If looks can kill…


Last week I went to Career Services’ “Looks Can Kill” tips session on dressing for interviews. (“I chose the blue cheese” is not the right response here.) At the end, there were free botox injections and breast implants. Actually just coupons. I took notes, so I wouldn’t forget anything. I had to leave about ten minutes before the end, though – when the “internationally certified image consultant” (who exactly certifies these people is unclear) said that men should remember “to stand straight, but not too erect,” I thought I was going to lose it.

The internationally certified image consultant advised buying the most expensive suit you can afford, because “if you crumple a $3000 suit, it does not stay crumpled.” In addition, if you light a $3000 suit on fire, it does not burn; if you spread peanut butter on a $3000 suit it does not stick; and if you try and pay your rent with a $3000 suit, you will soon be homeless. But your suit won’t be crumpled.

“Try before you buy,” she said. Just because you’re a size 10 shoe does not mean you’re a size 10 shirt, or a size 10 suit. Wear a neutral color (clear?), and choose a lightweight fabric. “Wool is good for all four seasons, except when it’s hot.” She meant summer. Go shopping with the shoes you will eventually be wearing. They make great companions. If you have a three-button suit, button the top two. Unless the top button is located under the lapel, in which case only button the middle one. Unless there are vents in the back. In which case button the bottom one. Unless the buttons don’t align properly. In which case buy a new suit.

Do not pull on any little strings of thread or your suit may fall apart. A $3000 suit will, however, put itself back together again, even when cut into little pieces. It’s David Copperfield’s suit! If your pants fall apart, do not staple them closed. Shoes shouldn’t be more than 3 inches tall. And you should only wear two of them. High heels are risky if there are cobblestones in the office lobby. Keep jewelry simple. For men, a set of pearls. For women, a neatly trimmed beard. Interview clothes, she said, are “what you wear on a date… if you’re going to church.” People who go to “Naked Church” might want to ignore this advice. (If you think that joke is lame, you should see the one I cut.)

If the pockets are sewn up so that it seems like you can’t open them, don’t open them. “Suits without pockets are more formal; but if you already have a suit that has pockets, don’t worry, you don’t need to remove them.” That was the first time I couldn’t stop laughing. “Your jacket should definitely have armholes.” That was the second. “Single-breasted versus double-breasted is especially an issue for some women.” That, childishly enough, was the third. “Don’t wear clothes that make you look like an alien.” “Women have more choices than men as far as zippers.” They can be open, or closed, depending on the message you want to send.

Men shouldn’t wear makeup. Collars should only be worn with shirts and not alone. The soles of your shoes should not have holes. The souls of your shoes should be pure. No neon colors. Red, white and blue combinations may send the wrong message. Especially if you’re interviewing with an overseas firm. Grooming: “hair should be neat. Women, you can wear your hair down – as long as it’s clean.” She really did say that.

Apparently after I left she explained how to tie your shoes properly for the interview. The Boy Scouts have a handbook on it. But, really, I’m glad I went to the session and received this vital interview training. I now know that I need two shoes, not just one, and I should polish them to a shine and wear them on my hands. And wrap a tie around my neck, zip up my fly and buy a polyester belt. I can’t wait for the interviews.

Jeremy Blachman’s column appears weekly. He posts commentary regularly athttp://jeremyblachman.blogspot.com.

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