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Fashion & Finance: Dress for the job you want

September 30, 2011

Well, I went and got married on Sept. 17th and it was the best day of my whole life (besides joining the accounting profession, of course!). I’m back to work for just one short week, but preparing to take a long overdue restful and relaxing honeymoon trip to Paris and Ireland (by way of flying through to Iceland first).

As fall is my firm’s recruiting season, where we go out into our community and region to identify talented young professionals at our local colleges and universities, one of the things I did before my wedding was to reach out on LinkedIn (one of the very best professional development and social media tools for business) and ask the following question: What are some fashion do's and don'ts for entry level/college grads during the interview process? Looking for an HR point of view, best practices, horror stories.”

I received some interesting answers and feedback, and with their permission, wanted to share some points. This advice is from people who work in HR, and really know what to look for when breaking down the overall look of a prospective employee. Here is some of their advice:

The classic navy blue suit, white shirt and conservative shoes for both men and women is still the best ‘interview’ uniform. I had an accountant show up in a suit and slippers, one brought his mom (who carried his brief case), have had countless women show up in see-through, low-cut, tops; too tight everything, etc.
Interviewing is not where you get to "be an individual" - you are auditioning to join a company and need to reflect what they represent. If they represent wild-haired, tattooed, ripped-up T-shirt and jeans people - then be as individual as you please - a navy blue suit won't get you a job with that company but those are the exception.”

-Noel Wagner, Director of Talent Acquisition at Achilles Group

“Dress for the job you want, not the one you're going for.
I'd recommend a short consultation with an image consultant to define where you currently are, where you need to be, and how to cost-effectively get there.”

-Peter Connolly, Lead Developer at TechMediaNetwork

“I have more interview fashion horror stories than I can shake a stick at, unfortunately. But my overall advice for entry level/college grads (women in particular) would be: 'Dressing up' for an interview is NOT THE SAME as 'dressing up' for a nightclub.

Many young women must be under the impression that if they wear their most expensive, fanciest outfit (even if it involves cleavage and sequins), it means they are dressed well. Seen it a hundred times...”

-Jocelyn Clarke, SPHR, Career Transformation Expert

Hope that info from some of the pros is helpful to the college and entry-level accounting professionals out there! Also, here is a little advice from some of my favorite fashion icons:

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.

The best color in the whole world, is the one that looks good, on you!

-Coco Chanel

"The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it."

-Diana Vreeland

"Fashions fade, style is eternal."

-Yves Saint-Laurent

"Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live."

-Gianni Versace

Emily Alexandria Burns is a State University of New York Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and started her career in New York City working for companies including Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni, Christian Dior and Jones Apparel Group. She is now e-marketing communications specialist for Freed Maxick & Battaglia CPAs in Buffalo, N.Y., and recently named the Association for Accounting Marketing's 2011 "Rookie of the Year." Follow her on Twitter @FreedMaxickPR or email her at


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