USC Upstate helps students dress right for job interviews

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USC Upstate wants to help its students and alumni dress for success – at least in a job interview.

“First impressions mean almost everything,” said John Montemayor, career services coordinator at USC Upstate. “A candidate may have impeccable credentials, the best resume and best qualifications, but if they are dressed in khakis, a blue blazer and no tie, an interviewer may overlook those attributes.”

That’s why USC Upstate will launch a Career Closet in the fall. Donations of gently used or new business attire are being accepted now.

“Most of our students work, and the money they earn goes to pay tuition, buy textbooks or to cover living expenses,” Montemayor said. “They don’t have the financial means to put together a full suit for the first interview.”

Thanks to a $2,500 grant from Enterprise, USC Upstate Career Services will convert an office space into a boutique-style storefront where students and alumni may pick up men’s and women’s suits, dress shirts, blouses, jackets, shoes, belts and business portfolios to keep.

Students will also receive a voucher for 50 percent off alterations, shoe repair and dry cleaning at any Master’s Mark location in Spartanburg or Duncan. Master’s Mark is acting as a donation drop-off site and will also clean all donations made at their locations before delivering them to USC Upstate.

“A lot of businesses have gone business casual, but we tell students it is absolutely important to wear a suit, a dress shirt and a tie to the first interview,” Montemayor said. “They need to make a professional first impression. After that, based on the situation, they can gravitate to a more casual look.”

According to recent research by Patrick Raymark, chairman of Clemson University’s psychology department, and researchers at Old Dominion University, 25 percent of interviewers made decisions within the first five minutes of an interview. But 70 percent of the judgments occurred after five minutes.

Raymark’s research showed the interview structure, the interviewer’s experience and the number of people being interviewed in succession all play a role in the decision-making on a job candidate.

“But the time it takes to make that decision may be longer than many people think,” he said.

The research showed that a more structured interview where candidates are all asked the same questions tended to discourage quick decisions, whereas less-structured dialogues where a person is encouraged to establish a rapport with the candidate led to quicker decisions.

The research showed interviewers tend to take longer as they evaluate the first four applicants, but then the decision-making becomes progressively more rapid as successive applicants are evaluated. That means applicants interviewed later may have less time to demonstrate their qualifications for the job.

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