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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Interview Preparation

Dear Sue: I am beginning my search for a new job. Things have changed so much since the last time I was out interviewing, that I wonder if I am prepared to compete with other candidates. 

I know a navy suit used to be the standard interview attire, but what is it today? The company I work for has a casual dress code and I haven't bought a suit in years. After the interview, is it always necessary to write a thank you letter, and is it acceptable to send it electronically? I would appreciate the answers to these questions and any other advice you can give me. 

Preparing for interviews

Sue Says: Things haven't changed as much as you think. Your appearance remains an important factor in the overall impression you will make. And although you aren't as limited in your clothing options as in the past, a suit still is the best option to wear for a first interview. 

Take into consideration the industry you are focusing on. Is it more conservative and traditional or is it unconventional and trendy? If it is traditional, then you will want to dress conservatively. Neutral colors and classic styles in a suit will be your best choice. If the industry is high tech or creative, you have more options when deciding what to wear. Brighter colors and trendier styles are more acceptable. 

In a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers were provided a list of 10 physical attributes, and asked to indicate the level of influence each would have on their opinion of a candidate's suitability for employment. Grooming earned a 2.6 rating (where 1=no influence, 2=slight influence, and 3=strong influence). which was the highest rating, followed by nontraditional interview attire, which earned a 2.3 rating.

No matter how little importance you place on appearance, when you are looking for a job, appearance does matter. It will be worthwhile for you to invest in a new suit for your interviews. Keep in mind that there probably are others who are interviewing for the same position who have also thought about what to wear. If you decide to dress more casually than some of the other job candidates, you risk appearing indifferent.

Dressing up for an interview is expected. You and the employer know that you are under scrutiny why do anything that might reflect negatively on you?

Vault.com, a career content site, conducted a survey on interview manners, and found that 51% of employers felt that manners had deteriorated in the interviewing and hiring process over the last two years. 

When asked what impact the thank you note had on a candidate's chances of getting hired, 36% said that it always helps and 42% said that it helps when deciding between two or more candidates. A thank you note should always be sent after an interview within one business day it is common courtesy, and could be a determining factor for an interviewer in the decision process.

You don't need to write a lengthy note, and there is some debate over whether typed or handwritten notes are preferred. A thank you note should not be sent by e-mail or fax. You want to make sure your note will be read. Hand-addressed envelopes will always be opened before opening computer-generated labels or typed envelopes. If you hand write your thank you note, make sure your handwriting is legible.

Continue to ask questions, do some research and brush up on your interviewing skills to ensure you will have every opportunity to receive an offer for the job you want. Good luck. 

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at asksue@suemorem.com or visit her web site at http://www.suemorem.com

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