Monday, April 23, 2012

What to Wear to an Interview

By Diane McLelland, Our Resident Fashionista!

You’ve prepared for this important interview for months. You’ve polished up your resume, researched the company you would like to work for, and have prepared some thoughtful questions to ask of your potential employer. You’ve made certain you have information on employment dates, important phone numbers, and references.

The big day arrives. What do I wear to the interview?

Keep it Conservative

A good rule of thumb is to always err on the side of being conservative. According to the experts at, “The first impression you make on a potential employer is the most important one. The first judgment an interviewer makes is going to be based on how you look and what you are wearing. That’s why it’s always important to dress professionally for a job interview even if the work environment is casual.”

What’s the appropriate dress code for an interview? You’ll want that first impression to be not just a good one, but a great one. The candidate dressed in a dark business suit is going to make much more of an impact than if she showed up wearing khakis and a sweater. Jeans are never acceptable for an interview, even if the corporate culture is extremely casual. Think black, navy, or dark gray. A suit is preferable, but separate pieces such a skirt or slacks with a blazer in the same tone (or say a pin-striped blazer and solid dark slacks) would work well, too. Pair the suit or separates with a white, beige, or light colored (a muted stripe would work as well) dress blouse, ensuring it is neatly pressed. Hosiery or opaque hosiery may be optional when you land the position, but for the interview, it is a must if you choose to wear a skirt or dress (again, the emphasis is on a dark, preferable solid color). Shoes should be polished and free of scuffs. A pump is always a good choice, and there are so many styles to choose from. Stay away from the stiletto-height heels, as not only do they look non-conservative, but they may be difficult to walk in as well. You’re already nervous to begin with; you shouldn’t have to balance yourself as you maneuver through the parking lot, perhaps up stairs, and navigate through the building, only to repeat on your way out.

Another fashion mistake some women make is to wear darker hosiery or dress socks with slacks- with lighter toned shoes. As a rule, the shoes should be darker or the same shade.
As I’ve mentioned in prior blogs, great finds can be found at discount retailers, and also your neighborhood Goodwill and thrift stores (look for those that benefit non-profit organizations, too).

Skip the strong cologne, and leave the bling at home

This is not the day to splash on that little ‘extra’ body spray, or to attempt to impress the interviewer with your 7-carat pink cubic zirconium solitaire. A watch, simple necklace or strand of pearls (faux are easy to find and affordable!), small to medium sized hoop or stud earrings (preferably one pair, total!), and one ring per hand is a good general rule.

You’ll want to be sure to make sure that your nails are clean and if polished, no chips present! Again, you are striving for a neutral look. The latest teal polish is a fun look, but an employer could read that as being non-conformist, and read you as a potential ‘rule-bender’!
Any visible tattoos should be covered, and facial or excessive ear piercings removed, if at all possible, for the interviewing process. Companies have differing policies, and you may not initially be aware of what is acceptable. Again, it’s best to keep it conservative, and abide by what you might assume would be a corporate climate. It may well be acceptable, but unless you’re interviewing for a piercing studio, it’s best to be aware of that.

Your make-up should be kept to a minimum that day as well, and by all means, don’t try out a new hair color or style the day before the interview. If the color doesn’t turn out like you had planned, there are usually no simple solutions. It’s best to make any changes well in advance when possible.

Carry a briefcase or dark colored folder to carry two copies of your resume

Ladies, if your handbag is the size of a small suitcase, consider taking a smaller purse for just your wallet and keys, or skipping a ‘purse’ altogether, and slipping your car key into the folder or briefcase you carry to the interview.

Even if the weather is warm, keep in mind that you should wear a blazer for the actual interview. Slip it on before you get into the building. It presents that professional image that you are trying to convey!

So, polish up your resume and your shoes—and you’ll be set and ready to go for that phone call you’ve been waiting for!

Want more interviewing tips? Log-on to and check out our wide variety of job prep courses including behavioral interviewing.

About the Author:
Diane has been called a "fashionista" from a young age, acquiring her love of fashion after enrolling in Sears Charm School as a young girl. After earning her degree in fashion merchandising & business she gained experience by appearing in movies, commercials and magazine layouts. She also worked as a flight attendant for 15 years and wrote for a well-known travel publication. Diane currently works with students to provide career advisement and loves to act as a personal shopper on the weekends for her friends and family.

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