After weeks or months of looking, networking, and sending out resumes, you’ve finally been called in for an interview. This is your chance to land the job and make the career move you want, so you need to own the interview. That all starts with making a solid first impression.
We all wish that our skillset was what we were judged by, but the truth is the way you dress for your interview helps people make a decision about you as a person and a potential employee. Choosing the appropriate interview attire is vital in today’s competitive job market to give you an advantage over those with a similar set of skills and experiences. So, what should you wear to your next interview? Read on to learn more.
Reading The Field
A good understanding of the corporate culture at the company you are interviewing with is an invaluable tool. Some companies will state in their interview invitation the expected dress code, others you will have to infer from the type of business, the dress of their current staff, or the clothes their supervisors wear.
In general, work attire will fall into one of three categories:
- Casual — The same cl.othes you would wear to a store, restaurant, or museum — like a polo shirts and khakis. Even if this is what current employees wear, take it up a step for the interview to ensure you look like a serious applicant.
- Business Casual — Collared shirts, pressed khakis, or dress slacks are the norm here. Pull this style up a notch to respectable business attire for your interview.
- Business Professional — This is the most formal attire generally seen in the workplace. Button-downs with ties, slacks, and suit jackets set the professional image for these office environments.
Significantly overdressing for a job interview may make you seem over-eager, but it won’t hurt you as much as underdressing.
Know Your Palette
Colors work on the mind at a psychological level, so wearing the right hues is critical. Incorporating red denotes power and action, blue implies trustworthiness and loyalty, and green is a very calming color. Each can be used to craft the image you want to cultivate. Orange and yellow should almost never be worn as they can be considered too unprofessional.
As you consider colors, take into account how they work with your own skin tone when planning your outfit. If you are exceptionally pale, too much bright red will make you look florid or nervous. Olive skin with a dull green can lend you a pallor fit more for zombie movies than an office, especially under fluorescent lights. View your ensemble under a wide variety of lighting conditions, so you’re sure you present the best possible message about yourself.
During the interview, the recruiter will focus on your face and facial expressions, so most of your attention should be on getting your upper body attire perfect.
Framing The Picture
A solid color button-down is your go-to garment, as it can be adjusted to fit almost any dress code. Set your shirt off with a tie in a subtle color or pattern. Avoid skinny ties if you have a wider frame, however, if you are more slender, they can accentuate your body type. If tying a tie perfectly isn’t one of your strengths, consider a pre-tied tie, such as those offered by GoTie.
Finish your frame with a suit coat or sports jacket. This jacket should match or complement your pants. On a two button jacket, only button the top button. If your jacket has three buttons, always button the middle, the top may be buttoned at your discretion, but never button the bottom button. Follow simple fashion rules to ensure your jacket doesn’t look sloppy.
Building Your Foundation
Your pants may receive less attention and spend most of their time under a table or desk, but they are still an important part of your look. Khakis are fine for more casual environments, but you can’t go wrong with a good pair of slacks.
Opt for a comfortable pair that is you can sit and move in. Strong creases can look more formal and well-kept, but if you are very thin, may make you look angular. As long as the trousers follow the lead set by your upper body’s theme, they will do fine.
Filling Out The Look
Add the finishing details with a few choice accessories. Shoes should be brown or black dress shoes with rounded toes. A watch and one or two subtle rings are all appropriate jewelry you can safely choose to wear. You may also want to wear a belt that matches your shoes. None of these should be bold enough to distract the interviewer from the carefully clothed package you’ve put together.
With a little forethought and work, you can put together an interview outfit that will impress any potential employer. Think of how you want to set the stage for the questions to come, and then build your image accordingly. Good luck!
Carolyn Clarke is a freelance blogger who has been writing about business and marketing for nearly 10 years. When she’s not working up against a deadline, she enjoys hiking in the hills near her home in Los Angeles.