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I'm going to cut right to the chase. If you're a woman, over 40 and looking for a job, the way you look can hurt - or help - your chances. While appearances count for everyone, older people are especially vulnerable to this hidden form of bias.

I'm not talking about wrinkles or grey hair nor am I advocating a $10,000 wardrobe spending spree. I am talking about the little details that convey youthful enthusiasm to convince an employer that you're totally up to the minute (or completely clueless). We can't turn back the clock but there are ways to make the age factor secondary to the job interview:

Dress Appropriately but Modern

Don't wear anything that will date you. Don't wear big shoulder pads, a thigh high skirt, boots with heavy heels. I'm not an advocate for trendy clothing but I think that wearing something this season - fresh, modern, age-appropriate - enhances one's credibility. Buy one terrific interview suit that can be worn with a crisp shirt or a thin turtleneck. Make sure it's always clean and ready to be worn at a moment's notice.

Accessories Rule!

Use accessories to convey an air of confidence. Make sure shoes are appropriate for the outfit and if they're leather, keep them polished with attention paid to the heels. Wear one thing that's gutsy - vintage earrings, a stack of thin silver bracelets - to let your personality come through. Fine fishnets are terrific as an alternative to a heavy opaque; a charming cloche or beret looks dashing with a military style overcoat; a gorgeous umbrella is a statement on a rainy day. Everything you wear should be in tip-top condition. Go over your clothes to replace or mend loose or missing buttons. You need to deal head-on with the perception that you've been out of the loop. Convince them otherwise - make your accessories speak of the moment.

Get a Second Opinion

If you're out of practice and haven't dressed for an interview in years, seek out someone whose taste level is excellent and ask them for advice. Ask specific questions - is your haircut flattering? Anything stiff or bouffant is a no-no. Is your makeup sheer enough? Every woman looks better with eye liner and a natural-colored pencil to define the lips. Are the earrings smart and elegant? Does your interview outfit convey an air of confidence? This fact-finding mission is an excellent starting point for a strategic shopping trip to buy those building blocks for a knockout outfit.

There's a reason the costume designer on any film gets top billing along with the writer and the director. Clothes help communicate a character's style, background, motivations. Use the "costume' of the interview suit as short-hand to your inner fabulosity.



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