The Basics in Dressing Up for Graduate School Interviews
An interview in graduate school is not the same as interviewing for a regular job post. Interviews in graduate schools are considered long with arduous processes that usually take at least 3 meetings in various cities with up to 6 of your interviewers. Companies involved are paying a huge amount of money and they want to ensure you have the necessary skills for the job and a perfect fit for the company.
However, there’s very little information from prestigious graduate schools on how to dress appropriately for interviews. It is surprising to see some students spending thousands on their education but pay little attention to the clothes they’re wearing for the interview. People judge you immediately and later spend a long time thinking about it, mincing every detail. Suffice to say, you only get one shot at a first impression. With a bit of planning, everything’s possible when it comes to looking your best at these interviews.
Unpreparedness in interviews is equivalent to preparing yourself to fail.
Preparation is key in most successful graduate school interviews. You should do your research and review the company you are about to interview. In addition, take note of their dress code and how they dress accordingly. You may already have met some of their employees and observed how they presented themselves to others. You need to ask yourself how they dressed up, whether conservative or more relaxed. Interviewing bankers can be quite different from interviewing creative employees at a marketing department. They may both need a suit but you can assume that people who work in a creative field are more likely to wear something flashy, like a more vibrant shirt color or a white pocket square in a suit.
The Interview Suit
What is great about the interview suit is that its style hasn’t changed for a hundred years. The bad thing about it is that there are many suit styles that can easily become out of style. The important thing here is not pay too much attention to trending fashion and instead stick to classic styles. To help you do this, remember 3 things whenever you choose a suit: the suit’s fabric, style and fit.
The Suit’s Fabric
When choosing an appropriate fabric for the interview suit, keep in mind the weave of the fabric and quality of construction.
Choose a natural fabric such as worsted wool for your suit. Blended fabrics are fine, however, make sure the fabric’s quality is exceptional without a reflective element to it. Blended fabrics may help the price to be more affordable, these fabrics don’t usually last so long and are also not breathable. When it comes to color, the traditional and safest bets are blue, navy, black, and charcoal. You can still choose more colors other than those mentioned or venture into subtle patterns as well.
The Style of the Interview Suit
For the style of the interview suit, you should pick a timeless cut, which in the US would be a single-breasted suit with a notched lapel. It is a 2 or 3 button jacket with either a single or double vent at the back as well as regular flap pockets. Make sure you have as much of the cuff buttons as the front jacket buttons, which usually has 4 buttons on the sleeve and a left breast pocket. Try to avoid the trend of thin lapels as a timeless suit should still be wearable after several years. As for the trousers, you want either pleated or flat front depending on your body. If you happen to be really tall, try going for trousers with cuffed bottoms. You should carefully check the quality of the jacket and trousers by simply tugging at the button and check for the sewing when you pull on the seams.
The Fit of the Interview Suit
Majority of men’s suits are not fitted well or too loose in some areas. Choose a brand that manufactures a cut that best matches your build and then find the right tailor who can guarantee a suit that fits perfectly. For a great fit, the sleeves of the suit jacket must show about an inch of the shirt’s cuff and the lapels must be flat - not too tight. The shoulders of the jacket must fit just right and not be too long that it extends beyond your natural shoulder line. The jacket must be long enough to cover your backside and should not have any bunches forming at the back to where the neck collar is, which should be flat and expose the shirt’s collar at about ¾ inch.
The Dress Shirt for the Interview
Dress shirts are made in a variety of hues and fabric weaves, thus their effect on your attire must not be taken for granted. A herringbone shirt in pink can make a basic charcoal suit into an attention-grabbing outfit, while a dress shirt in white broadcloth can easily tame a striped suit’s appeal. Select a distinct fabric such as herringbone in a subtle color to honor your individuality without making such a big deal of your clothing. Subtle colored and patterned dress shirts are a nice way to break free from the norm without veering too off course. It may affect the formality of the outfit thus becoming less formal. A patterned dress shirt with a subtle tie would be an easy and safe choice for a 2nd or 3rd interview.
Your dress shirt will be exposing 2 parts when you wear the jacket, collar and cuffs. The shirt’s collar must be chosen according to your facial features. Gentlemen with elongated faces should wear a spread collar, while men with round faces should have a balanced look with point collars.
Average barrel cuffs with 1 or 2 buttons are appropriate for all interviews but take caution in wearing cuff links for your interview especially if it’s with a bank as showing off some cuff jewelry may give off a negative impression on the interviewers. When it comes to fit, you can tell if it’s fine by putting 2 fingers between your buttoned collar and neck. Your sleeves and cuffs must be long enough to reach the top of your hands and show about an inch of shirt cuff beneath the sleeve of the jacket.
The Right Tie for the Interview
When it comes to the right tie to pair with your interview suit, conservative options are best. You should be looking for ties in hues of red, blue or gold. Take note that color is not as important as the overall fit. If you wish to stand out in a crowd, wear a tie that has subtle patterns displayed repeatedly all over the tie. Striped tie is a nice choice, however you should be aware if the tie is for everyday use or a regimental tie. In certain countries such as Britain, memberships to some military clubs are recognized by their stripes and the last thing you need to do is explain yourself why you’re wearing regimental colors for personal use. The tie clip or pin is unnecessary for a graduate school interview, unless you’re eating and need to hold it in place.
The Dress Shoes for the Interview
A plain black Oxford would be the recommended dress shoes for graduate school interviews. The Oxford has round cap toes with either closed lacing or open lacing. Plain Oxfords with cap toes are the most formal style and most appropriate for formal or business wear. Broguing at the edge of its cap, or trimming the uppers, are also considered formal and suitable enough for graduate school interviews in America. Don’t wear slip-on types of shoes such as loafers, boots and monk straps. When it comes to formal interviews, a timeless Oxford is always the best.
Socks to Wear for the Interview
It may not be the most interesting, but your socks for the interview should not be neglected. The socks must closely match your trousers or dress shoes thus ideally in dark color. The socks should perfectly complement the rest of your attire blending effortlessly into the mix. You should also make sure the socks are high enough so it doesn’t expose your bare legs especially when sitting down.
Your Jewelry and Graduate School Interviews
Jewelry, such as a wedding ring, is always appropriate in a graduate school interview, but not all things are completely acceptable to the interviewer. A class ring, for example, may be an asset especially if the interviewer is from the same school. However for nose rings or other body piercings that are slowly making their presence felt in the corporate world, it’s best to take caution in wearing such items as each interviewer has strong personal views on the matter. Keep timepieces subtle and make sure the alarm on your watch is turned off. Of course, your watch should fit perfectly on your wrist so you’re comfortable wearing it and not slide back and forth. A simple timepiece in either leather or metallic band would be acceptable.
Your Personal Grooming and Graduate School Interviews
Make sure to get a haircut prior to your interview and get it done by a professional stylist or someone you trust who can cut your hair properly. A bad hair day because of your bad haircut shouldn’t be your main concern for such an important day. If you don’t exactly need a haircut, a trim would be fine. As for your hands, get a nail brush to clean your nails of any dirt or grime, and always trim your nails to keep it neat. On a final note, make sure you take a shower, put on deodorant, then aftershave lotion with a neutral smell, and avoid cologne with an overpowering smell as it may overwhelm the interviewer in an enclosed environment.
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