If there’s any day to make your outfit count, it’s interview day.
1. What to Wear
While you stare at your closet, sifting through hanger after hanger, deciding what to wear for an interview – pick the outfit that makes you feel the most confident. You’ve heard it time and time again, that “confidence is key” to an interview, but don’t underestimate the power of what you wear to enhance that confidence. With that in mind, also keep these three items in mind for your interview outfit: fit, color, and style.
The fit should be appropriately tailored. For dresses and skirts, that means nothing too tight, too revealing, or too short. To test those “toos” try sitting down in your dress or skirt; if it comes up way past your knee, it’s probably too short, and if it uncomfortably squeezes your stomach, it’s probably too tight. The safest hemline is at the knee, and never shorter than a few inches from that.
For pants and jackets, I suggest (read: urge) using a tailor to ensure they are the proper length. The length of your pant hem depends on your shoe – either flats or heels, and, unfortunately, the hemming won’t be the same for both. So, before you cut off any fabric, decide what type shoes you’ll wear with the pants for the foreseeable future. For flats, your pants should cover most of the shoe in the back without actually touching the floor. For heels, the hem should fall 1/2 inch from the floor and brush the top of your shoe. While sleeve length of your jacket may seem negligible in the grand scheme of things, it really can disrupt a polished look. If you have your arms at your side, the sleeves should hit just below your wrists.
Lastly, the neckline of your blouse should never be lower than four inches below your collar bone. That may not seem like practical advice – I mean, I doubt anyone is running to get their ruler right now- so to apply that rule, slip on your blouse and reach forward for something. If you feel like you’re revealing too much skin, definitely change. Also, if your blouse is sheer, even if it’s just a little sheer, wear a camisole underneath! You know what they say – better safe than sorry.
For the color of your shell, i.e. your suit or dress, stay in the darker hues like black, navy, or grey. While that may seem drab, let your personality and what you’re saying be the fascinating and interesting feature of the interview – not that you own a red suit or that periwinkle really brings out the color in your eyes. For your blouse, stay in the neutral hues like white or cream. The interview is a time to show that you’re a serious and confident candidate for the position, and donning these color combinations will convey that to the interviewer.
The style of your ensemble should be classic and simple. It’s a Goldilocks goal: Nothing too trendy, nothing too dated, but something juuuusttt right. Personally, I think the easiest way to achieve this is having a go-to brand or designer that embodies your work wear style in its collections. By that, I don’t mean you need to fill your closet with only this brand, but that you should have at least one go-to piece from your go-to brand for important days in your career, like an interview. That being said, I would set a budget for what you’re willing to spend and treat this as an investment. Personally, my go-to brand is Lafayette 148 because all, and I mean all, of their workwear pieces correspond and compliment my personal workwear style. One day I do hope to fill my closet with only their designs!
Whether you opt for flats or heels, make sure they’re polished and appropriate. You can take your shoes to a “Shoe Hospital” like-place where they’ll doctor up your shoes so they don’t look scuffed, worn, or dull. Yes, it is a small detail, but if it gets noticed, it speaks loudly about your image. An appropriate interview shoe doesn’t include sky-high stilettos, lace-up pumps, or studded sling-backs. I think a good rule of thumb if you would wear them on the weekend, probably don’t wear them to the interview.
The most important shoe factor to remember: make sure you can walk in them! And for longer than from your closet to your bed. Nothing is worse than hearing a heel drag across the floor – it’s like nails on a chalk board. I think height directly correlates with walkability, so wear a heel height that you’re comfortable walking in. For work shoes, I’d suggest keeping the height at 3.5 inches (at the most) and below. Anything more begins drifting into a weekend shoe.
3. Hair, Makeup, Nails & Accessories
Two words: simple and subtle. You want to look polished and well-groomed.
For hair – no messy buns, crazy up dos, or high ponytails. Generally speaking, pulling your hair back, like into a low pony-tail or half-up-half-down, is appropriate. If you can wear your hair down without touching it, go for it. The goal is for your hair not to distract you or the interviewer. (I realize my hair is down and in my face for these photos, but that’s because I haven’t quite mastered the pony-tail photo without looking like I have a men’s haircut. Seriously, if you have tips – send them my way!) For makeup – less really is more. Go for a natural look, with minimum amounts of eye shadow, eyeliner, bronzer, and blush. And, as much as it pains me to say this, an interview is not the time to flaunt your red lipstick, or any other brightly colored lipsticks. For nails – keep them manicured with either clear polish or neutral polish, like pale pink. For accessories, it’s best to keep it simple and minimal. Wear delicate pieces that compliment your outfit but don’t overpower it.
If you’re reading this before an interview, best of luck! You’re going to rock it.
Keep It Stylish,