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How to Dress for the Criminal Justice Hiring Process

Dress For Success to Land the Job You Want

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Suit and Tie

Knowing how to dress for a job interview, or any step in the hiring process, can put you ahead of the competition.

Image copyright Howard Kingsnorth, courtesy of Getty Images

When searching for a new career, there are no second chances to make first impressions. This is especially true in criminal justice and law enforcement careers. In today's competitive job market, it is imperative that you always present yourself in the absolute best light possible.

Conformity Is Key

Whether you like it or not, the fact of the matter is that your personal appearance can tell potential employers a great deal about you before you even have the opportunity to introduce yourself.

Criminal justice institutions tend to be very traditional and conservative when it comes to personal appearance and clothing. At every step in the hiring process, you need to make sure you are painting the best picture of yourself possible. Here are some quick tips to help you look your best when going for your dream job:

  • Get a haircut. Sure it looks cool, but showing up to an interview or test with dreadlocks or long hair is not going to get you noticed for the right reasons. Neither will a mullet or corn rows. If you want to make a great first impression, keep the sides of your hair tight and off the ears and have the top trimmed to a conservative length.
  • Shave. In some circles, few things say "I don't care" more than an unshaven face. If you show up for an interview or test with a 5 o'clock shadow at 8:00 AM, the first thing the interviewer or assessor is likely to think is that you are not taking the position seriously. Consequently, he might not take you seriously, either.

    Mustaches and goatees may be okay if they are neatly trimmed, but depending on your field and what department you end up working for, you may have to shave it when you're hired.

  • Wear a tie or pantsuit. Even when the situation does't require it, any time you are doing anything related to landing a job, men should wear a collared shirt and tie and women should wear a sharp, business appropriate pantsuit. This should include the day you pick up or turn in your application.

    During every aspect of the background check, you want to be sure you are looking your best. Few things outwardly demonstrate your commitment to getting the job than dressing sharply.

  • Press your shirt and shine your shoes. It's been said that the first things employers notice about a candidate is his shirt and his shoes. Keeping your shirt pressed and starched and your shoes shined will let the employer know that you are the kind of person who pays attention to detail and cares about what you do and how you look.
  • Lose the earrings. Men, if you have your ears pierced, leave the earrings at home when you are doing anything related to your job search. Women, it is strongly suggested that if you choose to wear earrings, consider wearing small, conservative studs instead of gaudy hoops. Remember, you want to be noticed for how sharp you are, not how flashy you can be.

High Visibility

When you work in a criminal justice field, your neighbors know who you are and what you do, even if you don't know them. They see you leave your house in uniform every day, or they see the patrol car parked in your driveway. Even if you've never met them, your community knows you.

Stand Out For the Right Reasons

Law enforcement agencies and other criminal justice institutions are keenly aware of this. In light of this fact, they look to hire people who are not only smart and capable of doing the job, but also people who they believe will represent them well to the public. By dressing the part before you get the part, you will stand out for all the right reasons and put yourself on the path toward a great new career.

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