How you dress for an interview can be just as important as what you say during it. While your resume and responses to your prospective employer’s questions are major factors, interviewers also make assumptions about your professionalism and demeanor based upon your appearance. Choosing an interview outfit, however, does not need to be stressful. By following some basic guidelines and emphasizing the finer details, you will dress to impress every time.
We all know that professional appearance begins with impeccable grooming and an attractive suit, for men and women alike. In addition to basic daily hygiene such as brushing your teeth and showering, nails should be clean and trimmed, facial hair should be removed appropriately, and your hair should be neatly styled. Forgo using perfume, cologne, aftershave, or strongly scented lotions. Allergies to fragrances are increasingly common and you do not want your interviewer to be distracted by watery eyes, an itchy nose, or sneezing.
The general rule of thumb is to dress at least one step up from the company’s daily dress code, but you cannot go wrong with a well-fitting suit. Avoid unusual colors, fabrics, and patterns; stick with a neutral hue such as black, gray, or navy. You can incorporate a pop of color with your shirt and accessories. Choose a shade that you know looks good on you. It will brighten up your suit and flatter your complexion. Also, consider the weather when selecting a fabric. Do not dress too warmly because we tend to sweat when we are nervous regardless of the temperature. Make sure everything is clean, pressed, properly hemmed, and does not have any loose threads or missing buttons. Shoes and accessories will provide the finishing touches to your interview outfit.
Fashion rules have evolved over the years and there is an abundance of conflicting advice about proper color choices. Keep in mind that shoes and accessories are meant to compliment your outfit not over power it. Women have more leeway than men, but when in doubt black or oxblood will go with pretty much anything. Depending on your comfort level, you can be more adventurous, but do not pick anything too wild or distracting. You want the focus to be on your qualifications not your flair for fashion. Anything you wear should be in excellent condition. That means polishing your shoes, any jewelry, and your belt, if you are wearing one. Your dress shoes should be attractive but comfortable. Nothing can make you more miserable than pinched toes and sore feet. Also, do not neglect the briefcase or purse you are carrying. It should look just as professional as the rest of your outfit.
A sophisticated tie that coordinates well with your suit is the most important accessory for a man. Skip busy patterns, quirky themes, and bowties. Depending on the company culture, you can introduce more personality into your dress once you have the job. Along similar lines, men should keep their jewelry simple. Cufflinks, tiepins, and watches can lend that extra oomph to your professional appearance, but anything too ostentatious can detract just as easily.
Men have ties and women have jewelry. Similar rules apply. You want to wear pieces that are simple and elegant. Anything too elaborate can be distracting. Studs paired with a tasteful necklace will tie everything together nicely. Wear only one or two rings and avoid bracelets because they can be noisy, especially if you have a tendency to talk with your hands. Makeup is the final component of a female candidate’s outfit. While you may not wear makeup on a regular basis, you want to demonstrate that you can pull out all the stops when necessary. Begin with a foundation to even out your skin tone and conceal any blemishes. Then create a natural but sophisticated look with subtle blush, eye shadow, and lipstick. Whether you apply mascara or eyeliner depends upon your personal preference. If you do, use waterproof formulas and remember for daytime makeup, less is more.
For men and women, understated elegance should be the guiding principle behind your interview outfit. Project professionalism by dressing for the job you want. That requires you to devote just as much attention to the small details as you spend on the more obvious aspects of your appearance. With the proper planning and some careful consideration, you can dress for success with confidence and walk into every interview looking and feeling like the exceptional candidate you are.