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Dressing for the Interview

by Tim Genc

You’ve built all the hours, you’ve designed the perfect résumé, and you’ve got the interview … now what? The next step is preparing yourself for the interview and a large part of that preparation is your outfit. Most of the time, the person who has been reviewing your application and résumé is not the person who will be interviewing you; in all likelihood, this is their first impression of you (and you know what they say about first impressions!) What should you wear so their first impression is the correct and lasting one? Can you express your individuality with your interview attire? How wild is too wild? Sport coat or suit? Dress or pant suit? Bow tie or necktie? Flats or heels? Jewelry? Facial Hair? So. Many. Questions …

Let’s start with some basics. The purpose of any dress code is to NOT stand out. Yup, that’s right; I said NOT stand out, whether due to being over or under-dressed. Your goal is to blend into the situation. If your attire is appropriate and expected, then your audience will pay attention to your face and words, not your clothing. If it is flashy, unusual or loud, your audience will pay attention to your attire – whether favorably or otherwise – and your message will be lost. Simply stated, the goal reaction of your clothing in a business/recruiting situation is for people to acknowledge your attire, accept it quickly, and to move past it.

Just wearing the proper clothing often isn’t enough; you need to abide by the intent of the dress code as well. For example, a Jos. A Bank $175 button-down shirt that is elephant-wrinkly is not professional. A suit that does not fit, a tie that is the improper length, dress shoes with ankle socks … these are things that all pilot recruiters have seen and commented on, because they stand out. They are noteworthy, they are not good, and they are not following the intent of the dress code.

Your attire should communicate your desire for the job and the preparation you have put into this interview. That includes spending the time to work an iron, or spending the money for wrinkle-free shirts or blouses. Anything with rips, runs, worn out spots, discolorations, stains should not be a part of your attire, regardless of how much it once cost you. All clothes should be neat (wrinkle-free), clean, and pleasant-to-neutral smelling.

The simplest guidance is this: how will you be dressing once you are a pilot for that airline/company? Dress that way.

For the gentlemen, shoes should be polished and matched to your belt. (According to Men’s Health, the first things guys notice about other guys are their shoes and their watch.) Pants should be of the proper length – we’re not sandbagging after a flood! Clothing should fit, regardless of your desire to still be a 32x32 pant size. Your tie should go with your outfit.

For the ladies, a pant suit is a better choice over an outfit with a skirt; think about what you will be wearing in the cockpit. A blouse – preferably collared – and not sleeveless, just in case you get warm and need to take your jacket off. Go with closed-toe short heels or dress shoes. For both men and women, be careful with blindingly bright colors, combinations, or trendy variations, as they often draw the wrong type of attention; if someone comments or compliments your outfit, you are standing out and you may want to ask yourself why.

In addition to your clothes, YOU should be neat, clean, and pleasant-to-neutral smelling as well! Facial hair should be neatly trimmed or clean shaven; if one cannot tell the difference between your “beard” and a day you just forgot to shave, you need to grab a razor. Truth be told, the beard is a goner anyway if you get the job, so you might as well lose it now! Hair should be combed/styled and kept out of your face. Tattoos should be concealed. Jewelry should be professional, appropriate, and not distracting; general rule of thumb is one ring and bracelet/watch per hand, small stud earrings, and a necklace. Don’t look like Mr. T from the 80s show, the A-Team! When it comes to makeup, a natural look is more appropriate than a lot of heavier makeup and dramatic colors; again, think about what you’re doing and where you are applying. If you choose to wear cologne/perfume, a little dab will do; please do not marinade in it.

Travelling can also take its toll on your hygiene; after a day of airports and musky travelers, a shower and a spritz of deodorant may be in your future. In the words of Hulk Hogan, “do not let your perspiration get in the way of your inspiration.” Budget for enough time to freshen up your physical and mental selves.

Consider the amount of money and time you have spent on your aviation education; now, consider not landing the ideal job because you didn’t spend a mere $150 on a proper interview outfit. You can never be overdressed for an interview. In fact, the team interviewing you is counting on you to be overdressed, overprepared, and early. They’re expecting you to go out of your way for this job.

Amidst any hiring market, the first impression is a lasting one. Quite often, these initial glances can summarize – or eclipse – an employer’s assessment of your qualities as a future employee. Do everything you can to ensure that the impression you leave is the correct one.

Bio: FAPA.aero