In this job market, landing an interview is challenging enough, but once you get the interview your work has really just begun. You need to make sure that you are making the right first impression. Not only does that include preparing for the interview, but you also need to make sure that the image you are projecting is the one you want to project. And that, my friends, boils down to the question, “what should I wear?” Never fear, Work-Fashion Balance is here.
For all the naysayers who maintain image doesn’t matter, let’s get something straight: image always matter. Research has shown that it takes anywhere from as little as a tenth of a second (literally a blink of an eye) to thirty seconds to form a first impression about another person. Even if you are a wunderkind, you make it harder on your self to impress a prospective employer when you show up in a rumpled suit, with chipped nails, stringy hair, and a hobo bag that is housing your entire apartment. So do yourself a favor, at least take a minute to think “what do I want to communicate about myself in a blink of an eye?”
If you don’t already know the answer to that question, let me help you out: you should want to show your prospective employer that you are serious about your career. In the remaining seconds you have left, you want to portray that you are organized, collected, pleasant, and have your act together. You do not want to communicate that you are, like, totally, up on latest fashion trends. You also do not want to put on display any great assets other than your mind.
You should own an interview suit. If you don’t, get thee to Brooks Brothers ASAP. The interview suit is the most conservative suit you own. Depending on the industry in which you are interviewing, the interview suit may be more or less conservative. If you are interviewing in law, finance, or consulting your suit should be so conservative as to be boring.
Opt for seasonless wool, like gabardine, in navy or black. For less conservative industries, you may be able to get away with charcoal or a subtle pinstripe.
The cut of the suit should be very traditional. Don’t show up in a double-breasted jacket or cropped pants. You should wear a fitted two or three button jacket. Note that fitted does not equal tight. If you are confused by this fact, go see a tailor. Your pants should fit well without showing any panty lines. If you select a skirt, make sure it is not more than a thumb’s length above the knee.
If you are interviewing for a position in law, finance, or consulting, you should be wearing a white or pink button down blouse. No ifs, ands, or buts.
If you are interviewing for a more creative industry, you could get away with a silk shell or slightly more stylish blouse. Stay away from excessive frills, bright colors, or prints.
You should wear closed, almond toe, black heels, no more than 3Ã’Â½ inches high. I routinely encourage disregarding the 3ÃƒÆ”Ãƒ’Ã’Â½ inch rule for heels, except for interviews. The interview is not the time to wear a platform pump.
First up, hose. If you are wearing a skirt, you will wear hose in two scenarios and they are polar opposites: (1) you are interviewing at a very conservative firm and you are wearing sheer hose a la Catherine Middleton; or (2) you are interviewing at a fashionable firm and you are wearing sheer hose a la Catherine Middleton. Otherwise, don’t wear hose under your skirt, or wear pants.
Jewelry should be kept to a minimum. What you do wear should be dainty and, you guessed it, conservative. Pearls are always appropriate. Rings, other than an engagement or wedding band, are never OK for interviews. Don’t wear dangly earrings or a statement necklace.
Do not walk into an interview carrying a Birkin bag or any other ridiculous, borderline insultingly expensive bag. It sends a message that you don’t really need the job to pay your bills. Your bag should be plain black, saddle tan, or maroon leather without any logos. One fashionable choice, that is also appropriate for even the most conservative firm is a large portfolio clutch in black leather.
You should have your bag organized so that you can easily get to your leather resume folder, business cards, and pens.
Wear scarves and belts with caution. If you do chose to accessorize with a belt or scarf, it should be demure.
Hair & Makeup
As long as we are talking about image, hair and makeup has to be addressed.
You hair should be blown out and neatly brushed. You could also opt for a low ponytail or bun. Don’t wear a high ponytail, messy bun, or tousled beach waves. You are not working around the clock yet, so keep yourself looking collected.
If you wear makeup, don’t wear a smokey eye to an interview. Smokey eyes at the office are inappropriate to being with, but for an interview they are a total disaster. You should wear natural makeup that accentuates what you were born with. Your prospective employer should be focusing on how smart you are, not your charcoal eye shadow.
Make sure that your nails are neatly manicured, short, and painted in a sheer or nude pink. If you walk into an interview with long, red nails, I can guarantee you that you are sending the wrong message.
If you follow these tips, you will make the right first impression and get a chance to get your elevator speech in. Good luck!