As I sit staring at my inbox waiting for an email to pop in, guaranteeing me a second interviewfor a summer position I am applying for, I can’t help but worry that I have been knocked out of the running…because of my outfit. As a prospective public relations practitioner, it is vital that I keep in mind the fact that I am not yet in the door, and until I am I must market myself as best I can. Before entering the world of PR and establishing a name for ourselves, we are all about as marketable as a pair of flats in a blizzard. During interviews, it is crucial to remember that the first thing a potential employer is going to notice—before you even open your mouth or extend your hand—is what you decide to wrap yourself in. That’s right, your outfit is one of your strongest public relations tools until you have landed an internship or a job.
The first thing to think about is what kind of job you are applying for and, if possible, who or what kind of person you will be interviewed by. The goal of a PR practitioner is to not only serve the organization they are working for, but to interact with relevant public through open two-way communication. Remember that you are advocating for yourself in an interview, and your potential employer is your relevant public. You are never guaranteed a second interview, so you really have no time to adjust what goes wrong with your first outfit fiasco. Do research before putting yourself in that situation. If you are interested in working for a certain organization, you should already know the basics of what they are all about, so keep those in mind when digging for more abstract elements that you may be able to weave into your outfit choice. If the company is a bit more on the conservative side, and the CEO is someone notoriously known for being a bit of an uptight hardliner, then it may be a good idea to overdress a bit. For females, a pantsuit or formal suit jacket and skirt with neutral heels would be best—probably a good idea to save your sequin-encrusted blazer and platform pumps for another time. For males, a basic suit-and-tie combo—staying away from flashy ties—is a safe bet.
Remember, the goal is to market yourself well enough to land the job, just like your job is, someday, going to be to paint a nice enough picture of your company, product, cause, side of an issue, etc. You don’t necessarily want your potential employer to remember what you wore twenty minutes after an interview. You want them to remember you and what you brought into the room. Your outfit should only leave a fleeting impression on the interviewer as to who you are both as a person and a PR practitioner. There is a time and place for cool and crazy brand-name outfits, and it is a time in which you have, hopefully, already made a cool and not-so-crazy name for yourself in the world of PR.
This is a post by Joseph Martelli, a sophomore in Com studying Public Relations. Follow him @JoeyMartelli