Business fashion show teaches etiquette

Wearing the right outfit to a job interview can make the difference in getting hired.

As an image consultant specializing in wardrobe and first impressions, Amy Linquist has seen and heard it all when it comes to job interviews. In fact, horror stories of fashion faux pas infiltrate her industry.

One woman mistakenly tucked her shirt into her pantyhose before walking into an interview. Another man unknowingly lambasted his soon-to-be interviewer about the ugly socks he was wearing during the elevator ride to the interview. Worst of all, Linquist tells the story of a woman who used maxi pads as replacements for suit jacket shoulder pads, then had them fall out while she walked down the hallway.

Friday night, 164 students gathered at the McNamara Alumni Center to make sure they didn’t go down in interview-gaffe history. A business fashion show highlighted appropriate office attire and aimed to elevate participants’ business IQ.

Appearance is one of the most important factors in a job interview, Lindquist said. She said people are hardwired to judge potential employees within 30 seconds of meeting them, based mostly on dress and body language.

“First impression is going to be the strongest factor,” she said. “You’re either going to have a halo or horns effect.”

Appearances also impact starting salary and the prospect of getting promoted, she said.

Interviewees can net salaries between 8 and 20 percent higher with the right first impression, according to a study by Judith Walters from Farleigh Dickinson University.

Students often stumble on their dress at job fairs and interviews, leaving a lasting impression on employers, Angie Schmidt Whitney, a Career and Community Learning Center adviser, said. She said students frequently wear workout clothes and jeans with holes to University job fairs.

For women, Linquist said common mistakes to avoid are leaving their hair down, wearing skirts that are too short or jackets with sleeves that hang below their wrists.

Men, on the other hand, should make sure their tie ends at the middle of their belt buckle and socks match their outfit. Both genders should avoid chewing gum during an interview, Linquist said.

Getting the small things right is vital to making a good first impression, Lindquist said. A manicure and haircut, shining and polishing shoes and wearing a nice watch are staples of good grooming.

She said making a strong first impression shows that “if you’ll work hard on yourself, you’ll work hard for the company.”

Students with tight budgets can save money by shopping at discount retailers and borrowing accessories, she said, but in the long run it pays to invest in personal appearance.

Friday’s event was also designed to distinguish business casual from business professional, and showcase student-made outfits, Nathan Olson, director of programming for pre-law society, which hosted the event, said.

The distinction between business casual and professional is the number of layers worn, Lindquist said, adding that business professional attire usually requires a suit jacket or vest and tie.

Becky Loper, a chemical engineering senior, said the fashion show helped her realize how ensembles can be changed to make new outfits. But she said she didn’t have a complete understanding about business casual and professional outfits when she left.

“I could hear there was a difference, but I don’t know what it was,” she said.