How To Dress For An Interview

8 01 2009

We’ve all seen what others wear to internship or job interviews and been very judgemental. That skirt’s too short. Is she trying to be seductive ? Those pants don’t match that jacket ! Why is she wearing hooker heels to a professional interview ? Why does he look like George of the Jungle for an interview ? Her dress looks like it’s from the 1984 Ann Taylor catalog.

Anyhow, I wanted to go through a list of tips so that we all are aware of what IS acceptable to wear to an interview and what is NOT. These tips are for the average business interview (ie: marketing, journalism, public relations, finance, law, advertising, media, etc). Just because you are interviewing to be an intern does NOT mean you get to DRESS like a college kid. The same dress code standards should be obeyed – as if you were an employee of the company. Good luck.

How To Dress For An Interview

  • The Business Suit. You can never go wrong when you wear a business suit to an interview. This rule applies for men and women. Each student should own one business suit that is tailored to fit their body/shape. You don’t need to buy an Armani suit by any means. I DO expect you do find a great sale and pick up a suit. Business suits don’t go out of style. Purchase something simple and basic. I suggest going for a dark color (Black, Brown, or Blue) that you can wear year-round.

  • Match. I always like to dress kind of funky and mix and match all kinds of color combinations. An interview however, is NOT the place to experiment with fashion. YOU want to get the job and grab the employers attention, not your outfit. Men, this means the color of your suit must go with the color of your shoes (Black suit = Black Shoes, Brown Suit = Brown Shoes, Blue Suit = Brown Shoes). The shirts men and women wear under their suits should also compliment each other. For men and women, I suggest sticking with simple colors underneath your business suits (Black Suit = white, grey, light blue shirt, Blue Suit = tan, white shirt, Brown Suit = tan, white, light blue shirt).

  • Man Rule. If you decide to wear a white buttoned down/collared shirt you MUST wear a grey undershirt with it. If you put on a basic “wifebeater/tanktop” under your white shirt it WILL show through. This is NOT attractive and does not make you look like a professional. Also, men’s socks should be dark and blend in. White socks should not stick out from under your pants. Make sure your collars are properly creased into place. The proper ironing should be done to your entire outfit. Wrinkles aren’t acceptable. Make sure that if a belt is needed, that you have a belt that matches your suit. Come to the interview as “clean-shaven” as possible. Typically speaking, employers aren’t too fond of messy hair, lots of facial hair, piercings, or tatoos. If you do have piercings, I suggest removing them for the interview and trying to cover up any other body piercings or body art.

  • Woman Rule. Again, interviews are definitly NOT the time to experiment with anything. Wear your hair the way you think it looks best. Avoid any crazy braids, pigtails, “messy looks”, etc. I usually wear my hair down and straight or pull it back into a neat pony tail. Jewelry should be simple. I do think you should accessorize with something that expresses some creativity (not too much). For example, I usually wear a long charm necklace or a cool bangle bracelet to show that I have some sense of style. Keep your accessories simple and have one piece that stands out. If you have a great necklace, keep the earrings, rings, bracelets simple. An interview is also not a cleavage show. As women, we want to avoid the cliche of the “seductress in the workplace”. I suggest covering up and wearing a basic top with an appropriate neckline to your interview. As earlier mentioned, a business suit is always a good way to go. A pants suit or a skirt suit is fine. Make sure the skirt is an appropriate length. The only way to really know is to look in the mirror and make a judgement call. We all know what “too short” looks like. You shouldn’t be showing any “legs” so if it looks sexy, its probably not the right choice.  When choosing your shoes, try to avoid the trendy “platform heels” (that I love!) and stick with a smaller heel. Think “lots of walking” and select from there. I do think that heels are a better choice than flats for an interview. If you don’t want to wear  a suit, select a simple dress or skirt and top combo. Remember to keep things simple and not too trendy. Button-down tops are nice but usually a little showing for women with larger busts. Some other ideas are pencil skirts, mock turtle-necks, suit jackets, boat neck tops. Stay away from Capri Pants, Jeans, Denim, Spandex, leggings, Flats, Flat Boots, Short Skirts. You should bring a simple purse with you to your interview.

  • No Jean. No matter what you wear to your interview, jeans are not okay. Even if they are black jeans, stay away from them. The phrase, ” I can’t believe they wore jeans to an interview”, is all too common.

  • Hestitation Equals No. If you aren’t sure about something you are wearing then scrap it. You should be confident in what you wear and if you are questioning anything than the employer is likely to question as well.

  • Straighten Up. Do a last minute check before you leave. Make sure your fly is up, buttons secured, collar pressed down, and everything is in place. You also might want to take a lint roller and make sure all dust, dog hair, etc. is off your clothing.

