In the workplace, one way to succeed is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. But what if you don't have the job yet?

In the workplace, one way to succeed is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. But what if you don't have the job yet?

One sure way not to get it is showing up for an interview wearing inappropriate clothing, said Bruce Bays, a regional manager for Grandview-based Tom James Company and an expert in menswear. (We'll offer advice for female job-seekers in this column next month.)

"The essence of dressing well or professionally is to respect the person that you're with," he explained. "If an interviewer ever gets the feeling you don't respect their position, you're done. Clothing is very powerful."

Which puts most guys in a perilous position.

The American dress code has gotten progressively more casual, and situations that require dapper threads can seem awkward and unfamiliar.

On the other hand, job pools are becoming more competitive. About 5.1 million jobs have been lost since the recession started in December 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dressing well is more important than ever.

For an added edge in a tough climate, Bays suggested the following tips.

Do your homework. Research the company to get acquainted with its corporate culture. An investment bank probably has a different dress code than a magazine. Match clothing accordingly, erring on the dressier side.

Fit is it. A good suit is made with better materials and pieced together in a way that doesn't pull or stretch at pressure points. A well-tailored suit means fewer distractions, like a potential employer asking you about pending floods.

Keep it simple. In more formal situations, a solid navy or dark gray suit is standard. Match it with a white shirt, a tie without bold patterns and black dress shoes.

Hide your flaws. Take out piercings. Hide tattoos.

Ask for assistance. Good clothing stores staff people who know their stuff. They're there to help.