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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Karlita, Kelly and Adele thank you for your responses. I want you to know in no way was implying that one should be unprofessional at a working environment. However I was saying that missing a potentially good employee based on what they wore to an interview is not a good reason. Look at their resume, their person, if you like them at all. If you do not like what they wore why couldn't you say just point them in the right direction? Because chances are it's something correctable. It's your places of business. You can choose whomever you want.

September 13 2010 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sure another article about how it is the potential employee's fault for not getting the job. If certain people really do otherwise fit the position there is no way anyone there could just say "at Harper Mindley, we expect you to have a more conservative appearance please do the following. Welcome aboard." So massive amounts of employers are keeping people who would be suitable for various positions from obtaining gainful employment based on some type of fashion faux paux? So millions of unemployed are all just guilty of "wearing the wrong garments" to the interview? So the woman who wears red lipstick as her trademark color is out? The woman who is attractive and has an expensive lower cut blouse is out? The woman who wore too high of heel is out? The guy who shows he is a happy person by wearing a cartoonish tie is out? Has anyone thought that obviously things they are doing now may have been accepted before they applied at the present company? I mean really, they all had jobs within a fairly short time I doubt they were fired based on these "appearances". Especially those with excellent credentials. I say to anyone, never lose yourself for a job. After all fashion is not the only reason you may not get it. If employers can practice personal style discrimination on a whim more important people need to be informed of this. This should be stopped it is 2010 not 1970. People have tattoos, different colors of hair, exciting fashions. I notice these articles never mention what type of job we are even speaking about. We all know if it is for a professional company we go corporate. If it is for a telemarketing job, sales, bartender, movie set girl/guy, costume shop, promoter, construction we make look a lot different right? Most people present themselves in a way they can afford and are most proud of. They know they are a new face. I have seen people "overdress" for an interview as well. The people who were already working there were literally jealous of the interview's clothes because they were very expensive looking and more pro than the boss lol! So it really doesn't matter.

September 13 2010 at 3:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to osmpinkgirl's comment

Maybe you wanna take your nauseating crap somewhere else

September 13 2010 at 12:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There's no such thing as too much cleavage!!!

September 12 2010 at 10:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if the persons that come to an interview are ever told why they did not get the job ? I saw a lot of potential employees apply for a job with the goofiest garb. One that stands out was a man who came in wearing purple curly cued suit. Reminded me of "Prince". This was back in the late 70's and you can imagine how shocking that "look" was. Also nice looking suits with tennis shoes. What an eye opener when you work with the public. I have lots of stories about job applicants. Even back then I would have people come in and ask me to sign a form showing indicating that they filled out an application. Of course I did not do that. But using the system to their fullest was easier than getting a job when jobs were available.

September 12 2010 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would like to add that the interviewee should remove all extraneous visible piercings and cover tattoos. In most cases, neon dyed hair is also not a good idea. I have interviewed many people and I can't believe what some show up wearing. I assume they don't really want the job and they're being forced into the interview.

September 12 2010 at 10:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

common sense seems to be something lacking in a lot of younger people/20s/ they seem to think others opinions of their dress is of no importance,, seems they would get the idea when they continually get passed over for a job

September 12 2010 at 10:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My oldest brother once showed at a machine shop to apply for a job as a machinist. He was wearing a suit and tie. The last question the interviewer asked was, "Are you affraid to get your hands dirty?" My brother answered "No." He went to work the following morning. First impressions are very important. Always dress better than the job requires.

September 12 2010 at 10:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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