First impressions are extremely important for an interview. While not all interviewers will make a decision to pass or fail your child based on the first 15 seconds of the interview, there are enough of them out there who will. This makes it important for our sons and daughters to concentrate on making a good first impression. A firm handshake, looking the interviewer in the eye when they say hello ("good morning" or "good afternoon" is actually better than "hello" as it gives your child a chance to use the word "good" which will hopefully be connected with their candidacy) and of course appearance. Appearance is more than clothing but fashion is the focus of this article.
In Japan the standard interview suit for a new grad is a black suit, white shirt and conservative tie (called the Recruit Suit as seen here by Aoki). Around graduation season the suit stores throughout Japan go into high gear advertising their new grad suits for both young women and men. They are all the same! One new grad recruiter I know went so far as to say that she would hire the next Japanese candidate who walked through her door in ANYTHING except the standard black suit. The day ended with no offers going out.
The challenge with fashion and preparing your daughter or son for their interview is that you will not be consulted for your parental advice when they head off to their first interview in their early 20s. By the time your son is lining up interviews he will have already made up his mind that Mom and Dad have no clue what looks good. He may very well show up with a tie that clashes with his shirt and a suit that is a little short in the leg. If he shows up in a suit at all.
As with much of parenting, we need to do what we can when we have our kid's attention. At the ages of 5 or 8 or 10 they are still our "babies" and also retain some awe of grownups. The goal at this age is not to get into specifics about brand names or checks versus stripes but rather to encourage our kids to be aware of how clothes and the event are connected. You wear a suit to church but can wear sneakers to the park. Here are a few suggestions on what we can do now to get our children on the path of good fashion common sense.
Rather than picking out your child's clothes in the morning, let him do it. Or, even better, do it with him while explaining your choices. "Since it is a school day I think the collared shirt and these jeans would look nice together. What do you think?" It is true that kids will pick up a lot through watching what we adults do, but there are limits. Fashion is one of them. Just seeing you in the morning with the red tie and the white shirt may not help your child to understand that brown shoes and a black belt are not necessarily the best choice for an interview. Asking your son for his opinion of your tie though and explaining that you have a big meeting with the boss today so you want to look powerful will help to connect clothes with an event.
I can't remember either of my parents commenting much on my choices of clothing or about fashion in general. It was not until much later in life that I had the benefit of a fashion conscious friend (who then became my wife). Of course, I did pick up a few things from my other friend's Mom. She once commented on her son's attire as he was heading out the door with me, "You can't go out like that! You look like vomit!" Perhaps a little harsh since we were only going to the park to play basketball but it made an impression on my friend and even stays with me to this day. The lesson, don't wear too many colors in one outfit.
Flipping through a magazine with your son or daughter while pointing out what the models are wearing and how the clothes go together to make them look taller, or slimmer or smarter is another way of teaching children about fashion and has the added benefit of being quality time just between you and your son or daughter. The things you can do one on one will stay longer with your kids than whatever you try to teach in a group.
Shopping with your child can be exhausting for both you and your kids. You probably already have an idea of what you need to buy (shorts for phys ed class, or a button down shirt for the holidays) but rather than dragging your son behind we can try to encourage some participation. What to wear to Physical Education class is not necessarily the most important fashion decision one can make but it is another opportunity to connect an event with the clothes. Ask your daughter what she is doing in phys ed and whether she thinks sweat pants or shorts would be better and why.
My kids are fortunate to have a mother with an awesome fashion sense. I already know that she is having an effect since my son occasionally points our my own failings when it comes to dressing myself. I guess even at 40 I still have something to learn.
*Special thanks to my incredible wife for her help with this article.*