What to Wear to an Interview In

I was speaking with a client today about prepping for an interview she has. She’s confident she has the technical part of the interview mastered – but deciding what to wear was keeping her awake at night.

She recalled the days where the navy blue suit was THE standard recipe for success when interviewing for an office job. It was expected AND it was easy.

You remember those days too, right?

If you’re over 40 and find yourself looking around the workplace now, wondering how offices transitioned from sometimes being too stuffy to an “anything goes” kind of environment, you’re not alone.

Being appropriately dressed for an interview today can be hit or miss, depending on how well you plan ahead.

Use these 6 handy tips to help you make it to the “first impression” short list, every time!

1. Do Your Homework

I know, you’ve heard it before – do your homework.

Take it from me – having spent 18 years of my career in the HR and Recruiting field, most candidates don’t.  Here’s your chance to really demonstrate you “get” their culture by looking like you fit in right from the first interview. 

How?  Ask the person who booked your interview, an employee, or better yet – do some in-person reconnaissance.  It might be an added step but you’ll arrive feeling confident – and you’ll have a leg up on the competition.  (Insider tip: don’t trust the images on the company’s website to help you – they are often purchased stock pics, not actual’s of the employees).

2. Choose Classics with a Kick

Classics are always appropriate for an interview.

Classic pieces for women include pencil skirts, blazers, trousers (not to be confused with yoga pants-:) and sheath dresses.  To give your classic neutrals an updated and more modern kick, consider bold tones like turquoise, tangerine, fuschia, aubergine, cobalt or brick

Color conveys confidence and creativity – choose one which makes you feel sparkling and unstoppable!

Select shoes and a belt in nude/camel, grey, brown or black to provide a visual anchor (seriously striking when you choose shoes/belt the same as your hair color – really).

If this is just too much color for your taste, add your “kick” by pairing your neutrals with:

  • A top or blouse in a bold print or vivid color

  • Richly-hued or detailed shoes

  • Subtly patterned hose (my fave’s are Hue Micro Mesh Control Top) – available at Hudson’s Bay

3. Wear a “Third Piece”

Whether the business environment is casual or professional, a “third piece” takes your credibility, professionalism and polish to the next level. 

A “Third Piece” is a blazer, vest or cardigan. A structured garment you can slip on over a simple shirt or top to increase your visual impact and perceived influence instantly.  (Insider tip: avoid jersey knit cardigans, they can look “schleppy” and too casual).

4. The Little Things

My client knows that the way she dresses for her interview (and beyond), conveys her personality.  AND she’s hip to the psychology studies which prove that employers “assume” that if details are looked after in her appearance, then it’s likely details in the job she does for them will be looked after too. 

Nail these things and you’re one step closer to your dream job:

  • Accessorize: well-chosen accessories communicate your personality and creativity effortlessly. Stick to wearing one bold piece at a time, like a necklace.  Jingling jangling bracelets or large swaying earrings are a big time distraction.  For you and your interviewer.

  • Your clothes should be tailored and fit well

  • Avoid wearing anything that is “too” – too tight, too short, too revealing.

  • Polish your shoes

  • Remove pet hair

  • Chip-free nail color (if you wear it)

  • No fragrance (many offices are fragrance free)

5. The “Sit and Stay” Test

Being comfortable during your interview is critical. There’s nothing worse than feeling uneasy or having your interviewer be distracted if your skirt rides up too short when you’re seated or your blouse gapes open.

Test drive your outfit by sitting in a chair and on a sofa. All bases (and assets) covered.

6. Plan Ahead

Several days BEFORE your interview, select what you’re going to wear. This avoids the “morning of” terror of fallen hems, stains you didn’t notice or wrinkles.

I know, there were lots of “shoulds” listed above.  You “should” do this, and “should” do that.

The most powerful key to opening doors – is to always be yourself.  Whatever you choose to wear, it’s important to feel at ease, confident and true to you.

Use these six tips, adapt them to your own personal style and you’ll be remembered for all the right reasons.  Now go knock ‘em dead!

Create a great (and of course, stylish) day,