After months of applying, searching, and endless phone interviews, she finally got a call for her first in-person interview. Excited about the opportunity to interview, she had extensively researched the company and had even done some mock interviews with her friends. But she had missed one thing…what to wear.
After a thorough review of her closet the day before the interview, she realized all she had were jeans, t-shirts, jumpsuits, and unprofessional dresses. It was time to make a quick run to the mall. Not sure where to start she went to her favorite store and quickly realized that her go-to place was not going to cut it for an interview outfit. Next stop was a store that looked like one her mom would shop (no offense mom). She tried on a few ill fitted suits and decided her next stop would be the food court for an iced mocha while she thought of what to do next.
If you’re interviewing for a job in an office environment, from start-up to established company, dress conservatively and professionally. If you’re struggling with what that might look like, think Kate Middleton.
The following advice is from our experience interviewing for some of your more typical corporate (business professional) environments.
- Dress it up (i.e., wear a suit). Our general advice is that you wear a suit (black, navy, or gray). And we mean a real suit, not some cute ankle slacks and blazer that kinda match. Oh, did the recruiter or coordinator tell you that you can wear jeans every day? That’s great. Once you have the job, wear jeans. When you’re interviewing, wear a suit. If you have pretty good intel that the culture would frown upon you wearing a suit, still dress it up and look professional. Like a full on suit may be too much, but you should still look polished – wear a nice blazer or a sport coat. If you’re a gal, a nice black sheath dress (with sleeves and make sure that it at least hits your knees) can also work for a more casual interview. Don’t be surprised when your interviewer is in jeans and in you’re in a suit. You should be more dressed up than your interviewer. Oh wait, are you broke because you’ve been out of work for 6 months? We have mentioned that we shouldn’t necessarily give financial advice, but our maybe bad advice is that you actually bust out that credit card that we told you to put away before. As much as we wish we lived in a world where only your merits mattered, we don’t. You need to look professional and that might mean charging a new suit (perk – you can wear the same suit for all of your interviews).
- Get a personal shopper. Okay we know what you are thinking, this sounds expensive but it doesn’t have to be. Most reputable department stores have personal shoppers that work on commission (or really good sales people!). It is very important that you get a quality suit that fits properly and a personal shopper is the way to go. We cannot stress how important properly fitting clothes are. A little too tight, too short, or too lose is not okay—an ill fitting suit does not look professional. If you are questioning the fit it is probably a bad fit. And yes, we are guilty of ill-fitting clothes. We definitely think back to some of the things we wore to our first jobs (or the time one of us wore nice jeans and heels to an interview…that interview didn’t turn into an offer) and cringe.
- Wear good shoes. Closed toed shoes are a must. If you opt for heels, go with a heel and make sure it is a reasonable height (those 5 inch heels should stay for non-work event). Oh and guys, this doesn’t just apply to ladies. Okay, maybe the heel height does, but your shoes are just as important as they are for the ladies. Wear quality dress shoes. People will look at your shoes, believe us (have you read our shoe polish post?). Oh and break them in before the interview, but don’t scuff them (you could try inserting sandwich bags filled with water in your shoes and then sticking them in the freezer, if you want more details on this, comment below). Trust us that pretending that your shoes aren’t killing you is not fun when you’re interviewing.
- Carry a good bag (and fill it with the right things). Again, this applies to both the guys and the gals. Make sure you have a nice bag to carry your notebook and resumes. Oh yes, you must carry a professional notebook (and pens). Leave the hello kitty notebook and pom pom pens at home. We highly recommend getting one of those nice leather portfolios with room for those resumes of yours. That’s our not so subtle hint that you absolutely need to take extra copies of your resume with you.
- Keep hair, nails, and makeup neutral and professional. We love fun nail polish. Jackie loves big hair. Laura loves bold lipstick. Those things, however, are not appropriate for an interview. Your hair needs to look good as does your makeup and nails. But again, think Kate Middleton (not Kim Kardashian). If you can, get your hair trimmed before the interview. At minimum, make sure you do your hair (guy or gal). You don’t want to show up looking like you just rolled out of bed. And if you’re a gal, keep your makeup and nails natural. You don’t want to be remember as the girl with neon pink lipstick or leopard print nails, unless of course you’re interviewing for a job as a stylist, then it might be okay?
- Wear deodorant (skip the perfume). You’ll probably sweat. So, just make sure you’re wearing deodorant. And yes, Chanel is a classic but consider skipping perfume for an interview or wearing very little perfume (we’ve met many people who are allergic to perfume, one of those people could be your interviewer).
- Make sure you feel good. Whatever you decide to wear, make sure you feel good. If you feel awkward in heels and a suit, trying wearing that around the house before you interview. The last thing you need in an interview is to feel like you’re playing dress up in your mom or dad’s clothes.
From our experience, play it safe and wear a suit. Make sure your appearance is not the reason you’re standing out in the interview. We love jeans with holes and inappropriate shoes, but they’re just not appropriate for an interview.
Oh and if you still don’t believe us about the personal shopper, check out our fabulous girlfriend’s latest post on how amazing and FREE personal shoppers can be. She also has great advice to avoid ill fitting clothes!
Check out her post here: The beauty in shopping