Dressing for Success

Dress for success in your health care career.

You may not put much thought into how you dress for work. But the truth is, the way you present yourself - including what you wear - tells your employer a lot about you in a health care setting.

Even in a workplace without a strict dress code, it pays to give some consideration to the image you put forth each day. And if you're just starting to look for a job, you'll need to pay special attention to your professional appearance to impress your interviewers. To put your best foot forward, follow these tips for dressing to impress during your job search and once you've been hired.

Making a good impression during your interview

There are several rules for making the best impression in an interview, according to Amy Smith, MA, Assistant Director of Student Affairs at Concordes campus in Memphis, Tenn. Some of them are common sense. Others you might not have considered.

Two of the first areas to consider, Smith said, are grooming and hygiene. Make sure you have showered, brushed your teeth and have used an antiperspirant or deodorant.

"Your nails should be trimmed to an appropriate length for your potential occupation," Smith said. "Don't wear excessive perfume or cologne."

A good idea for any job interviewee for health care careers, Smith said, is to go conservative.

"Your pants pockets should be emptied of most items so that they don't appear bulky," Smith said.

"Both sexes should also remove any non-traditional piercings, like an eyebrow, nose, tongue, etc. Ensure any tattoos are covered if possible. Jewelry should be kept simple as well. Your clothing should fit well, be clean and wrinkle-free. Your shoes should be in good condition and polished if possible."

Tips for Conservative Dressing

Dressing conservatively is always the right choice for a first, second or third visit with a prospective employer. What does this mean in practical terms?

For women:

  • Dark pants and a light-colored blouse
  • Skirts should hit below the knee
  • Shoes should have a low heel
  • Keep jewelry, makeup, and perfume to a minimum
  • Cover up any piercings, other than pierced ears with small, tasteful earrings
  • Nails should be short and well-manicured with light pink or clear polish only
For men:
  • Choose navy blue, brown or gray slacks and a white, button-down shirt
  • Shoes should be a well-polished, dress style
  • Remove any earrings
  • Trim any facial hair neatly
  • Wear minimal cologne, if any

Check with the Employer prior to Interview

"When I'm talking with students about how to dress for interviews, I always tell them to ask the employer if they want them to come dressed professionally or in their scrubs," Paula Barron, Graduate Employment Specialist in San Antonio said. "... Sometimes, the employer may want to see how they look in their scrubs or they may even perhaps want them to have some interaction with patients."

"Even if scrubs are the requested attire, attention should be paid to how they look." Barron said, "Make sure scrubs are pressed. Make sure shoes look good - nothing scuffed or dirty and falling apart. Women should have their hair pulled back or in a nice ponytail if long, not just hanging down. They should have small earrings and makeup to look professional, not looking like they are going out for a night on the town."

Resources for Nice Attire

If you are having problems affording the proper attire for an interview, Smith said, check your local resources for a "Dress for Success" program, the "Going Places Network," or the "Career Gear" programs in your area. These career development programs are designed to help prepare you for employment in health care careers. Some programs will provide tools to help you with skills such as creating an employment action plan, learning career skills, utilizing job search resources and building your self-confidence.

"You may also have the opportunity to build personal networks in a more intimate, less intimidating environment," Smith said. "Some of these programs also offer gently used professional clothing at reduced or no cost."

Making a Good Impression Once on the job

Congrats, you got the job! Regardless of your career path in health care, you'll need to continue to be aware of how you appear to colleagues, superiors, vendors, patients and family members. What is considered professional dress on the job? It depends on the role you're in, the expectations and the environment.

If you're in an office job, attire similar to what you'd wear for an interview likely will be appropriate. Your job may not require dressing quite so formally every day, but you should always plan to look professional.

Whether you wear a business suit or scrubs to work, here are some general rules to follow on a daily basis in a health care setting:

  • Remove piercings other than small, tasteful earrings.
  • Cover most tattoos. Small, inoffensive tattoos may be acceptable but check with your employer.
  • Make sure your clothes are always clean, are in good repair and fit properly.
  • Shoes should be clean and in an appropriate color for your specific workplace.
  • Nails should be short and neat. Some health care environments do not allow nail polish or artificial nails, so be sure to check with your employer on these things.


No matter what position you're seeking, it's important to dress professionally during the interview process and on the job. To find the right career path for you, make use of the graduate employment assistance offered through Concorde Career College.

We can help you find the right career in health care - one that suits your strengths and passions. Contact us today so you can get started!

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