There are approximately 10 bajillion articles online that offer advice on what you should wear to a job interview; yet, I remain baffled when job candidates show up in everything but a capable-looking outfit. It doesn’t have to be Fred Segal, but channel your inner Cher Horowitz, people. Jeans, casual sundresses, nor an “I-don’t-really-need-this-job” Neverfull are doing you any favors when it comes to first impressions. Prospective employers are evaluating you on so much more than just your skills and experience. You need the total package. Your professional presentation can be a deal breaker for hiring managers who might translate a wrinkled shirt as laziness or a Rolex watch as high-maintenance. The effort you put forth in your appearance may also overshadow your inexperience or lack of certain skills (check out my post on this). If you’re still unsure exactly what to wear, my tried-and-true ensemble advice will get you that second interview. Check it out below, then go watch Clueless.
- A jacket is a must. It reveals to the interviewer that you are pulled together and that take your career seriously. I don’t care if your interviewing to be the janitor, put a jacket on. Not a cardigan. Not just a sweater or button-up shirt. A jacket. A power suit will always be my preference, but this can also depend on the role you’re applying for. If you’re interviewing for a management position, black or navy suit – no exceptions. On the other hand, a graphic designer may choose a tailored blazer with a knee-length skirt or skinnies (note I did not say leggings).
- Feet not on fleek. You all know my views on exposing your feet in the workplace. For an interview, no flip flops, strappy sandals, or even peep-toed pumps at this juncture. I feel that flats are often frumpy, but your heel should be modest aka not Brian Atwood. Panty hose or tights are also a must if you have tattoos on your feet; I do, so not judging. There are still a lot of conservative folks out there who automatically equate tattoos to felon. Cover all tats during the interview stage, and check the employee handbook for tattoo policies once you’re hired.
- Keep makeup minimal. I totally respect the effort of a perfectly contoured cheekbone, but lay off the baking + blush + highlight combo until after you get a job offer. You do not want the interviewer to be so distracted by your winged eyeliner and unnaturally matte lips that they don’t hear the value you can bring to their company. Keep your manicure neutral (not natural) too; Like Linen, Minimal, and One Chic Chick are all perfect for interviews. Oh, and only one spray of Chanel No. 5.
- Conservative is key. You may be applying for a position as banker, biochemist, or bartender – all of which have very different cultures and work environments – but err on the side of caution during the interview stage. This means less is more, so don’t show too much skin; trade chandelier earrings for studs (yes, this includes your KS Danielle’s); and save your favorite lime green top for the first day of work. It’s a bold move to show up in miniskirt suit circa Ally McBeal, and it could work for you in some industries/metro areas, like L.A. Conversely, it’s highly unlikely that the thigh-high hem will leave a positive impressive with 95% of employers (that doesn’t mean I don’t think their adorable and totally want one).
- Leave high-end at home. This recent Vogue article is sad, but true, and I have to agree; you must leave your high-end accessories at home if you want to be hired. While no one should judge your competence based on a wedding ring, or the car you drove up in, it happens. As a recently engaged gal, I would not be thrilled to remove my ring, but a presumptions (and possibly insecure/inferior) interviewer may think I don’t really need a job if I’m donning 3.12 carats (okay, mine’s not quite that big, but you get what I’m saying). A monogrammed handbag and Louboutin’s can also send the message that your salary requirements are high and maintenance level even higher. Stay label-free for an interview, and park your Lexus at the end of the street.
Do you have an interview coming up? What are you wearing?