Suited for the job

Photo: Andrew Hawley

Half a second.

That’s how little time it can take to make a first impression.

According to personal stylist Luce Papineau, that’s why it’s so important for students to bring the right clothes to a job interview.

Papineau elaborated on this topic during How to Dress for a Success, a lecture organized by University of Ottawa’s Community Life Service that took place on March 5 in the University Centre.

She said what you wear can sometimes be the difference between landing a job and landing back on the couch.

“Company bosses have told me that (when there’s) equal competency between candidates, the better dressed candidate will get the position,” she said. “The managers’ thought is, ‘If they take care of themselves, they can take care of my company.’”

When assembling an outfit for an interview, there are some ground rules.

For women, Papineau said that skirts are preferred over pants, though they shouldn’t be more than an inch above or below the knee. Less is more when it comes to accessories, and the shoes and purse should match. Above all, the look must be professional.

“Do not wear anything too short, tight, or revealing,” she said.

For men, turning off the interviewers can be avoided with proper matching colours. The suit should be navy blue—an “efficient colour,” said the stylist—and fitted. The socks must match the pants and the belt must match the shoes. Lastly, the tie must go down to the belt.

Once students know what to get, the issue becomes paying for it. Papineau provided two ways around the high cost of good clothing.

One is to accessorize so that several looks can be created with just one dress or suit, akin to the 365-day strategy done by the Uniform Project’s Sheena Matheiken, and Australian television anchor Karl Stefanovic. The other is to reduce spending by purchasing clothes that are on sale or out of season.

Another option for U of O students is the Free Store, located at 641 King Edward Ave. Run by the Office of Campus Sustainability, the store is full of items that are donated by students to be picked up for free by other students.

Erin Johnston, a communication student and coordinator at the store, said that formal wear often comes in and students can build a work wardrobe with key pieces.

“We have brand name stuff from Banana Republic, H&M, Zara, Hugo Boss, and others,” she said. “We sort all donations to ensure the clothes on the racks are in good condition. Anything with rips or stains is put aside.”

Johnston described how her roommate wasn’t having any luck finding a blazer for an upcoming interview—but the coordinator was able to find her one at the Free Store.

“It fit perfectly, and she got the job.”

So before you decide to drop a wad of cash for your next interview or even when you’ve landed the job and need an entire new work wardrobe, there are a number of ways to dress for success on a budget.