So, if you’re sitting on a board or interviewing for a role on active duty, you know exactly what to wear. You don’t really have a choice in fact. While you may have the urge to show your true style now that you are leaving the uniform, an interview is not the time to do that!
First, men, you’ll need a suit. This is not something you can go grab off of the rack at the exchange. Nor is it something you want to skimp on quality. The “used car salesman” look is not a look you want to go for, and a shitty suit is a good way to do that. There are plenty of places to get a good suit at a decent price. Brooks Brothers and Jos A. Bank are my recommendations. They have sales throughout the year and while spending several hundred dollars on a suit might seem ridiculous, that’s how much your service dress costs, you just may have received a stipend to cover it. Additionally, you are only going to wear this suit a few days a year so pony up a few hundred, and get a good one.
Now when it comes to color, it’s not a time to show off your fashion sense. Ron may look great in his red suit, but unless you’re interviewing for a broadcast journalism role in the 1970’s, you don’t need one. Looking great in a fashionable color will never get you the job, but it has the potential to cost you one. I recommend navy blue or dark grey. Black is for funerals. Navy blue and dark grey are professional and subdued and allow the interview to focus on you and not what you are wearing.
Ladies, you definitely have more options and more than likely already have something you can wear to an interview. A pant suit or a skirt with a professional blouse will work just fine. Again, you have more color options, but the point of staying a bit subdued is still my recommendation so the interviewer can focus on you and not what you are wearing. Light makeup, heels or professional flats, will also help keep it professional and straight forward.
A few points on shoes and belts. First, black or dark brown shoes are just fine. Do not wear your low quarters. You’ll stick out like sore thumb. Again, invest in some moderately priced dress shoes ($50-$75). Your belt should match your shoes meaning black-black or brown-brown. If you wear a leather band watch, the band should also match. Wearing a stainless steel watch is an easy way to avoid that issue.
On shirts, lets keep it simple. White or a light blue is perfect. There’s a reason politicians always wear white shirts. Hard to screw it up.
For ties, stick with red or blue. Again, these are the colors you typically see politicians wear. This is because they exude confidence. I tend to stick with blue as it’s more of an inviting confident color where red is a bit bold. But, either is fine. No green, pink, purple, or any of that bull shit. You’ll be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
No cufflinks. Don’t buy a french cuffed shirt. Just don’t.
Don’t worry about lapel pins unless you happen to have one already. But, again, not the time for fashion or distractions. Keep the focus on you and not what you are wearing.
So, now that you are leaving active duty, you’re probably stoked that you can grow a beard right? No need to shave every day anymore! While that is true, do not use your job interviews as the first opportunity to show off a new beard. Shave for just a few more weeks until you’re comfortably in a new role. Then you can show off your facial hair.
The same goes for haircuts, whatever you have currently is just fine. Do not make your first trip to the stylist for your new civi hair-do. Keep it clean cut, and straight forward so again, the interviewer can focus on you.
To some of you, all of this may seem fairly obvious and wondering why Pat would write a post about something so obvious. Well, as someone who’s interviewed a fair amount of transitioning veterans, I’ve seen all the mistakes I’ve just addressed. This isn’t obvious to everyone, unfortunately. And I want to make sure that the interviewer is able to focus on all the things that make you great and why veterans overall are a great hire.
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