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June 8th, 2009

How to Pick Shoes for Job Interviews

Employment is a touchy subject these days. Here in Oregon, we’re suffering the second-worst unemployment in the country–and still more youth are still streaming into the Rose City, hoping to find fulfilling work in our hip town.  In such a competitive job market, employers will take any excuse to remove your resume from the towering stack on their desk.  Previously, I worked at a publishing company where competition for new positions was so fierce, we usually removed the Craig’s List ad after only one day.  The candidates streaming through the hiring process were difficult to distinguish from one another, since I wasn’t the interviewer, but I did notice a pattern: no inappropriately dressed candidates were asked to return for a second interview. As unfair as it seems, hiring managers can’t help but make conclusions about candidates based on their physical appearance. Shoes are an important part of any interview ensemble.

Although you may be tempted to skimp on shoes in favor of a better suit, remember that your shoes say a lot about you.  For instance, scuffed or worn shoes may send the message that you’re not good at keeping track of details.  Really, you can’t tell how an interviewer will react– so it’s best to be conservative.  Here are a few shoes to avoid wearing to job interviews:

  • Skyscraper Heels.  You want to march into your interview office confidently, so don’t risk the chance that your sky-high heels will trip you up.  Additionally, many employers consider very high heels inappropriate for the workplace.  Aim for heels that are no higher than two and a half inches tall.
  • Open-toed shoes and sandals. Many office dress codes prohibit shoes that show your toes.  Others ban heelless shoes.  Since you probably won’t know the office dress code before you’re hired, play it safe by avoiding these styles.
  • Worn, dirty, or casual shoes. Just as you wouldn’t wear a stained shirt to a job interview, you shouldn’t wear shoes that appear dingy or old. As for formality, it’s better to dress too formally than too casually.  Unless you know your potential employer digs them, avoid sneakers.

As for what shoes you should wear to a job interview, that depends on your own personal style.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you stare into your closet, looking for the perfect pair:

  • Show some Flair. Fake flair (think Office Space) is irritating, but stylishly conservative shoes convey your unique personality to potential employers.
  • Be Memorable. A friend of mine is convinced she landed her job partially thanks to a unique necklace.  She claims the interviewer remembered her enchanting glass pendant.  Shoes can serve the same purpose.  If your shoes are conservatively eye-catching, the interviewer might remember you before other candidates.
  • Seek Confidence and Comfort. Wear clothes that make you feel confident and comfortable, so that you can focus all of your attention on the interview. It’s especially important to wear comfortable shoes if you know you’ll be standing all day before the meeting.  No one wants to be in a cranky mood when they walk into an interview–and poorly-fitting shoes can make anyone cranky.

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