Most of us will have to make hundreds of first impressions throughout our professional lives. The job market is ever-changing and very few people stay in the same career path, let alone with the same company, forever. And what’s one of the first steps when it comes to making a change in your career? The job interview.
Let’s be real, job interviews are rarely an event that anyone looks forward to. And who can blame them? You have to come prepared for the interview and ready to talk about why you’re the best candidate, remain calm and exude confidence, all while appearing to have experience that you may or may not actually have. You will often be up against dozens (if not more) of candidates. The last thing you want to worry about is what you’re going to be wearing. So, the question is---what can make you stand out from the rest?
Dressing to Win Your Interview
Be Prepared Ahead of Time
It’s been said that one common trait of many successful people is that they are prepared ahead of time. It’s assumed that habits such as preparing your meals beforehand for work, keeping a tidy home and planning your week out before it begins are fundamental to success. So, planning your outfit out at least a day before the interview can lead to a slightly less stressful experience. The last thing you want to be doing before you meet your potential future employer is running around, trying to find a matching sock.
Know Your Audience
It’s safe to assume that it’s better to be overdressed rather than underdressed, but get to know your audience beforehand. A quick LinkedIn or Google search on the company can give you an idea of whether you’re going to want to lean more towards business professional or business casual. You can also simply ask the recruiter or whoever helps coordinate the interview from the prospective employer's side to determine the appropriate dress.
When dressing for an interview that’s going to be geared towards a business professional environment your best bet will be to wear a suit. For women, either a pant or skirt suit along with heels or elevated flats works well. If you don’t own a suit, wearing a blazer will help dress up your look. Just avoid trying to wear the same color in two different types of fabric between your pants/skirt and jacket. Trust me – you can tell it’s not an actual suit.
A suit is not needed for an interview with a business casual company. Men can normally wear khakis or dress pants with a button-down or polo. For women, anything from a work-appropriate dress or blouse with a skirt or pants can work. For both women and men, a jacket or blazer are not necessary for this kind of interview but if you feel that it helps strengthen your look – go for it. Plus, if you decide to wear a patterned top this could be a way to tone down and tie your outfit together.
Creative Jobs/Non-Office Jobs
Each company has its own culture and atmosphere. Some places may frown upon more traditional workwear and see it as uptight which could result in you appearing to be a bad fit for the company. When interviewing for a more relaxed, creative or modern atmosphere you will want to wear something that makes it seem like you would fit into their work culture while remaining professional. In this case, wearing a bold color or patterns can help make the statement you desire. And always dress, at least, in business casual for the interview, even if you will be wearing jeans at work if you ultimately land the job.
Show (A Little Bit Of) Your Personality
It’s important to look professional, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also dress to show your personality. If you tend to wear bright colors, you have the option to wear an accessory in a fun color or to throw on a pair of subtly patterned shoes. According to a survey from CareerBuilder in 2013, the best color to wear during an interview is blue, but gray, brown and black are other reliable options. These pair well with patterns and bold colors. It’s all about balance. This is going to be your first impression with your potential future boss, make sure to show a little bit of who you are through your attire. That being said, if you feel that your cat printed sweater best represents you, it’s going to be best to leave that one at home.
Key Pieces to Avoid
Always avoid anything uncomfortable, don’t wear itchy fabric or clothing that is too tight or loose. You want to be able to focus on your interview – not your clothes. Make sure what you’re wearing isn’t low-cut or too short, you’re also going to want to avoid any pants that have a low-rise fit. A few other pieces to avoid all-together include flip-flops, anything with a spaghetti strap, shorts, and jeans. Also, it’s a good rule to stay away from any type of open-toed shoe, even if it looks like you could dress it up.
Your interview should first and foremost be about what you can bring to the table for your potential employer. You want them to be thinking about your skills - not your outfit. At the same time, walking in with confidence and being well-dressed is an important part of a first impression. By achieving that perfect balance, you can confidently walk away knowing you brought the best version of yourself to successfully land you that dream job.
About the Author: Chelsea Finn is currently working within the business intelligence team at Yoh. With a degree in journalism and a focus on magazine article writing, she also runs her own fashion and lifestyle blog. When she's not blogging, she enjoys hiking, shopping, running and exploring Philadelphia in her spare time.