job description. If you're in a position that deals with the public, such as a receptionist or salesperson, you'll likely be in the top end of the dress code: expect ties, suit jackets and pleated pants. If you're an office technician, on the other hand, you might be able to clock in with nothing more than a polo shirt and a pair of pleated work pants. Wiring up a computer can be dusty work, and it's no place for a pin-striped suit.
Be sure to check if your office's dress code is subject to seasonal changes. During the summer, your employer may slacken the dress code to include capri pants and sleeveless shirts -- particularly if your office isn't equipped with air conditioning. Before the heat wave comes, check with your superiors on whether it's alright to leave the suit jacket behind.
Even if your office doesn't have a set dress code, be sure to have your boss lay out some basic parameters. Is Friday a casual day? And if so, how casual? Some offices demand "business casual" -- collared shirt, pleated pants and a pair of dress shoes. Other offices will allow blue jeans and T-shirts. Are shorts ever allowed? How about flip-flops? Getting a good idea of what not to wear is the best way to steer clear of a potential fashion disaster. One wrong outfit and you could be hearing about it for months.
Is your closet short of collars and cardigans? Keep reading to find out how to whip your wardrobe into professional shape.