  • Where to Shop. Again, I reccomend everyone go out and purchase one solid interview outfit if you don’t already have one. This is an investment in your future. I still wear the same black suit from Macy’s that I got four years ago to all of my interviews and important meetings. If you ARE looking for something more high end, check out Banna Republic, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Brooks Brother (men), Saks, BCBG (women). If you are looking for something in the more “affordable” range check out JCPenny, Zara (men and women), Macy’s, Marshalls, Nordstrom BP (girls), Nordstrom Rack (men and women), WalMart, and Forever 21 (Girls). My favorites are Nordstrom BP and The Limited.

More “What to Wear” Advice (From My Friend’s On Twitter)

“Skirts. Pants are acceptable in the office; skirts make a better impression for interviews unless they have a great pantsuit.Visit the company a few days before and see what employees wear. At the least, match their dress. Best, match management.” @jennipps, Jenn Nipps, Freelance Writer/Editor, http://jensorganizedwriter.wordpress.com/about/.””

 “I think women should wear whatever feels like a second skin to their interviews. No outfit is a substitute for confidence.” @highonbeingdave, Artist and Entrepreneur, http://www.dave-baldwin.com/.

“Either is fine to me. Make sure the shoes aren’t too scuffy looking on top. No spike heels, mega boots. Conservative. Ann Taylor Loft has affordable prices and classy outfits. The suit- less important than arriving prepared with research and questions.” @heidicwilliams, Managing Editor of G Magazine, http://www.gvillemag.com/.

“Tie is good, but please know how to tie it; and it better be the right length.” @startuplawyer, Ryan Roberts, Lawyer, http://www.thestartuplawyer.com/.

“I would say yes to a suit, without fail.. probably a tie too – having one can’t hurt. Not having one if expected to could.” @Brentoe, Brendan Cartledge, IBM Intern, http://www.brendancartledge.com/.

“Marshalls and TJ Maxx often have name brand business attire that’s inexpensive. K&G and men’s warehouse are good, but cost more. For guys, I recommend Target. I was there the other day and they had some nice suites pretty cheap. Good enough for interns.” @Jamesfeudo, James Feudo, Personal Communications and Development Expert, http://blog.jvf.com/.

“I live at Forever21 and Macy’s is good also for interview clothing attire.” @heatherdamico, Heather Damico, PR Intern.

“Try Banana Republic. Nice suits for both.” @JMegonigal, Jordana Megonigal, Magazine Editor, http://www.insideblackbox.com/viewblog/index.php?blog=17.

“For women I swear by New York & Company. Affordable yet still fashionable.” @Jmsummers, Juana Summer, Student and Journalist, http://www.juanasummers.com/.

“Clean, nice shoes are the first thing people notice. also, neat and nicely shaped eyebrows.” @mimismartypant, Mimi Boskia, http://mimibosika.com/.

 

 

Other Helpful Links

DressForSuccess on What to Wear for an Interview:

http://www.dressforsuccess.org/

James Feudo on Dressing for an Interview:

http://blog.jvf.com/2008/08/06/dressing-for-success-2/

Monster’s, Peter Vogt, on What to Wear for Interviews:

http://www.monstertrak.com/career-guide/job-interview-tips/what-to-wear

About.com’s, Alison Doyle, on What to Wear:

http://jobsearch.about.com/b/2008/05/05/what-to-wear-to-a-job-interview.htm

Links to Clothing Stores:

http://www.bananarepublic.com

http://www.nordstrom.com

http://www.walmart.com/

http://www.nyandcompany.com/nyco/

http://www.thelimited.com/

http://brooksbrothers.com/

http://www.forever21.com/Default.asp?cookie%5Ftest=1

http://www.jcpenny.com/jcp/default.aspx

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4 responses

8 01 2009
August Cohen, CARW

IQ, a few other suggestions. No perfume at interviews as someone you may interview with or meet at the company may be allergic (or have a bad association with your selected scent, i.e. it was the favorite perfume of the girlfriend who dumped him – we don’t want him thinking of that now, do we?); no over the top fingernails or colors; and a nice briefcase (ladies stick your essential purse items in the briefcase and leave the purse at home) so you have a neat place for your resume copies and portfolios, etc. These are easily borrowed if not in your budget yet.

23 01 2009
internqueen

Hi August, Thanks for these tips. I agree with you on all of them but want to add that I think its fine if women bring purses to an interview as long as they are able to put a folder inside with their resume and materials, to keep them clean. Bring simple basic purses. (I always keep my bright yellow, green, red bags in the closet for interviews. I don’t need them to know about my obsession with large crazy purses just yet ) !

13 01 2009
Chicago Pinot

Hi Intern Queen! Enjoyed your article very much! Quick questions, what color ties do you think work best with my navy suit and solid white shirt, also, is it required to button my suit or may I leave it open?

23 01 2009
internqueen

Hey Chicago ! Any color tie except for Black should be fine. Also, you might want to stay away from other blue tones. I tend to like tan or light brown tones with navy. I suggest buttoning your suit for the interview. Once you get to the office, check out what the other men are doing with their suits. If everyone has their suits open, then that is probably the company standard. Good luck !

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