Too Much Cleavage and Other Interview Booby Traps

There seems to be no end to the number of fashion mistakes people make when selecting job interview attire. But according to recent research conducted by clothing store TJ Maxx, showing up for a job interview in a tight top or with visible cleavage may be the biggest offender and the one that costs women the job most frequently. The survey of 2,000 employees also revealed that rumpled shirts and novelty ties should be removed from your interview wardrobe immediately.

What people wear to work has long been water cooler fodder, but consider this: today's job market is fierce. What you wear to the interview can influence the hiring decision - a lot. According to the survey, 65% claimed that in an interview situation, clothing could be the deciding factor if two candidates are equal in other areas.

Many of you may be shaking your heads, thinking that conservative attire for an interview is a given. Yet hiring managers, recruiters, career coaches, and HR professionals seem to have an endless supply of stories about candidates who just don't get it when it comes to interview dress. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Wardrobe Malfunction

"One man came into an interview with split pants. Another guy wore pants with a broken zipper to his job interview. Their inattention to the condition of their clothing left the interviewers doubting their ability to pay attention to the details of the jobs for which they were interviewing." --Deborah Millhouse, President of CEO Inc. staffing agency

The Peep Show

"A Wall Street salesperson explained that one of her principal issues was not being treated with respect on the trading floor. Despite the fact that she graduated from a top business school, her colleagues were not taking her seriously and when opportunities for promotion arose, she was not considered a contender. When she arrived at my office, it was obvious why. She was dressed in a leather mini skirt and a bustier." --Roy Cohen, Career Coach and Author, The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide

The Time Warp

"When I was a hiring manager, a guy came in for an interview with his "weddings and funeral" suit. The trouble was that it was from the 70s. Starsky and Hutch would have looked good in it but he didn't. I have also seen people carry bags with slogans, stickers, or badges on them such as "Save the Bay" or "Obama Hope." Keep it neutral. Your views are your views but may not be the hiring manager's." --David Couper, Career Coach and Author of "Outsiders on the Inside:Creating a Winning Career Even When You Don't Fit In

The Pajama Game

"As a former Fortune 500 recruiter, one of the most frequent mistake I've seen is women assuming that wearing a jacket camouflages a skimpy top underneath. If it looks like lingerie, it still looks like lingerie peeking out of the jacket." --Caroline Ceniza-Levine, Career Expert, Writer, Speaker and Co-Founder of SixFigureStart.

The Olfactory Offender

"I recently interviewed a young woman with impeccable credentials, however, she was wearing an inappropriately short skirt, a conservative white blouse that was buttoned too low and incredibly high heels that were inappropriate for a conservative work environment. She was overly "perfumed" and her scent remained in our lobby well after she had left. While she was a great candidate on paper, her ability to make good judgment calls with my clients was in question based on her lack of professional appearance." --Diane Gottsman, nationally recognized etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas

The Train Wreck

"For a high level security position, a candidate came dressed in stained trousers, a wrinkled shirt that was half hanging outside his pants, black sneakers, and a 1980s style thin tie that was loosened. Of course that was coupled with being unshaven and chewing bubble gum during the entire interview." --Philip Farina, CEO for the Farina Companies including Manta Security Management Recruiters and author of Antiterrorism Careers-The Ultimate Guide to Professional Employment Opportunities in Specialized Security

The Peek-a-boo Girl

"I worked in an organization where a female employee wore "too small" tummy revealing blouses and low waist hipster pants to work on an almost daily basis. She worked in a very visible customer service role which required her to travel from office to office. One of the company employees took to referring to her as "half pants." Needless to say, she was the "butt" of a lot of jokes." --Dianne Shaddock Austin, Founder, Easy Small Business, Employee Hiring and Managing Tips

The Cartoon Character

"A candidate showed up for an interview wearing a cartoon tie (Cat in the Hat) and a black and white checkered jacket. While the HR director assured me it was not relevant, she also said that he looked like a county fair barker (the person who yells, "Step right up! Win a doll for the little lady! Only a dollar for 5 tries!)" --Bruce Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.

Next:He Said, She Said: Dressing Appropriately for Work >>

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