Dressing for an interview can be tricky and greatly depends on what industry and position you are seeking. But whether you’re applying for your first job out of college or are transitioning careers in your 40s, there are a few key style principles to keep in mind to help you look your best on the big day.
01. Less (skin) is more. You are being hired for your brains, not your body. Oftentimes what's most tricky is learning how to embrace your femininity while not being distracting in the workplace. Practically speaking, this means no plunging necklines and keep your skirt just at the knees. J.Crew has great button-up silk blouses that are gorgeously feminine and work appropriate—but make sure to wear a cami underneath if it's sheer.
Another way to keep it appropriate is to stay with a neutral color palette. Banana Republic and Ann Taylor Loft do a great job at this. We love color and bold patterns, yet we want you to be noticed and remembered at your interview for your intellect and aptitude, not merely a neon pencil skirt and pink lipstick. Remember ladies, context is everything!
02. Know the position and dress the part. There is a huge difference between walking into a corporate interview versus a creative position in the fashion industry. For a corporate position you can never go wrong with a classic grey or navy blue suit with a white button-down blouse underneath. Stud earrings, a classic watch, and a simple necklace will complete your look. As much as I adore red lipstick and it pains me to say this, interview day is not the appropriate occasion to wear the bold hue on your lips. The last thing you want to be worried about at an interview is whether or not your lipstick is smudged or on your teeth. Remove anything that could distract you and your interviewer from the task at hand.
03. Stay away from jeans, capris, and shorts. Even if the company environment is extremely casual don’t be presumptuous. Remember: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Also it’s always a good rule of thumb to be overdressed rather than underdressed.
04. Stay Tailored. If wearing pants, make sure they're tailored but not too snug on the backside. These wide-legged trousers are a great option. Remember you’re a woman and we want to celebrate that while at the same time calling forth dignity and respect.
05. Shoes: Avoid peep toes, sandals, and sneakers. Period. You can never go wrong with a solid black or nude pump.
06. Watch the details. If you have a string of interviews it’s definitely worth getting a close cut gel manicure with a pale pink or nude (raggedy nails are a turn off for anyone). If that’s not in the budget, trim and file your nails and go with a clear top coat. If your favorite black pumps are scuffed from wearing them so much, grab a leather marker at a shoe store to buff them up.
07. Research your company. Find out what the company ethos is, and if you’re working with a recruiter, ask about the company dress code. A friend had back-to-back interviews at competing TV stations, and while she wore a tailored suit to one, she was told by her recruiter to show her personality in the next interview with some color and fun accessories. While it was a pain to change in between interviews, she was grateful for the advice. It never hurts to ask!
08. If it's a creative job position . . . there is a little more wiggle room. You still want to stay with classic silhouettes, but these companies want to see your spark, your personality, and more of what makes you you. This is a great time to add a chunky necklace, maybe a fun belt with your pencil skirt, and blouse with more movement underneath your blazer as opposed to a structured button-up. You could even get away with a modest suede or leather bootie.
09. Know what distracts you. A few years ago I had the awful habit of biting my nails. I was working with a magazine and it wasn’t until a meeting with the editor-in-chief when I finally realized my hand had been in my mouth for 15 minutes, at least, just gnawing away at my nails. I was so mortified, that from that moment on I stopped biting my nails.
I cannot stress this enough: know what distracts you, and your nervous habits, and work them out! If you’re a hair twirler, wear your hair in a low bun. If you’re a nail biter, paint those nails. If you’re a gum chewer, carry mints and have one before your interview. If you aren't sure what your ticks are, ask a friend to conduct a mock interview and give you feedback on your nervous habits!
10. Be You. Okay, so I just sounded like your mother. But truly, you are the only you in this world, and we need you to be fully you; it will make the world a better place!
Ladies, y’all are going to do wonderful at your interviews. Keep it simple, keep it classy, and break a leg!