It takes an HR manager just one look at you to understand how reliable and competent you are and to draw conclusions about your social status and goals in a job interview. I’m going to help you to dress to impress and successfully pass your first job interview (as a woman).
What you wear to a job interview shouldn’t matter as much as what is on your résumé, but the reality is that the right first impression can make all the difference when it comes to landing your dream job. Dressing for success is a big part of the interview process. That said, unfortunately, there’s no wonder outfit to suit all scenarios. Instead, you need to tailor your clothing to the type of interview.
“I have nothing to wear!” – how many times have we all said that? Especially before a big event like a job interview.
Sometimes you wish you were a man. If you actually are, go read the right article here. All you’d need is a standard pair of shoes, a nice suit, and a plain shirt. And voilà, you’d be ready to steal the show. But deciding what to wear to an interview doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Interviews are stressful enough. You shouldn’t be freaking out over your outfit while also wondering how to craft a sophisticated answer to: “So, tell me about yourself.”
No matter how formal or casual the dress code is, you need to be comfortable. When you are comfortable with how you look and feel, you radiate confidence, and you can focus on what matters: the job interview. So, let’s avoid anything hot, tight, itchy, etc.
Tip 1: Research the Company Culture
Dressing up for an interview is all about matching the company culture. Most offices operate in business professional attire, but some start-ups and companies prefer casual outfits in the office. When in doubt, a good tip is to send a quick email to your recruiter asking about the dress code. If anything, it will demonstrate your proactive nature and your intention to do well in the interview.
Tip 2: Less is More
Generally, a job interview calls for you to wear professional, or business, attire. To make a good impression at any interview, you need to appear polished and neat. While there is no need for a suit, wearing a blouse with a pair of pants or a pencil skirt is an excellent and safe choice.
It is always best to keep it basic and elegant. Less is really more when it comes to choosing your outfit.
Tip 3: Neutral Colors
When it comes to colors, make sure to utilize the neutral color palette in your closet: white, beige, navy, dark gray, or blue make excellent choices and seem a little more approachable than black. Very bright colors should be avoided. If you want to add color to your look, stick to pale shades like light blue.
Usually used in banks, financial or government institutions, consulting firms with corporate clients, and law firms, the formal dress code is the most rigid and conservative. Discretion is the key word. With a nice suit, you can never go wrong. Avoid black suits and go for a well fitted single-breasted suit. Blue or gray is a better option. If you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable in high heels, wear flats or small heels with closed toes. Choose a blouse or shirt that fits well and avoid low-cut tops.
Pants or Skirt
Women are often confronted with the good old “skirt or pants” dilemma. Trust me, there is no right or wrong. It pretty much comes down to personal preferences and how comfortable you feel.
You want to avoid very tight-fitting pants. I would also leave the ripped jeans at home for a night out with your friends, but chinos, dress pants, or khakis are the way to go! Here, conservative colors are always your best friend. Navy, camel, or gray are great options. Another terrific option is tailored pants paired with a shirt and blazer. You can also incorporate some modern fashion trends into your outfit.
What makes for a good interview-appropriate dress?
Formal dresses for women are easy to transform, but just remember that work dresses shouldn’t be too tight, too short, or too revealing. A knee-length, tailored dress is always a good choice. Also, avoid wearing any transparent fabrics or showing too much cleavage. You can, of course, pair the dress with a blazer, but be careful that your color coordination is on point. A structured dress can also look good as long as it’s suitable for the office.
A jacket or a blazer always adds a professional touch to any simple dress or pants. Combined with a nice pair of shoes and a handbag, it might just be that your day-to-day dress needs to join the business professional clan. Once again, keep the look simple, polished, and elegant.
When it comes to interviews, it can be hard to decide which shirt to wear with skirts or professional pants. Whether you opt for a classic professional white shirt or a silky colored one, once again, what matters most is to select something simple and elegant. Avoid flashy colors and logos. Certain prints can be an option, but if in doubt, don’t risk it. Make sure that the button-down top has a modest neckline and that your bra is covered.
Do I have to wear heels? No, you don’t have to wear heels, especially if you are not comfortable. When selecting which professional shoes to wear to an interview, make sure your shoes are closed-toe, the heel is no taller than 6 cm (or 2.5 inches), and they are neutral in color. Flats are perfectly acceptable for an interview too.
The don’ts: flip-flops, skimo boots, sneakers, multicolored shoes, stilettos, and sandals.
Remember that your hairstyle should not distract the employer. You will want your hair to be clean and polished, like the rest of your outfit. Do not take a risk on very elaborate hairstyles. The hairstyle should be simple and not hide your face or eyes. Keep it down or put it up in a ponytail.
Less is more. Like your hair, your makeup should not distract the interviewer. This is not the time for a bold red lipstick or a glittery eye. Keep your makeup subtle and neutral. Use a foundation or BB cream in your skin tone and evenly blend the face and neck together to avoid any difference in color; a concealer to disguise blemishes and dark circles; a blush or bronzer to add color to the face; and mascara to make your eyes pop. Forget (bright or dark) colored eye shadows, they’re better suited to a party. You can add a lipstick but in a discreet tone. No dark, red, or pink shades of gum.
Extra Tips for Your Job Interview:
• Go easy on the perfume. Avoid very strong and powerful perfumes. Opt for subtle yet fresh fragrances.
• Wear freshly washed clothes. You could be wearing a full designer suit, but if it has stains on it or it is wrinkled, it kind of defeats the whole purpose.
• Keep the accessories to a minimum. Avoid dangling earrings and arms full of bracelets. Too many necklaces or rings can clang together and just be noisy and distracting.
• Make sure that your nails are done (avoid very long nails and strong colors). A two-week old chipped manicure is also a no-go.
• If you want some color, focus on your accessories, such as a vibrant scarf or handbag.
• If you decide to wear a dress with tights – please make sure that they are not ripped. A good tip is to take an extra pair in your handbag in case of an accident.
• Make sure to set your phone to silent.
We all like to feel good, beautiful, and prepared to make a great impression. Reflect that feeling in your mood and in the way you walk, talk, and look at the interviewer when answering questions. This kind of attitude can make a difference and help your application go a long way. Good luck!
By Liliana Mota Dias