Provisional Member Eileen Chao, models business casual interview attire. Photo by: Shawn Marie Scott
The statistics are out there about applying for a job, and they all say the same thing: of hundreds of applicants applying for a position, only a handful are chosen for those face-to-face meetings. The good news is – you’re one of them!
Now, what to wear?…
We reached out to three in-the-know professional women to help you stride into your interview with professionalism and style.
Stick To Basics
“Every woman should have a white blouse and dark pant or skirt suit,” said Sustainer Ariane Brennan, Southeast Regional Manager for Strategic Staffing Solutions. Other basics she recommends are pencil skirts (which are neither too short or too long), a-line skirts, the business dress, cardigans, a blazer and closed-toe shoes. Blouses and tops, she said, must have some sort of sleeve.
Provisional Eileen Chao, Founder & CEO of Interview Ready Now, agrees that it is better to stick with the basics. “Always wear a jacket and closed-toe shoes,” she said, “[Your outfit] should not attract or detract from anything.”
JLNO Active and Business Council Director Heather Doyle put it this way, “You want the focus to be on you, not what you are wearing.”
Use Color and Accessories
Incorporate the color and accessories strategically. Ariane said, “Jewelry should be small and simple. Don’t distract with bangles and rings. You can wear color – a necklace for accent. But not in your ears or on your hands.” When deciding what color to use as your accent, Ariane has a practical strategy. She said to do your research. “Wear the company color. Doing this said ‘I want to be part of your brand.’”
Chic shoulder bags are also a good way to add a splash to your ensemble. “A colored tote can insert a little personality,” said Eileen, who enjoys this accessory herself. “It is also a good way to have on hand a copy of your resume and cover letter, a legal pad and pen, as well as a small emergency kit for things that come up” (bandaids, safety pins, granola bar, extra contact lenses, wallet, etc).
The world is trending towards casual in and out of the office, but now is the time to “err on the side of caution and dress more conservatively for the interview,” Heather said. She recommends paying attention to necklines and skirt lengths.
Ariane said, “What you wear to the interview may not be what you wear to the office/job. You need to dress like you are the manager.” Along with pulling out your suit or business dress and blazer, this also means covering tattoos.
“You want people to like you for you, but there is a difference between ‘personal you’ and ‘professional you,’” said Eileen. Like Ariane, she advises covering tattoos by wearing pants or long sleeves and also removing nose rings and extra earrings.
Comfort Is Essential
Preparing for the big day can bring on a case of nerves. Your clothing should not be part of what makes you uncomfortable. It should help you feel confident.
Cost of clothing for the occasion can be daunting. You can be comfortable with budgeting for professional, classic (aka basic) pieces for your wardrobe by shopping smart. There are many local consignment and thrift stores that carry upscale apparel and accessories.
“Junior Leagues’ Bloomin’ Deals and Luxury for Less sales are really wonderful places to build basic staples into your wardrobe,” said Heather. “You can build an entire wardrobe for what you would pay for one item at a department store.” The Luxury for Less sales have brands such as Tori Burch, Tahari and Diane von Furstenburg. In Bloomin’ Deals’ main store, you can find J.Crew and Banana Republic, among other labels. There is even a suit section.
For comfort and poise on the day of the interview, Eileen said to remember that you must feel good about what you are wearing. She suggests trying out your outfit ahead of time – and your makeup. “Don’t use your interview to experiment with your makeup. [Just] keep it natural,” she said. “And if you’ve never worn heels, don’t wear them. If you’ve got a new pair of shoes, break them in first.”
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Your excellent resume, recommendations and networking have paved the way. You’ve done your research and have questions and answers prepared. And now, with your wardrobe ready, you are sure to walk in to that interview and make a great first impression.