A job interview isn’t the time to show off a lavish, colorful nail treatment or the trendiest outfit in your closet. It’s when you want to convey the most professional look you can, matched as closely as possible to the culture of the company where you’ll be interviewed.
“On a job interview, your attire makes a statement about yourself before you even open your mouth,” Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert told Forbes magazine. “A scuffed shoe, a messy bag, or a low cut shirt can speak volumes. You need to wear your ‘power outfit.'”
That power outfit may differ according to the industry and the specific company in which you’re seeking a position. Traditional industries like banking and legal services will most likely have a dress code that calls for understated, professional attire, and that’s the type of dress they would expect from prospective employees as well.
On the other hand, a start-up firm in the technology industry or a company whose products or services are tied to popular culture probably has a more relaxed environment, dress-wise. Nonetheless, flip flops, T-shirts and short skirts are out at least until you’re hired and you know it’s OK to dress that way for your position.
Keep it simple
If you haven’t been on a job interview in a while, try to find out what employees usually wear at the company where you’ll be interviewing. You can ask someone you know who works there or is employed in the same industry. Or, contact a staffing organization like Mom Corps.
Suits, whether skirt or pantsuits, simple dresses and a skirt and tailored blouse continue to be favorite interview outfits for women, whether they’re newly minted college graduates looking for their first jobs or a career returnee looking for a flexible staffing position.
But while the job interview “uniform” has become more casual than in previous years, some clothing choices remain the same. For instance, accessories can play a big role in the impression you convey during your interview.
Jewelry should be minimal and understated – nothing dangling from the ears or clanging on your wrists. Don’t load yourself down like a Sherpa guide with briefcases and handbags. Try to keep everything consolidated in one bag, with room for a folder containing extra resumes and other documents pertaining to the job. Handbags should be structured, not a loose slouch style.
Shoes should be closed-toe with a moderate high heel or small stacked heel. Any decorative piece like a scarf should be simple in toned-down colors, not overflowing the outfit. Leave the fragrances at home, because it’s sometimes difficult to know when you’ve worn too much.
Once you’ve established what you believe is typically worn at the company where you’re seeking a job, be careful not to overdress. Wearing a suit to an interview in a laid-back office may appear pretentious and out of place. Also, dress for the season – what looks professional in January may look stuffy and rigid during July when a firm’s relaxed summer dress code is in effect. Don’t go overboard with bright colors. Light, neutral shades are always tasteful and low-key.
The final outfit should be one that makes you comfortable and confident that you look your best. You don’t want to be fidgeting and pulling at one side or the other of your clothing. It will make you self-conscious and distract you from the business at hand, and could leave the impression that you can’t be composed and focused on the job.
Add your interview outfit tips in the comments below!