July 20, 2012 -- Unemployed. Underemployed. Underpaid.
Unfortunately, these words are all too common in today's vernacular.
It may seem frivolous to explore how clothes relate to the job search. And while nothing can substitute for a great resume, spot-on experience and killer interview skills, your wardrobe can make you stand out from the crowd.
And with 12.7 million unemployed Americans, standing out from the crowd may be no small thing.
Emmy award-winning stylist and author of the book "The Color of Style", David Zyla has seen thousands of auditions and interviews in his time. "Nine out of ten times I can tell when the person walks through the door if they're going to get a second interview," he said.
"You need to be the A-plus version of yourself," Zyla said. And that version includes a stand-out interview outfit.
Dramatic Colors, Romantic Colors and the Color to Avoid
There's no universal color that works for everyone, said Zyla. Not even black. But, he said, everyone has a dramatic color and a romantic color that suits them perfectly.
Start by finding your dramatic color. Look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. Are they emerald green, blue or purple-ish in color? Whichever color they are, that's your dramatic color.
"The dramatic color is important because it makes you pop. If you're a gregarious person and wearing drab colors, there's a disconnect there," he said.
For women, wear your dramatic color in the form of a blouse. Men, it's the tie.
"You don't know what's going on with them [the interviewer] personally, so you need to wake them up and say 'look at me' in a great, positive way. The visual will put their eyes on you and have them listen to what you have to say. In neutral colors, you're not dynamic."
That's not to say you should dress head-to-toe in your dynamic color. You need to find your romantic color to act as the base; in many cases, this is the suit. You find that, Zyla said, by looking at the color surrounding the iris of your eye. "It should be aubergine, light brown or black," he said.
And if there's one color to avoid, it's khaki. "It makes you look like you'd rather be at the beach."
Find the Right Size
Men tend to wear suits that are too baggy and women tend to wear clothes that are too snug, Zyla said. "Forget about your size. Four, Six, Eight, it doesn't matter. No one knows what that tag says but everyone knows what the clothes look like on your body."
Designers tend to design for their body type, so there's no way a person can be the same size across brands. It's a good idea to take several sizes into the dressing room and then pick the one that looks best – not the one in the size you think you are.
And build alterations into your budget. "For it to be perfect, you may need to take the skirt up an inch or shorten a sleeve on a suit."
Buy Two, But Go Easy on the Accessories
Zyla said there's no substitute for the perfect interview outfit. Once you find it, it should become your go-to. He said that people who interview a lot – freelancers, consultants, short-term gigs – should have two of their signature piece – the dramatic color.
"If your favorite outfit is at the dry cleaner the day of your interview, you're already defeated about the experience," he said.
Zyla advised both women and men go easy on the accessories. "Unless it's a fashion type interview, a simple necklace is fine. Too costume-y takes away from the person. With a man, avoid novelty cuff links or the watch with outrageous band."
Bottom line: If you've got 15 or 30 minutes, you want the interviewer to love you. The first impression is the moment to hook them visually so they can lock in on what you have to say and what you can bring to them as an employee.