Stephanie Small - November 2014
Your interview may be one of the best ways to demonstrate your unique personality and presence to the admissions director at your prospective graduate school. Your sense of humor, your wit, your poise and eloquence can easily be undermined or enhanced by the clothes you choose. Selecting appropriate, understated attire gives an image of professionalism. Outfits and hairstyles that are too casual or too loud make it too easy for admissions not to take you seriously. Here are our suggestions for how to dress and primp on the morning of your graduate school interview:
Choose a suit if you’re male, or a skirt or pant-suit if you’re female. Depending upon the setting, you may or may not need the suit jacket, but it’s best to have it with you just in case. Play it safe with colors like black, dark brown, dark blue, or gray. Steer clear of whites, pastels, neons and other bright hues. Ladies, be sure your skirt reaches at least to your knees. Gents, be sure your pants (and sleeves) are neither too short nor too long). As with all of your other clothing selections, everything should be clean and neat, with no visible stains or raggedy hems.
Wear a matching shirt with a collar. Ladies can consider a blouse under their blazer, but the neck should steer clear of cleavage, and lace is best left at home. You’ve got a wider choice as to color, but it’s still best to avoid extremely bright hues.
Choose conservative shoes to match your outfit. Again, staying with the dark colors is your best bet. Heels should be in good shape and toes should not be scuffed. Match your shoes with neutral socks (men) or stockings (women).
Accessories should be tasteful. They can have an element of creativity, but avoid anything that might scream “eccentric” or “flashy”. When in doubt, don’t wear it. You want your interviewer to be looking at you, not your Rolex or 3-carat diamond studs (or necklace made of bottlecaps).
In this day and age, a wide range of hairstyles are acceptable – some men have longer hair, while some women have short ‘dos; successful professionals are just as likely to sport dreads as a bob. Just make sure your hair is clean and neat. We’d also suggest avoiding any hairstyle that requires excessive product – think Mohawks – and keeping the color natural (or close to natural) anyway.
Overwhelm your interviewer with cologne, perfume, or worse, a funky natural smell, is a surefire way to leave a bad impression. We’re not saying that you have to avoid scent entirely, but one spray (or dab) is better than three. Or four. And don’t forget that a swig of mouthwash can be your best friend in close quarters. In the end, do you want to be remembered for your dazzling remarks on current events, or for the overwhelming cloud of Drakkar Noir that accompanied you?
Don’t forget your hands and nails! Remember, you have to shake the interviewer’s hand, and a clammy grip or razor-sharp nails just don’t leave a great first impression. Invest in a manicure, or, at the very least, clip and clean your nails at home. Bring lotion if your hands have a tendency to get scaly and dry, and if your palms are sweating from nerves, towel them off just prior to the interview.
Just before your meeting, do a last-minute check – make sure everything’s tucked in, no wayward belly or back flesh is exposed, and any tags from new items have been clipped. Finally, don’t forget your smile. We’re not saying a creepy, plastered-on perma-grin is the way to go, but flashing your pearly whites when meeting your interviewer and when thanking them for their time is polite, and shows confidence.
Dressing appropriately for a graduate school interview may help you to feel more confident and allow your intelligence and charm to take center stage. Remember you are presenting yourself as a professional who will add value to the program to which you are applying. Keep your interview style neat and simple.