Strutting the Right Stuff – Revealing Tips on Interview Attire

Are you still actively job searching and interviewing, even though the weather speaks more to sitting on the beach or a streetside café with a tall cold drink? During the summer it is so tempting to dress to be cool and comfortable, especially with July’s exceptional heat. Unfortunately when it comes to interviewing, it is a big mistake to confuse cool with casual, and I am offering you some reminders, or perhaps an introduction to interview attire. The main things to remember are this:

Research the Employer – There are typical expectations across-the-board in interviewing, such as dressing neatly, being clean and well-groomed, however, knowing the culture of the places where you send in applications is extremely important. Company cultures, and interview “dress codes” vary, so make the time to learn the norms from investigating an employer’s website, asking contacts in your network (know anyone who has worked there or for a similar organization?), or even undertaking a reconnaissance mission before your interview. If the latter is feasible, time your visit to the employer’s neighborhood around lunchtime, usually noon-1pm, to watch people come out of the building. In general, it is best to look slightly more formal for your interview than the typical day-to-day attire of an employee. Here is a really comprehensive overview from Career Services at Virginia Tech on how to dress for interviews, for both men and women. Here is a website (from North Dakota State University) with photos of interview clothes by industry/career field.

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller
Generational Differences – Tattoos and multiple piercings, tight clothes, assymetrical haircuts are all par-for-the-course for Gen Y and Millenials, but remember the person who interviews you might be from a different generation and have a different sense of what is acceptable. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t “be yourself” but when in doubt, don’t take risks –tone down or cover up. If you want to enforce the qualities that represent professionalism, be careful that your clothes and accessories don’t distract your interviewer from who you are and your qualifications for the job. Here is more on the topic: Dress The Part: Proper Attire Aids In Job Search.
Interview Hottie? – Even on a super hot and humid summer day, you will still need to wear a suit for most “office” job interviews. You may wear short sleeves under the suit jacket, but do not go sleeveless. Linen is a fabric that breathes well, and may be nice for keeping cool while wearing your suit. Dress suits (or jacket and skirt) are acceptable for women. Avoid wearing open-toed shoes. I do not know why, but it is true that baring some toe is a bit risqué. Simple flats, or low heeled pumps are good for women.

Hygiene –There is a classic book on interviewing called Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed. Unfortunately, in the summer “sweaty palms” can be a bit of an understatement. The truth is, that your grooming is as important, if not more so, than your attire. You do not need an Armani suit to make a good impression. Neat and clean are HUGE in conveying professionalism. Make sure that you are prepared to combat the heat with these simple tips:
• Allow PLENTY of time to get to your interview. You do not want to have jogged the last 5 blocks from the train because you were out of time. If you get to a site early, you can find a restroom (even going to the nearest Starbucks) and freshen up.
• If you are prone to sweaty palms, forehead, and the like, bring a hanky (like your grandparents had) in your pocket or purse, or buy some rice paper blotters (many cosmetic lines have this product). It is more polite to dab off sweat than to leave it beading on your body. Also, dusting with baby powder or corn starch can help you stay dry.
• Do wear sufficient deodorant; do not wear a lot of perfume or cologne. Don’t eat strong smelling foods just before you go to interview. Smells in general, even flowery or spicey ones, are distracting and will make your “I’m a great candidate” message harder to hear.

Want more tips on what to wear? Here are two more links I recommend:
• Penn’s Career Services’ blog on “Vampire Teeth and Other What Not to Wear” items for OCR Interviews
• This Luke Wilson look-alike is not as funny, but has some very good tips for men’s interview attire:

How to Become the Next Intern Idol

By Claire Klieger Regardless of whether you’re in your dream internship or something that isn’t living up to your expectations, it’s important to create a positive impression. You want to leave a job with people wanting you back, no matter how glad you are to leave! Potential employers will often ask for references (even if your previous experience is completely unrelated) so you want to be able to provide them with a list of contacts that you know will speak highly of your job performance.

