What should I wear to my interview?
That's a question I am so frequently asked I’ve considered adding a section to our website. What you wear can set the tone for the interview. It can also have a major impact on your confidence. In an industry that thrives on aesthetics, branding and lifestyle your interview attire should be carefully planned.
There are several variations to this answer all depending on the hiring company, position level and geography.
Here are a few simple rules to follow.
Never abandon your personal style. Ever. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. The more comfortable you are in your own skin the more relaxed and confident you will feel. A strong sense of personal style often indicates the wearer has firm sense of self.
When is it okay? A lot of sites will tell you to never wear jeans to an interview. I’m going to challenge this assertion. If you are interviewing with a premium denim company, you should wear jeans. Just make sure it’s their brand. You're marketing yourself so you want to make it a point to do it well. Obviously.
If you’re interviewing for a President or CEO position wear a suite. For executive level roles like SVP, VP, EVP, etc. it depends on the company and the position. If you’re interviewing for the SVP of Design, I’m guessing you won’t wear a suit. CFOs however, a suit is probably expected. If you’re interviewing for a director level and below, don’t wear a suit. Ever.
Slacks and a collared shirt is an easy solution. No tie. No polos. I personally prefer a little more flare. Flat front slacks, with a fitted top (no collar) and a blazer. Cool but not too polished. Alternatively you can opt for slacks and a sweater. Choose your sweater wisely.
Since women look nice is nearly everything we have a wide range of options. Slacks, Skirts, Dresses, blazers and a range of tops all work well. Just no pant suits and don’t pair skirts with blazers or you might come off as Murphy Brown. The 90s are over. Heels or flats are just fine depending on what compliments your outfit best. If you’re not comfortable in heels but want a little lift try a kitten heel. Don’t be afraid to accessories. Make your look your own. Jewelry, scarves and handbags are all part of defining your personal style and showing your personality.
Whenever possible and appropriate wear the hiring company’s apparel. HR at a certain athletic brand once told me that when candidates arrive without a stitch of branded apparel on the first thing they do is take them to the employee store for a little last minute shopping. This is especially true for active wear and lifestyle brands. They want to see their logo or product.
Market Segment Appropriate
Chances are if you’re interviewing with a company you probably have at least some connection to the brand. Hopefully. The clothes you wear to a Nordstrom interview will likely be more fashion forward than to Eddie Bauer. Remember your audience.
East Coast tends to be more dressy and formal than their West Coast counterparts. Mid-West and everywhere in between tends to take into consideration weather conditions and culture. If you’re interviewing in Madison, WI you might want to dial it back a bit. Salt Lake City, UT, think active. Colorado, casual and active.
Pretend you are the hiring company’s consumer and then incorporate the appropriate level of interview dress-up. You want to look pulled together but you need to look like part of the team.
Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar