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What You Wear to the Office Still Matters

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Decision-makers at U.S. companies are big on education, enthusiasm, experience and personality when it comes to hiring after job interviews.

But there's another factor in play -- one that maybe doesn't get the ink of those other attribute: how you dress.

Make no mistake, employers place a priority on your sartorial status from the day they interview to your last day on the job. (If you ever get that far.)

According to Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing and employment services firm OfficeTeam, 80% of U.S executives say clothing choices are a big factor in hiring and promotions, even as many workers still make cringe-worthy fashion statements on the job that can cost them their job.

Officeteam says younger companies, with younger and more informal executive teams, have taken the edge off of corporate dress codes; in 2007, 93% of U.S. executives put a big priority on dressing appropriately at the office, and that's down to 80%.

But 80% is still a big number, even if you don't work at a firm where men and women dress like they're extras on Mad Men.

"Employees may be tempted to dress down in today's workplace, especially during warmer months, but clothing that's too casual or revealing can be frowned upon," says Robert Hosking, OfficeTeam's executive director. "Although a polished appearance alone won't land you a promotion, it can help others envision you in a leadership role."

Broken down, OfficeTeam's survey of 1,000 U.S. senior managers at U.S. companies says that 72% of executives says an employee's clothing choices "somewhat" affects their chances of a promotion, while 8% say workplace clothing "significantly" affects those promotional opportunities.

If you're interviewing for a job or looking to impress as a worker, the best advice is to do your homework and ask around about employer dress codes. Try to dress in a way your employer would feel comfortable with you meeting clients face-to-face.

If you're not sure what that looks like, aim for clean, neutral and good taste. If you're interviewing, call ahead and ask the human resources department about any office dress code. You can also visit the company website's "our team" page and note what the executives are wearing. If you know the manager you'll be interviewing with, do a Web search for his or her name and see how they dress in business photos found on professional social media sites such as LinkedIn (LNKD).

The managers surveyed by OfficeTeam say they've seen employees and job interviewees dressed in overalls, T-shirts, flip-flops, fishnet stockings and muscle shirts (hopefully not on the same body). Those are huge office fashion "red flags" and major barriers to career advancement.

Don't let that happen to you. Keep your career on track by dressing like a professional.

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