You may not have celebrity judges but your employers are watching…

Last week I visited Lincoln Financial Field (and got to see the players’ locker room, which was really cool) to hear about opportunities for students with the Philadelphia Eagles. They have a post-graduate internship program where they hire 50 interns for a one-year program but only make permanent offers to a few. One staffer spoke about what sets people apart in that internship and how to get noticed. Here are some of his tips as well as my own: 1) Volunteer for any work that needs doing, no matter how menial or uninteresting. Whether it’s making copies, picking up mail or (as in the case of one intern at the Eagles), counting the number of toilets in your facility, be willing to do whatever is asked of you without complaint or grumbling. Simply saying “sure, I can do that” can make a big difference. 2) Understand the culture. Fitting into any working environment relies in large part on figuring out and participating in the culture. Take part in social activities provided by your organization to show that you are a team player and enthusiastic about your work. 3) Go the extra mile. It’s important to make the very best of whatever situation you’re in.  If you don’t have enough to do, look around to figure out who could use help; then offer it. You never know who is going to be grateful for your offer to run a spreadsheet, or make a Powerpoint chart, summarize a set of articles, or run an experiment, etc.    If you identify a need or see areas for potential improvement, you might gently offer an idea (and volunteer to do it) that might be useful. 4) Put in the time. One of the things the Eagles’ rep mentioned was that he notices interns who arrive early and stay late. Don’t create the impression that you’re checking your watch so that you can bolt out the door at 5 (or whenever the business day ends where you work). 5) Be professional. This is important for demeanor as well as dress. Also, be cognizant of your on-line communications. Keep your work emails professional and if you’re a blogger, don’t trash talk your employer or any individuals at your organization of employment specifically–you never know who may read these things and it is possible to get fired over it! 6) Treat everyone pleasantly, regardless of status. Focus less on becoming chummy with your fellow interns and more on being pleasant with everyone. This could be as simple as greeting people at the beginning and end of each day and remembering to smile. Also, be careful not to look like you’re only interested in making a good impression with the folks at the top.

Should You Be Doing That At Work?

By Barbara Hewitt

Our methods of communication have clearly changed over the last decade. Most of us have the ability to check work email from home, pay our personal bills at work, and text and access social networks like Facebook just about anywhere we want. In fact, the question becomes not “Can we do these things at work?”…. but “Should we?”.

For a lot of people, “work” and “personal” days have blurred and they may feel justified in using office technology and time to handle personal issues since they are probably handling at least some “office” work from home. For many organizations there is an implicit (if unstated) culture that on a limited basis this is fine. As long as employees are productive, providing them with the flexibility to determine what they need to do while at work may keep them happier and in the long run more loyal to the organization. (This is analogous to the somewhat dated notion of making personal calls at work. A few are overlooked and seen as necessary, but it is pretty easy to get annoyed with a colleague who spends three hours every day yakking on the phone while everyone else in the office is working hard on projects.)

Beware of using employer phones for personal texting.....

As a new employee, there are some things you should do to make sure you make a smooth transition into your workplace. When you start a new job, make sure you investigate if there are written policies governing how you use the organization’s resources such as computers and telephones. What are you allowed to access from the office (or outside the office, say, on a company issued phone)? If there isn’t a written policy, pay attention to the unwritten rules of the office. Many organizations outright block access to sites like Facebook, not wanting their employees to waste time on things that are clearly not related to their jobs. Other employers are much more flexible, understanding that communication technologies have changed and allowing employees to utilize these tools as long as they don’t interfere with productivity. Still others wholeheartedly embrace employees’ use of such tools – believing that their employees should keep up on the latest trends in technology. (And let’s face it, lots of people now manage social media as part of their job descriptions!)

As an employee, you should be aware that many employers have the capacity to check employee computers, emails, and texts from an office phone or pager. There is no assurance that what you might have thought was private is. (Just ask the police offer in California who was texting heavily with both his wife and mistress from an employer issued pager. The Supreme Court ruled last week that his employer, the City of Ontario, CA, did not violate his rights when they checked his text messages.)

You should also be very careful what you say about your employer in online forums. has reported that a significant number of companies indicate that they have investigated the posting of sensitive information to a social network, ultimately resulting in disciplinary action including termination of employees. I’ve personally worked with a student who was terminated from an internship because she posted information about her company to what she considered to be a private blog. The company had a Google alert set-up and found it very quickly once it was posted. It wasn’t even that the content of the post was egregious to the employer, but rather that the intern had violated company policy by posting anything at all about the employer online.

