One of the things that may be most foreign to a transitioning veteran (depending upon your background) is the idea of a professional wardrobe. Sure, we have dress uniforms, but for years we’ve been wearing what we’ve been told to. There are entire regulations with instructions and standards for what to wear… but in the corporate world, we have to dress ourselves. And that can take a little bit of getting used to.
Every work environment is different. Some will require traditional business suits, others a form of business casual, and some more creative companies will allow more flexibility. In some jobs, safety add-ons like steel-toe boots and the occasional hardhat may be necessary for work. But when it comes to the interview, it’s best to stick to the basics.
I got a lot of great info on what to wear from PCS to Corporate America and other websites. There’s some great advice out there for both men and women in terms of interview attire. Here’s what I’ve gathered as a general rule for the interview process:
- 1-2 suits, in blue or dark grey, 2-3 buttons on the jacket
- jacket and pants should be tailored to fit correctly
- white shirt (wrinkle resistant shirts are available and a great investment!)
- leather soled shoes in black or cordovan (not brown)
- belt (match shoes)
- dark socks
- multiple ties (they can help you rewear a suit multiple times) in power colors like red, yellow, light blue (conservative pattern, club stripes okay… no novelty ties!)
- haircut and face shaved (too easy for the military guys, right?)
- little or no jewelry (wedding band)
- 1-2 suits, in blue or dark grey
- jacket, pants, and skirts should be tailored to fit correctly (skirts hemmed mid or below the knee)
- white or bone color blouse with color (silk blouses, pastels can be good investment piece for later, not stick to basics for interview) nothing low-cut!
- close-toed shoes and pantyhose with skirts
- minimal jewelry and no heavy perfume
- hair pulled back in bun or ponytail, kept neat and out of your face
- makeup that accentuates features but isn’t too heavy
- simple, black handbag to carry only the necessities
If you need a visual, here’s a pretty good photo gallery from About.com on interview attire.
Also, Business Casual is not casual at all! Business Formal is the traditional suit you’d expect to see (the above recommendations are Business Formal), but Business Casual is still polished, just not as formally matched. You’ll still see dress pants/slacks, skirts, blouses, nice shoes… but you’ll see nice sweaters and sport shirts as well. I like to think of Business Casual as Business Formal minus the jacket and maybe with a little more color and freedom.
Invest in a couple of good suits from stores like Brooks Brothers or Ann Taylor. Get them tailored professionally; it’s just as important as your dress uniform fitting well, and you don’t have to mess with all the awards and pins! Quality is important. Now get shopping!