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Dress for the Job You Want: Why Looking the Part Matters

Melissa Thompson

If you’re attending a job fair, have an interview scheduled, or are hoping to score a promotion, more than what is on your resume or in your professional portfolio matters. Like it or not, studies show that what a person wears is important to hiring managers and executives. 

Why What You Wear Matters

Often times, landing a job is all about the initial first impression that you make on a future employer. According to psychological studies published in Business Insider, a person’s first impression of you is formed within seven to 17 seconds of first meeting you, and those seven to 17 seconds will account for 55 percent of that person’s opinion of you.

As such, one of the easiest ways to make those first few seconds count is to be wearing something that is professional. According to the article, opting for something on the conservative side is a good idea.

The Effects of Dressing Well

Not only does dressing well lead to a more impressive first impression when meeting with potential employers, but it may also have an effect on everything from your job performance to the work of people around you. In an eye-opening study about attire and performance published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, participants were given a standard, white laboratory coat to wear. Half of the participants were told it was a doctor’s coat, half were told it was a painter’s coat.

Those who were wearing the “doctor’s coat” showed a heightened sense of attention, lending to the belief that how a person feels about the clothes that they’re wearing could have an effect on the brain.

But it’s not just yourself that may be affected by the clothes that you wear – dressing appropriately for the workplace also has an impact on co-workers around you, too. In another study, women who wore a sweater with a logo on it received a response rate of 52 percent, compared to non-logo sweater-wearing women, whose response rate was only 13 percent.

The study points to the fact that the clothes a person chooses to wear elicit a response from others, good or bad. Choosing clothes that are less distracting, conservative, and modest, but also professional and clean-cut is advised.

Dressing well may be important, but is it understood?

Most people will acknowledge that dressing the part is important, but knowing exactly how to do that may not be understood. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, 53 percent of women interviewed said that they felt like what they wore in the workplace was a vital factor in attaining professional success, while 37 percent of the men believed work opportunities, or “executive presence” and attire to be linked.

Despite the fact that more than half of women surveyed believe that dressing matters, studies also show that women often have a much more difficult time than men when determining exactly what “dressing the part” means.

Women are often told to not blend in, but to stand out; they’re told to downplay sexuality, but not forsaken their femininity. While men have a fairly basic dress code to adhere to while at work – a suit and tie should do the trick – guidelines for women are much more ambiguous.

For women, a skirted suit, blazer, simple and modest dress, slacks, a conservative blouse, or a sweater are usually appropriate choices. And remember, it’s not just clothes that matter – take time to make sure your hygiene is in check, too!

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Melissa Thompson Member
Melissa Thompson is a freelance producer at CNN and a contributor at Technorati and NewsBlaze. She lives in Utah with her 2 children and enjoys skiing, hiking, working out, and sushi.