Last month, UCLA’s “The Daily Bruin” reported that Courtney Scaramella, 23, a waitress at O’Hara’s – a bar in Westwood, Calif. – was fired for complaining about having to wear a uniform that showed too much skin.
As summer heat waves are well underway, many young women primed for interviews take an opposing view. They just can’t see what the big deal is when you show up to meet your potential boss as though you dropped in on the way to the Hamptons.
Although no one wants to come off looking ultra-starched and metaphorically inflexible, there’s a line that many young women cross simply because they think all that matters is their smarts, experience, and talent. Note to these women: Interviews are not about you or your comfort. It’s about the company’s structure – the firm you’re supposedly eager to join – that you’ll need to fit into, like branches on a tree.
Because competition for jobs is greater than ever, escalating summer temperatures give interviewers a chance to check out applicants’ common sense and their ability to judge what’s appropriate. So, ladies, why blow it? You want to impress a prospective boss, not prove how self-expressive you are with clothing. And if the person asking you tough questions has been sitting in an air-conditioned office all day long, then you had better communicate that you’ve done the same thing, even if you’re roasting.
When you arrive for your hot-weather interview full of professional moxie, here are five dressing tips that will get you through the heat.
1. Don’t let them see you sweat. If it’s pushing 100 degrees outside and you’re going to have to walk a block or two to get to your interview, wear underarm shields so you don’t show up at the office with giant rings under your arms. (Back in the “Mad Men” stockings-and-girdle era, all the ladies wore them.) Have a tissue handy to dry your face, neck, and hands before you step into the elevator. Tuck a small can of baby powder, into your briefcase, and arrive a few minutes early if need be to dust a bit of it around your neck, face, or anything that glistens. Showing up sweaty makes you look unkempt, extremely nervous, or both.
2. Don’t flaunt your tattoos. Remember when your mother warned you that someday you’d regret getting that Pokemon tat on your neck where your future boss could see it? This advice is for those women who didn’t listen to Mom.
Wherever you have tattoos, whether it’s in your décolletage or around your ankle, choose clothing that covers them. While you’re at it, take out your eyebrow, nose, and lip rings. After you get the job and higher ups discover you’re a genius, then you’ll be freer to reveal your personal adornments. That is, unless you find yourself working in a corporate monolith, in which case it’s better to continue to hide them.
3. Don’t wear Birkenstocks or open-toed shoes. Footwear that exposes too much flesh shows disrespect for the corporate culture. In other words, you’re perceived as a rebel, even before you become an employee. If you’re a pedicure kind of gal, a bright turquoise polish reveals way too much about your possible sense of nonconformity. And, if you’re not given to proper toenail maintenance, then you just end up looking disheveled. That’s not a good look for professional advancement. Save your sandals for the weekend.
4. Don’t overexpose yourself. The summer months all but beg us to wear skimpy tank tops, sheer blouses with a camisole underneath, or short, short hemlines. No one wants to see a glimpse of cleavage, errant bra straps, too much leg, too much arm muscle, or heaven forbid, your midriff. Dress as though you’re visiting a very fashion-conscious monastery, run by a powerful abbot or abbess.
5. Don’t try to make a summertime fashion statement. As women, we know our trends. We may devour fashion magazines like candy and conduct online fashion research into the wee hours. However, a job interview is not the time to show off that knowledge, even if Hawaiian shirts are hotter than Justin Bieber’s newest haircut. Nor is it the right time for donning sunglasses or a baseball cap (either backwards or forwards) inside.
Young employees sometimes forget that they aren’t on the campus quad anymore. This is why they refer to appropriate clothing choices as dressing up – as in upward career mobility.
Vicky Oliver is the author of five best-selling career development books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions and The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire, Even If You’re Not.