I think that how one dresses for an interview is often given way too great a role in guides to interview success. If a candidate is qualified, demonstrates passion, reliability and an eagerness to please, that candidate will not fail to get the job because there is a smudge on her blouse.
in fact, sometimes under-dressing just a tad suggests that the interviewee knows that they are hot stuff (degree from a top school, impressive work experience, son/daughter of the boss’s best friend, etc.) and it shows a level of confidence the value of which outweighs the ability to match a tie to your eye color.
However, there are some principles that I firmly believe all interviewees serious about getting their dream job should keep in mind.
1) NEVER WEAR JEANS: It doesn’t matter if they are designer jeans and cost you $300 or if they were a gift from your grandmother, bestowed upon you on her deathbed. Jeans are jeans are jeans. The $10 pair of no-brand/H&M/Forever 21 black dress pants that you would never be caught dead wearing under any other circumstance are a better choice for an interview than ANY pair of jeans. It also doesn’t matter what kind of position you are applying for — the graveyard janitorial shift at Wendy’s or the corporate art buyer for Morgan Stanley. When you walk through that door, surging forward for that initial handshake, your interviewer will give you a once-over, starting at the top and working down to your legs and will check off one of two boxes -”jeans” or “not jeans.” Guess which one will damage your chances of being chosen?
2) GUY TIE TIPS: Patterned tie with a solid color shirt or solid colored tie with a patterned shirt. I don’t know much about men’s fashion, and I’m definitely not claiming to. However, I do know that pairing a striped shirt with a striped tie makes a man’s chest look like an optical illusion. Don’t give your interviewer fashion hallucinations. You can persuade him/her to hire you without hypnotizing anyone.
3) LADY BUTTON TIPS: One button, okay. Two buttons, not okay. This is pretty self-explanatory. Showing off a little bit of collarbone never hurt anyone. Showing off more will lead you to either “Not Taken Seriously Land” or “Taken Seriously for the Wrong Reason Land.” Neither of these is a good place to be in.
4) FORM-FITTING….OR NOT: And on that “Taken Seriously” note, always dress a tad baggier than what actually fits you perfectly. While it’s definitely good to look fitted, as if your clothes have been painted on by the hands of Van Gough himself, it’s not okay for your flesh to be bulging out between the fibers of the fabric. What’s perfectly fitted is tight when one sits down and since most conventional interviews are conducted while in the sitting position, you should test whether that high-waisted pencil skirt cuts you any worse when sitting down than when standing at your full-length mirror, admiring your own shape.
5) NO COSTUME JEWELRY: No necklaces with heart pendants. In other words, anything that a 14-year-old girl would not find boring. Again, price and brand doesn’t matter. It can be a diamond-studded platinum thing with tremendous sentimental value. If it’s heart-shaped or pink, it will make you look younger, in a bad way.
6) COOL IT WITH HEELS: Ladies, heels help but only if they are one inch at the highest and only if you already know how to walk in them. If you don’t, you should probably not spend pre-interview self-prep time practicing. If they come naturally, heels feminize your entire way of walking and in some twisted way make you appear more mature and adult. I’m not saying that it is right that the impression a woman makes is partially based on how much pain she can endure for the sake of looking good, but well… that’s just how it is. So deal.
7) HAIR UP, LADIES: Unless your hair is tamed and straight or short enough not to get in the way, wear your hair up. No, you will not look like a boy, though it may take just enough away from your looks to make it obvious you are not using your sexuality to get the job. You will, however, look more professional and put-together.
My suggestion? The Power Outfit.
Remember those dress pants you wore when you won first place at the high school science fair? Or those Powerpuff Girls socks you had on when you got a 2360 on your SATs? Specific items of clothing often have sentimental value attached to them, value which comes from a memory of having achieved something while having them on. The confidence you gain from remembering these accomplishments may translate into your interview, helping you ultimately get the job. So pay a visit to those cherished items of significance in your wardrobe and give them their well-deserved second chance to shine.
P.S.: Put your Power Outfit on only after you have completely finished with your Power Sandwich. You don’t want any smudges of Power Mustard on that Power Blouse….