Whether you recently graduated from college or are an industry veteran looking to make a career move, you always want to make sure your arsenal of interview attire is in tip-top shape. While you’ll no doubt dazzle your interviewers with your brilliant responses to their inventive questions, appearing polished and professional is a super important piece of the puzzle. It conveys competence, self-awareness and respect for your prospective employer. Remember, these people don’t know you yet, so be conscious of all of the verbal and non-verbal cues you’re putting out there.
Sidenote: Be sure to read my post on How To Answer The 10 Most Common Interview Questions if you’re prepping for upcoming interviews!
Today’s look is geared towards more formal office environments but as discussed at length here, interview attire can vary widely across industries. But while it’s important to do your homework on company culture in determining appropriate attire for the new position, there are a few general guidelines that universally apply. Let’s get into them, shall we?
As a general rule, no matter what industry or position, keep your interview look sleek and simple. If you’re not auditioning for Cirque du Soleil, you want to keep things polished and effortless. Once you land the position, you’ll have the chance to evaluate your new work environment and adapt accordingly. Interview day, however, is typically not the day to “get super creative” and show your prospective employer your “quirky” personality by wearing that sequined bomber jacket that you DIY’ed or the spikey leather choker that looks like something out of a medieval torture chamber. Nothing ends an interview faster than looking like you belong at an S&M convention. Unless, of course, you’re interviewing for a job at an S&M convention. In that case, you do you.
If you’re not sure what is appropriate to wear to the interview (A suit? Maybe nice jeans?), read all of my sneaky pro tips here for determining what’s acceptable at a prospective new employer. It’s not as hard as you think, promise. But when it comes to interviews, you should always err on the more formal side. It’s better to be a tad overdressed, showing a high level of respect for the company and a seriousness about landing the job, than being underdressed and inappropriate.
Regardless of the level of formality, here are four industry-agnostic interview style rules to always keep in mind:
1 // Invest in a well-fitting, tailored ensemble.
Make sure nothing is too low-cut or too short, and try on a few sizes to make sure nothing fits too snuggly for a professional setting. When in doubt, always err on the loose side rather than the tight side, but don’t overcorrect. Clothing that’s too baggy can make you look sloppy. If you’re still struggling, purchase clothing one size up and take it to a tailor. Wearing ill-fitting clothing not only takes a toll on your confidence, but it also distracts the interviewer from focusing on all of the mind-blowingly brilliant things you have to say.
2 // Keep shoes polished, practical and classic.
Whether you go with flats or heels, make sure they’re sleek and polished—nothing super dull, worn, or scratched up. Also, keep things classic and if you’re wearing heels, shoot for three to four inches maximum. The shoes I’m wearing today are four inches and likely not appropriate for the most conservative office environments where three inches is typically the maximum when it comes to interview etiquette. It’s a bit different for everyone. Again, refer to this post for determining what level of formality is appropriate.
Whatever footwear you choose, MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE you can comfortably walk and stand in them for more than 10 minutes. If your interviewer is forced to evaluate whether you’re either drunk or just wearing outrageously impractical footwear, they’re probs going to move on to the next applicant.
3 // Go for minimal, fuss-free hair, nails and makeup.
Step awayyy from the jewel-encrusted falsies, my friends. When it comes to interviews, less is more. Regardless of hair length, you want to appear well-groomed and put-together, without anything falling constantly in your face. For your nails, either go with clean nails or a classic nail polish like reds or neutrals. As for makeup, shoot for a polished, minimal look. Today is not the day to go ham on your new metallic Kylie Lip Kit. This is just not the venue. Lastly, be sure to avoid strong perfume. Personally, I’d advise going without any perfume (but obviously still wearing deodorant, duh).
4 // Keep accessories simple.
Again, nothing too trendy or distracting when it comes to jewelry. Keep it delicate and relatively classic. You want to exude confidence, but also convey the message that you spent more time researching the position and preparing for the interview than you did on picking out your bedazzled rainbow hoops.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten through that, let’s chat for a minute about what I’m wearing today: Embodying these interview style tips is an absolute unicorn of a dress, this Ruth Button Detail V Neck Dress by Reiss which is always a treasure trove of classic pieces, perfect for in or out of the office.
Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was this in love with gray. The slight blouson bodice and button detailing at the shoulder contrast flawlessly with the more tailored pencil-skirt bottom. It’s one of those comfortable yet powerful dresses that you can feel confident investing in. I mean, I want to hire this dress and I don’t even know what she’s good at yet.
A note on hosiery: I wore this recently when it was still in the 60s in NYC (gotta love that unpredictable November weather!) so I was able to comfortably go with bare legs. As temperatures start to drop, have no fear. Snag a pair of these gorgeous sheer tights in color “smoke” and you’ll look crazy chic, while also keeping your legs warm. While I don’t love flesh-colored nude hosiery (despite the fact that Kate Middleton always looks FAB in it), I’m a huge fan of sheer blacks, greys, browns and navys when it comes to tights.
All-in-all, this is the kind of look that takes you to an interview armed with boatloads of confidence. I have a hunch it’ll also become your power meeting look once you land the gig, too.
Be sure to peruse my favorite interview dresses below. Like the dress I’m wearing today, they all make for amazing workwear staples to have in your closet—whether you’re on the job market now or not!