When you start applying for jobs, it’s best to already be prepared for the first interview. There’s nothing worse than having the excitement of an interview ruined with the realization that you have nothing professional to wear. You could risk last minute shopping, but that means you take the chance of bad fit, high costs, poor quality, or worse, finding nothing at all. Trust me, it’s easier to be prepared. Here’s how:
1. Start with the basics
Professional clothes for both men and women are pretty simple. They need to be the proper size, meaning not baggy but not too tight as well. If you need some help defining that perfect shape, look up images of “business clothes” as a general guide. Professional attire also needs to keep you covered, meaning they hide your shoulders and chest (yes, for both women and men) and be neat, clean, and wrinkle-free.
Everyone should have at least a few of these items in their closet:
- Plain collared shirt
- Simple tie
- Dark dress shoes
- Simple belt
- Plain collared shirt
- Simple dress shirt
- Dress pants
- Pencil skirt
- Simple belt
- Closed toed shoes (either flats or low heels)
The business world also has a color scheme to go with its dress code. Dark, muted hues are the way to go for your interviews. Don’t stray away from black, navy, or charcoal gray. If you want to be bold, a pop of burgundy here or there is still safe.
2. Let your skills shine, nothing else
A professional interview, especially a first interview, is not the place to wear most of your accessories. Watches are fine, as long as they aren’t blinged out, bedazzled, or brightly colored. If you wear jewelry keep it simple and conservative. Restrain yourself to a simple pair of stud earrings or a single understated necklace. Leave the cocktail ring and other flashy accessories at home.
3. Your talent is big, not your hair
Or your makeup. Just like accessories, simplicity is key when doing your hair and makeup for an interview. Yes, you want to stand out in the sea of other applicants, but that’s what your resume and skills are for. You need to look professional when you meet potential employers, not unique and colorful. I know this is a little harsh for those who haven’t been on a professional interview before, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution in these situations.
4. There’s always an exception to the rule
That’s right! Just like resume formatting, there’s no concrete rules for how to dress for an interview. For example, more creative professions like those in the fashion industry might be able to get away with more fashion forward interview outfits than someone applying to be an accountant.
Again, it is always best to err on the side of caution because a first interview is your big step towards landing that job. If you do want to diverge from the traditional, conservative interview attire, have your outfit match the tone of the company you’re hoping to join as opposed to your own personal style. That doesn’t mean that you should lie or hide anything about yourself, but you want your first impression with your interviewer to be that you belong with the company. If you know that the company is very professional, follow their lead. If you know that employees regularly wear jeans and sweatshirts to the office, you can play around with color, pattern, and accessories a little more.
I’m sure you’re excited to start applying to professional jobs. After all, you can’t have an amazing career without that first job. However, you need to make sure you’re ready for that first interview before you start sending hundreds of resumes out into the world. So take the time to search your closet for your outfit before you start waiting for that phone call for that job you would be perfect for.
Kheel Center. Sewing training at an Organization for Rehabilitation and Training school. 4 Oct. 2010. Online image. Flickr. 3 Nov. 2014. https://flic.kr/p/93z4Nu