Words to the wise. It is better to be cautious in today’s world than to find yourself in a position to regret your actions later. In today’s online world, it is almost impossible to deny your actions after the fact.

Getting Rid of New Job Worries

By Julie Vick

What if I don’t like my new job? This question may be on the minds of some very recent graduates. With the recession still hanging on, the feeling that “any job is better than no job” and/or family pressure may have encouraged some to accept an offer that they weren’t all that excited about. Now, as the first day of work approaches, some may be having second thoughts. If that is the case for you, here is a little advice we hope you’ll take to heart:

• Don’t do the most drastic thing and quit before starting, which is a form of reneging on your offer. The world is small and a very negative picture of you may get around to potential employers. And it doesn’t reflect well on Penn either.
• Don’t start your job with the idea that you’ll “bide your time” till a year has passed and you can leave in good standing. Instead, have a positive attitude and do your job well.

• Decide that you are going to learn at least one new thing each day. You may have to make an effort to do it but most likely it will happen without you even noticing as you “get your feet wet”. Keep a record of what you are learning and before you know it you will have written the next entry for your resume.
• Try to talk to someone new every week. It might be someone in your division or department; it might be someone who works for your employer in another part of the organization; it might be a client. Again, keep track of the people you talk with. With ongoing interaction, some of them will become part of your network.

Remember that your first job after graduation probably will not be the job you have for the rest of your life. You will move on. And keep in mind that no one loves every aspect of their work every single day. But with each day you will hopefully develop confidence in yourself, your abilities, and your plans for the future. You will no longer be perceived as a student but as a professional in your field. The experience you get in this first job will help you with the next one, one that will be a better fit and that excites you more.

A Little Thank You Can Go a Long Way

By Kelly Cleary

It’s graduation season and among other things (celebrations, remember-when’s and see-you-later’s, packing up dorm rooms, obsessively checking email and voicemail as you wait to hear news of interview and job offers…), it’s graduation gift time, which also means it’s THANK YOU NOTE time. If you are a procrastinator, you may simply have a mental list of aunties and old family friends to send little notes to, or your mom may be keeping that list for you. If you fall in the type-A category and you’re also still job searching, as many new grads are, then you might have cranked out those thank you notes and placed them in the post box soon after you received that copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” and those fantastic cards accompanied by checks, because keeping on top of thank-you notes is one way to feel like you’re in control. And we all know that one of the most frustrating things about searching for a job job is that you have little control over the interview and offer process.

In the same way that sending a sweet little card that says, “Thanks for the ….., it’s just what I hoped for…” makes auntie or granny feel appreciated and reflects well on your character and generally brings on good karma, so does a short thank you note or email to follow up with professional interactions you may have with alumni, prospective employers, and others who work in your field of interest. Of course, this means you should send a thank you after an interview, but it also means you should take the time to send thank you notes to recruiters you meet at career fairs, like the Campus Philly Opportunities Fair on June 15th, and professionals who give you job search advice at professional or social networking events, like the upcoming Penn Alumni Club of Philadelphia socials or the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network New Member Orientation.

It’s also smart to send a little thank you to your friend’s mom who offered to introduce you to a prospective employer while you were waiting in the buffet line at a graduation party or that friendly gentleman who suggested a few good companies or job search sites while you were sitting next to each other on the train. And all the better if in a few weeks time you send them another note to share an interesting article or a little success story about how their advice helped you progress in your search. While writing thank you’s probably won’t directly speed up the interview process, appreciative follow-ups to these types of interactions will help you cultivate colleagues and mentors  while building a reputation as a collegial, proactive, and respectful professional which will no doubt help you advance your career. The magic connection to the job might not happen immediately, but these exchanges and relationships frequently bring you closer to new opportunities.

Yes, we are talking about networking here. You’ll find tips and resources for networking on our Making Contacts page. And you’ll find a few sample thank you notes on our website and even more on the Quintcareers Thank You Letters Resource for Job Seekers site.