By Elicia Murray | Australian Women’s Weekly | 12 February 2014

Is there any truth to the old adage that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have? We dusted off our sharpest suit and consulted the experts. Here’s what they had to say. First impressions matter. You may have a brain the size of a planet and people skills to rival Mother Teresa, but if you turn up to an important meeting looking like something the cat dragged in, don’t expect people to listen to what you have to say.Image consultant Jon-Michail, the CEO of Image Group International, says your work wardrobe is a key part of your personal branding.

“First impressions speak louder than what comes out of your mouth,” he says.

Appearance is particularly important at the job interview stage. A US study, reported in Forbes, found interviewers decided within the first 10 seconds of meeting job applicants whether they were right for the job.

In another study of 1000 university graduates working in the US within large corporations found woman, in particular, believed dressing the part was a vital factor in attaining success. More than half (53 percent) of the women surveyed said aspiring female executives needed to dress very conservatively to get ahead, avoiding flashy make-up, plunging necklines, too-short or too-tight skirts, and long fingernails.

It’s (almost) impossible to overdress for a job interview

Sure, the company may have casual Fridays, but don’t assume that means you can turn up to the job interview in frayed jeans and a tatty T-shirt.

Nina Mapson Bone, the general manager of recruitment for Chandler Macleod recruiters in NSW and the ACT, says she can think of hundreds of occasions when candidates have missed out on jobs because they have dressed too casually but only one case where someone was overdressed.

“It was for a retail environment where the brand had a certain [funky] image and the person turned up in a suit.”

She says in most cases, a dark suit is pretty much the perfect interview outfit.

Don’t let your accessories let you down

Even the most elegant suit can be brought undone by scuffed shoes and a handbag held together with safety pins.

Mapson Bone says once you’ve landed a job, you can be more flamboyant with your wardrobe choices, but it pays to dress “a level up”.

“[If] everyone wears jeans every day but the boss always makes an effort to wear a smart skirt and blouse … in case she has to see clients without notice, then dress the same way.

“You’ll be the one that gets to go with her if someone is needed, or gets noticed for being professional, or at the very least doesn’t stand out as being inappropriately dressed.”

Think smart, not sexy

There’s a time and place for sexy, and the experts agree it’s generally not at work.

Jon-Michail suggests asking yourself: “Is this outfit appropriate for Friday night work drinks or a lap dance?”

“If you’re going to use sexuality to open doors for you, just remember the pros and cons … We know some women will judge you more harshly than a bloke will.”

Forget about the latest fashions

Unless you’re working in a fashion-forward industry, it’s probably best to save the floral onesie for a night out.

Jon-Michail says you can’t go wrong sticking to a palette of black, navy, charcoal, teal and silver. “They work year in, year out.”

Mapson Bone recalls being taken aside by a boss early in her career and advised to tone down her fashion choices.

“She said something like, ‘I see your career progressing fairly rapidly and I don’t want your clothing to hold you back.’

“It made me feel like she’d gone out of her way to help, rather than criticising what I was wearing.”

© 2014 Australian Women’s Weekly | This article first appeared in the Australian Women’s Weekly on 12 February 2014.