Let’s face it, as college students our daily outfits often consist of sweatpants, leggings and T-shirts that you may or may not have slept in last night. Comfort is king and sometimes it’s hard to snap out of that mode. But what if the occasion requires it? Job interviews are one of the few reasons to take off the sweatpants and pray you still fit into that suit your mom made you buy in high school.
Because job interviews are all about creating a good impression and doing what’s appropriate, the rule of thumb is to play it safe and stay traditional.
As a style blogger who soon will be doing some interviewing of my own, I have given considerable thought to this subject. Read on to see outfit choices for men and women.
Wear a suit! You’ll look sharp and professional, especially if it is black, navy or dark gray. Wear it with a white or pastel colored shirt and pair it with a coordinating silk tie, making sure the pattern of your tie isn’t too crazy. Wear dark colored socks – no gym socks! The socks should coordinate with your suit and/or shoes, but if you don’t know what color is appropriate, just wear black ones. Make sure there aren’t scuffmarks on your shoes and that the heels aren’t run down. Get them shined or repaired if there is time. Get a haircut the week before your interview and if you have facial hair, make sure it is neat and trimmed. Don’t wear earrings if your ears are pierced, and try to keep other jewelry to a minimum. In other words, wear the class ring but leave the gold chain behind.
The same rules apply to you, believe it or not. Wear a suit! A business professional woman can still look chic, as long as her suit is up-to-date and tailored. Stay conservative with your blouse, sticking to classic white or pastel colors. You should wear heels, but only if you are comfortable walking in them. Make sure they aren’t your highest stilettos and make sure they are closed-toe. If you’re more comfortable in flats, make sure they are dressy, basic and in a neutral color (again, black is best). If you’re wearing a skirt, wear hosiery. Wear your hair in a natural and simple style;. If you have bangs, make sure they are trimmed and don’t cover your eyes. Wear makeup, but don’t make it obvious – stick to neutral colors and leave that red lipstick at home. Make sure your nail polish is a normal color – no greens, blacks or purples – and trim your nails so that they aren’t daggers.
Both Men and Women:
I cannot emphasize this enough: do not wear overpowering cologne or perfume. You will most likely be in an office, and suffocating your interviewer with Old Spice or Clinique Happy will NOT land you the job. Don’t chew gum or suck on a mint during your interview. Keep your pockets empty; you don’t want to jingle when you’re walking down the halls of the office. Bring a briefcase or portfolio with you and put a extra copies of your resume, a legal pad and pen in it.
Exceptions to these rules:
There are certain circumstances in which dressing with a little more creativity for your interview might benefit you. If you’re interviewing for a job at an advertising agency, graphic design company, music industry or the like, you can probably put a little more personal touch into your outfit. For women, add a statement necklace or a colorful bag. For men, play around with the pattern of your tie or add a pocket square to your suit. But remember, first impressions are everything, so don’t go too crazy.
There are plenty of places to shop for these looks, from less expensive stores like H&M to more expensive stores like J. Crew and Banana Republic (J. Crew even offers a student discount!). But remember, a suit is an investment and you will most likely be wearing it for many years to come (especially if you nail your interview) so spending now will most likely pay off. And you can always break up a suit and wear just the bottoms or just the tops to make it more versatile in the future.
Anna is a junior at the University of Missouri studying Advertising and Public Relations. She runs a style blog called Forward or Die.