What to Wear to a Job Interview

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I’ve only recently found your blog, and I’ve learnt more about style in the past few weeks than I have in my previous 46 years !!!
One thing that I’ve searched for but not found, is dressing for job interviews (I may be a bit biased as I’ve got one coming up soon). My situation is probably quite common in that I have to wear a uniform at work (healthcare), and so I’m never quite sure what is appropraite for an interview. I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

A job interview is really important – you get one chance to impress so you need to make it count.  You want to appear credible, reliable, professional, capable, forward-thinking, approachable and able to do the job better than any other candidate.  So how do you create this image?

Different industries call for different looks, but for many interviews it’s fairly standard to dress up in a suit or at least include a jacket in your outfit even if the dress code is a little more relaxed.

Consider too your grooming.  You want to look together, not messy or lazy.  You want to look like you have attention to detail, so all the finishing touches count.

Your clothes need to be clean and ironed, shoes polished, not scuffed, not worn down.

Wear light makeup – it shows you take care of the details and studies have shown that women who wear light makeup to work earn MORE than women who wear no makeup or heavy makeup.

Good personal presentation can actually increase your pay packet by 10% or more (in China – up to 25% more).  We are treated how we’re perceived, so if your interviewer perceives you to value yourself they will assume they can’t offer you the bottom end of the pay scale, that you wouldn’t accept it and that you need to be paid more.

What to wear to an interview

Think about what you want the interviewer to pick up about you – what personality traits?    Write a list of words (that may include the ones I used earlier) and then run your interview outfit past them – do they reflect what you want them to say?

Colour Psychology

Which colours to wear?  Wear darker neutrals, they convey authority and expertise, and then either a little colour in a top to express your personality.  But remember to think about colour psychology first and also to look for colours that enhance your colouring.  For example, think about a shirt or top that makes your eyes look brighter as you’ll look more vibrant, alive and efficient.  Or wear colour that makes you look really healthy, for some it’s red, others it’s a violet, pink or salmon.   If you need to look authoritiative, go for a white shirt with charcoal or navy suit or jacket.  If you want to look approachable and friendly opt for a light blue shirt or top with your neutral suit or jacket.   Working in a more creative environment?  Wear some colour or even a pattern (though not a floral pattern).

Avoid wearing  light coloured suits or jackets as they won’t make you appear powerful, instead you’ll look like you’re off to a wedding or fun event. A pale shirt colour with your dark jacket colour will create a high contrast, more commanding appearance.

Skirt suits are considered to be more formal than pant suits.  So if you’re looking for a job in a conservative corporate environment it’s best to wear a skirt to the interview.  If the dress code for the business is more casual then trousers with a jacket will work well.

If you can, check out the dress code before you go for the interview, can you go and hang out in reception and see what the people who work there are wearing?  Check out the website and see the images the company has used as this will give you an idea of the image they’re after in their people.

In once got a job in retail, having had no retail experience, partly, I’m sure, by turning up in the ‘uniform’ which they required their sales staff to wear – which was navy bottoms with a white shirt (I added a navy jacket too).  The interviewer could ‘see’ me working there because I looked like I fitted in.

Your image is your personal brand.  It’s what sets you apart from everyone else.  Take some time to work on it and value it.  It’s an investment in your future success.

 

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7 Comments

  • Thanks for the great tips — especially on shirt color. For a creative environment, it states that color or even a pattern can be fine to wear although not a floral. What is the reason for not a floral? I understand that they look softer and more feminine than a check for example but could a tailored floral shirt be fine with dress slacks and a jacket?

    • Florals say warm, nurturing, feminine and not-ambitious. Florals don’t say business – potentially in the healthcare industry they could work, but I’d be wary of wearing one to an interview.

  • Hi Imogen,

    Your answer is very comprehensive but just to keep it simple for this person: healthcare industry and 46 years old :

    1) Well-fitting, tailored navy jacket (Sportscraft jackets are good value and the cut suits many over-40’s); if the sleeves are to the wrist, ask a tailor to shorten them to midway between elbow and wrist as 3/4 length is much more flattering, up-to-date and more relaxed- looking. (Lighter colour OK for summer.)
    2) Tailored knee-length skirt in coordinating colour e.g. grey (Pencil skirt suits most people. Make sure the skirt is shortened if needed as many people over 40 don’t bother and their skirts are too long.) Simple V-neck top, not too low.
    3) Low heels, closed-in toe, never sandals.
    4) Classic leather office tote bag – can be brighter colour, must look high quality but need not be expensive.
    5) Good classic watch.(Again need not be expensive, just classic styling.)
    6) Simple, modern silver or “pearl” earrings and/or necklace.
    7) Most important: go to the hairdresser, just before the interview if you can, so your hair looks GOOD.
    8) The aim is too appear calm, well “put together” in a relaxed way.

    I’ve been around hospitals a lot lately. The above is suitable for a supervisor/manager position in nursing or healthcare admin. (Female doctors tend to wear nicely-cut knee length skirts and tops or dresses and flat slip-on shoes.) If you are tall and slim you can wear a tailored shirt without a jacket or if your figure doesn’t suit a jacket, wear a tailored top that suits you or you could go for the “Therese Rein” look of black pants, black top and an unstructured coloured jacket with good bag and shoes.

  • Hello Imogen,
    I’ve been reading your blog for over a year and I’d really love to consult you as a personal stylist, but you are too far away from germany. I really like this post, but what should a woman wear if she works as a chef de cuisine or crafts(wo)men? That’s a real question for me, because I think I can’t wear a secretary outfit to a job interview whithout looking overdressed.

  • Im completely in love with you, and this site…I’ve lost sleep the last few days bc I have been spending my free moments reading your archives and cataloging my body type/creating a shopping game plan:) I’m at about the mid-way point in my weight loss, and have hit a place where I really can’t avoid basically starting fresh with my wardrobe. So I happened across you (on Pinterest, I believe) at just the perfect time.

    So all that gushing aside, here’s my question… I have recently been talking with others in my industry recently about how we all dress for client meetings and for booked jobs, and it has been interesting to see that we all have similar issues/stressors related to this. I’m a photographer…this means one part artist, one part bizperson…and although I definitely want to present myself in a manner that causes people (particularly parents of brides or commercial vendors) to trust in my competence, I simultaneously want to appeal to their creative side and show that I am an artist at heart (I want my younger clients -brides and new young moms- to feel like they can relate to me.) I’m wondering if you could maybe address two different things for the photographer/creative bizperson.

    1. Client meetings (life a job interview, but with the additional issues mentioned above)
    2. Client jobs. For me this category translates into two very specific types… Weddings (much more formal with a need for me to blend into the background) and Portraits (much more casual). For both, ease of movement and durability are key…but it has been hard to feel fashionable in the process.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! I’ve always shown up to client meeting in dress (dark) denim with a great neutral jacket and a bright pop of color or pattern underneath…with large statement earrings and a great pair of black heels… But I’m wondering if you think that works, and if you’ve got other ideas to supplement the same old same old:)

    Sorry to be so verbose! Thank you for creating this site!

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