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Dress for Success

Various sources agree, first impressions count! Studies show that many interviewers make up their minds about you after the first 10 seconds. How you dress is critical to that first impression. Professional presence is extremely important at all times.

How you look will open (or close) the door to opportunities. If you have strong skills and you get the business attire right, the sky is the limit. However if you mess with the dress code, no matter how competent, your climb will slow, if not stall.

Avoid wearing anything too distracting, too casual or flashy.  You want people to focus on what you say, not what you are wearing.


  • Always wear a suit; it conveys to the employer that you are serious about the position.

  • Professional image plays a large role in how you are selling yourself. You are marketing yourself.

  • Dress for the occasion. If the occasion is business, then dress as if you mean business.


  • Black, dark navy, or gray colored suits give a psychological connotation of power, authority, knowledge, responsibility, and success. Brown shows that you are dependable and stable.

  • A white shirt or blouse gives a clean, formal, and sophisticated presentation.


  • Vertical lines formed by classic three button jackets contribute to the illusion of height as do pin-stripes.

  • Single-breasted jackets are best for men and women of average height, whereas double-breasted jackets complement taller persons.

  • Unbutton the suit jacket when you sit or at least open the last button.

  • Crew neck blouses or sweaters under a jacket for women are better than button down shirts that tend to gap when you sit down.

  • No plunging necklines and no cleavage.


  • Slacks and skirts should fit properly, not too long and not too short.

  • Wearing ill-fitting or wrinkled clothes sends the message that you are slovenly and do not pay attention to detail.

Knowing that you are dressed for the occasion/interview will increase your self-confidence and add immeasurably to your professional presentation.

Interview Strategies


  • Review the job description and peruse the organization’s website prior to your interview.

  • Explore the internet to find any research that might be of importance in reference to the organization and the search committee members.

  • Be able to speak to the needs of the organization and “how you can assist them” in reaching their strategic goals and mission.

  • Check out to look over the organization’s financials, etc.

  • Refrain from bringing up salary or benefits during the first interview.

  • Address areas such as annual goals, visions for the future, volunteerism at the organization, history of the position, and next steps in the search process, etc.

  • Be able to communicate why you want this position.


  • Plan to arrive at least ten minutes early for your interview.

  • Have confirmed directions to the interview site. Anticipate possible delays and have alternate routes in mind if traffic backs up.

  • Carry NPPN’s and the organization’s phone number, and alert the appropriate person(s) of your situation ASAP if you do get caught in a traffic jam, etc.


  • Once you’ve arrived, gather your thoughts and check your attire before entering the office/building.

  • Dress professionally and appropriately for the organization. Avoid perfumes and aftershave colognes.

  • Make consistent eye contact.

  • Use experiences and actual numbers (avoid percentages) when discussing your successes.

  • Listen carefully to the questions and answer directly. Keep your answers on topic and succinct.

  • Always send a thank-you note to all interviewers, within two days of the interview.


  • Your demeanor should exude confidence and energy.

  • Taking notes is always appropriate.

  • Prepare convincing answers to:

    1. What do you know about the organization?

    2. Why are you applying for this position?

    3. Why are you the best candidate to hire?

  • Make a strong case for support that sells your candidacy.

  • Prepare for the interview by anticipating questions, especially behavioral questions such as “what would you do in this situation?” Think about your answers so there is no hesitancy.

  • Keep in mind: thoughtful pauses are more effective than “ums” or rushing your response.

  • Prepare 2-3 priority questions to ask at the end of the interview. Remember that you are interviewing the organization as much as they are interviewing you.

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