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Ultimate Guide: Interview Attire
Interviewing can be really stressful. You’re worried about being prepared enough. You’re concerned that you have a nasty case of Imposter Syndrome and the hiring manager is going to see right through all of your answers. You’re anxious that when they ask you the question, “So, tell me about yourself,” you’re going to go blank.
I get it, I’ve been there.
There are a plethora of things that make us nervous before an interview. (Although I don’t believe we need to operate out of a lack of confidence)
One thing I firmly believe you should NOT be worried about? Your wardrobe.
Over the years, I’ve gotten SO MANY questions about interview attire. In a world where we want to look presentable, but not stuffy - what do we wear? How do you dress for the job you want, when you’re not quite sure what people in this job even wear? I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of do’s and don’t, brands I love, and quick tips to help you spend your energy in more productive ways.
Here are some of the most common questions I get around interview attire:
What do I wear to a startup interview?
Mark Zuckerberg confused us all when he built a couple BILLION dollar company wearing a hoodie every day. Here’s my advice to you: While you may be smart, gifted, and talented...you are not Mark Zuckerberg.
I still believe that you should get dressed up for an interview, even if the culture is very casual. A great way to bridge the gap between professional and casual is to wear a dark pair of jeans, a pair of classic pumps, some simple jewelry, a nice blouse and a blazer if you’re a lady. If you’re a gent, some well-fitting pair of dark jeans, classic loafers, and a pressed shirt or shirt with blazer will do just fine.
As always, when in doubt, go more conservative. I showed up to my Muse interview straight from the NYSE where I had to wear business casual every day. I wasn’t “on culture”, but it was better than being underdressed.
I had someone not hire me at a startup because I was wearing a suit...what should I have done?
I once got this question while I was on a panel at General Assembly. Here’s the truth: If a company doesn’t hire you because you are overdressed that’s ludicrous and you don’t want to work for them anyways. Now, if it’s because they believe you don’t understand the culture, you probably didn’t convince them during the verbal part of your interview that you’ve done your research, you want to be a part of the growing team, etc.
But, if it’s just because they didn’t like what you’re wearing? BYE FELICIA.
What’s the difference between business casual and business formal?
Business formal is what I wore when I went to my investment banking interview. Black pant or skirt suit with a white blouse. Probably pearls or some other delicate jewelry.
Business casual gives you a lot more flexibility. Here is a great article on some awesome business casual options.
Should I hide my tattoos?
This stigma is becoming less of a stigma. Regardless, if you can cover them, it may be for the best. While you may be proud of them, they may be distracting in the interview. The attention should be on your skillset, not your tattoo collection.
Do I wear color?
YES! It is totally fine to throw some color in there. Even in my investment banking interview, I wanted to stand out and make sure they remembered me (although looking back, there were only like 20 girls interviewing…). My portfolio was red and I had light pink accents throughout the rest of my ensemble.
Now, you don’t want to show up wearing neon, but some beautiful, classic prints show personality. My personal go-to is an all black ensemble with pops of color in my heels, jewelry, and purse. Simple and classic.
Comfort vs. Professionalism? Which is more important?
When I was interviewing for my investment banking job, my friend Ann dressed me in one of her outfits. It was a sheath dress that choked me at the throat. I remember heading to my professor’s office prior to the interview, nearly in tears because I was so uncomfortable and nervous. She sent me straight back to my dorm and told me to change into something that was more comfortable even if it wasn’t the most “professional” looking garb.
See, when we’re uncomfortable….all we can think about is how uncomfortable we are. We forget why we’re there - to communicate why we’re the best person for the job. It’s not a fashion show. I don’t believe that looking professional and being uncomfortable are synonymous. I believe that with the right about of foresight, you can be comfortable, confident and look like a total boss!
Can you be overdressed?
Heard straight from a banker on the Street, yes you can. Don’t come in with some flashy designer attire (leave your Gucci shoes at home ladies and gents). There is an unwritten rule that those things should be earned. So yes, dress your best, but if you’ve been blessed with designer clothes - keep those at home for the interview.
Also, please don’t go to the interview in a ballgown. Unless you’re an opera singer. For that, it’s always appropriate.
How should I dress for a video interview?
These days, video interviews are where it's at. Before corona, there were some happening. Now, they're one of the main options. So, how should you dress?
You must dress to impress. This is not the time for a blazer on top and pajamas on the bottom, friend! Get dressed up ALL the way. Put on your “full armor” – from top to toes. Rock those heels or your cute little flats. You will look good and feel good in your video interview. It enormously impacts your confidence...and remember, I want you to have loads of confidence! If you want to hear more about this, check out my podcast episode How to Rock Your Video Interview.
Female Brands I Love:
For shoes, jeans, and purses + a good cause!
Michael Kors dresses (my fave!)
MM.LaFleur (the leaders in professional attire for women)
Beautycounter – For light, safe makeup + they are a B Corp company and we LOVE THAT.
Rent the Runway (just be careful….if it doesn’t fit, you’ll be in a bind!)
Vetta (their capsule closet is to die for!)
Maggy London (cute, classy dresses)
Male Brands I Love:
Nisolo – Shoes and leather goods are amazing + good cause!
Brooks Brothers (they have amazing outlet!)
Allen Edmonds (belts and shoes - pricey, but worth it)
SuitSupply (suits & tailoring needs)
Men & Women
TJ Maxx (You know I can’t resist)
Any local shops - always support local businesses where you can!
Check out our Ultimate Interview Prep Guide
10 Other Tips On Dressing for the Interview:
- I have to say it, but please please please make sure you took a shower, put on some deodorant, dried your hair and used some breath mints (no gum!). Today is not the day for day #3 of dry shampoo.
- No neon nail polish unless you’re in a super artsy firm and it’s appropriate.
- Don’t bring a backpack. Bring a classic purse, briefcase, and/or portfolio for your resume.
- Smiles go a long way. Yes, I believe it’s the best accessory you can have.
- It’s okay to showcase your personal style - just don’t make it overshadow your conversation.
- When in doubt, stay conservative. That means no low cut shirts, short skirts or tank tops. Oh, or flip flops. For the love, please never come in flip flops.
- Ladies, if you’re feeling overwhelmed about what to wear, a professional black dress is always a fabulous option. Want to make it fun? Dress it up with cute shoes or jewelry.
- Even if you’re in a Skype interview, fully dress as if you’re going in for an interview. None of this professional on the top, pajamas on the bottom nonsense. Same goes for phone interviews. Even though they can’t see you - YOUR posture changes when you’re dressed professionally.
- Find an outfit that becomes your go-to outfit while you’re in the midst of hard-core interviewing. Just make sure you dry clean in between interviews!
- Try everything on the night before. Nothing is worse than waking up and having a hole in your tights or realizing your pencil skirt is 2 sizes too small. Preparation is key!
What other tips do you swear by when dressing for an interview? Any favorite brands we need to know?!
The Ultimate Guide to Interview Attire
April 23, 2020