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AT THE OFFICE: How to dress for a successful job interview

In an ultra-competitive job market, every detail counts on a job interview. The wrong look, the wrong attitude or both can sink an interview fast. A survey by CareerBuilder.com showed that 46 percent of 3,200 hiring managers reported job candidat...

In an ultra-competitive job market, every detail counts on a job interview.

The wrong look, the wrong attitude or both can sink an interview fast. A survey by CareerBuilder.com showed that 46 percent of 3,200 hiring managers reported job candidates were dressed inappropriately.

But with the right look, lots of research and the right attitude, image experts and career advisors say you can get yourself remembered for all the right reasons and, ultimately, hired.

"People say appearance shouldn't matter, that it's what's on the inside that counts," said Kelly Machbitz, a Clearwater, Fla., image consultant, "but it's that first impression that counts."

When deciding what to wear, think conservatively, said Frank Kelly, who was named Esquire Magazine's "Best Dressed Real Man" in 2007. He works with clients at the Community Partnership for the Homeless in Miami, prepping them for job interviews and building their self-confidence.

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Kelly said to try on what you plan to wear for a friend or family member before the interview and ask them what stands out.

"If they name an item, take it off," he said. "You're not here to make an impression with your clothes."

Here are other tips from Machbitz, Kelly and Michael Erwin, a senior career adviser for CareerBuilder.com.

--- Research the company that you're interviewing with to craft the best look, Erwin said. Not every job interview requires the formality of a three-piece suit, but a collared shirt is always a good bet, for men and women. "Work culture is more relaxed than it was years ago, but you still want to take it one step up" for the interview, he said. "You don't want to show up not wearing a suit and the person who's interviewing you is in a suit."

To be sure what to wear, Kelly said to call a receptionist or operator at the company where you are interviewing and ask what managers wear to a meeting.

"The manager wants to see a future manager," Kelly said. One of his clients, Herbert Blunt, 21, showed up at an interview for a job at Target wearing a dress shirt, tie and belted slacks--more formal than what most employees at the store wear every day. A jacket would have been overkill. Blunt was offered a job on the spot and started this month.

--- A job interview is no place to be casual or provocative, or wear open-toed shoes, or forgo stockings.

Machbitz calls it the no-crack rule: no cleavage, no backsides or toes should be showing at the interview.

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"If you're on the job for a month or two and all the women in the office are wearing open-toed shoes, go for it," she said. "But you don't know that when you're on the job interview."

And men, she said, should wear socks.

If you simply can't bear stockings, "this is why, for women, pants are a great option," Kelly said. "There's a lot of light, layered clothing you can wear."

One of his clients, Matt Fischer, has been working at a Miami hotel for about 18 months. He has no sympathy for people wanting to avoid some business-wear formalities because of the heat.

"Hey, I walk to work in a suit every day," Fischer said.

--- Think neutral. Stay away from hot pink and fluorescent colors, Machbitz said. The neutral tones should apply to your clothes and your fingernail polish, too. For nails, stick with warm or nude colors and don't go for anything too dark, Machbitz said.

"Be remembered," Machbitz said, "not ostentatious."

---Concentrate on looking energized and healthy--not necessarily young, she said. You don't have to dye your gray hair. But make sure you have a modern hair cut, that your nails are trimmed and cleaned and that your facial hair is trimmed and neat.

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Kelly, who wears a full beard and mustache, said to be on the safe side, shave all your facial hair off and go in clean shaven.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," he said, because many companies in the service industry have rules about facial hair.

Machbitz said whitening your teeth with a kit from the drugstore is a must, as it contributes to energizing your appearance and is a quick, inexpensive transformation.

--- Women, if you have jewelry in piercings aside from one in each ear, take them out. And men should take out any ear piercings, too. Blunt took out the small diamond stud in his left ear before his Target interview.

"When you get hired, ask the human resources department what's acceptable," Machbitz said.

--- If your hair is dyed an unnatural color, go really neutral with everything else. You don't have to dye it if that's how you're going to show up at work every day, she said, but during the interview, everything else you wear should be conservative.

Kelly was more extreme.

"If it stands out, take it off."

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