When To Play it Safe with Fashion: Job Interviews

Job Interview

As a virtual wardrobe strategist, I love helping my clients find their true style. Everyone is unique and finding that light-bulb moment of inspiration for each client is totally thrilling.

There is one instance, however, where I advise clients to play it safe with fashion – and that’s job interviews.

For the entry-level job-seeker, one just out of college, their best bet is keep attire very conservative during a job interview (often, there’s a series of them) and let their wonderful personality and resume outshine whatever they may be wearing.

An entire wardrobe of interview-appropriate clothing found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

An entire wardrobe of interview-appropriate clothing found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

Even if you are applying for a job at a design firm, where the dress code can be all about self-expression, I don’t advise taking many liberties with your appearance. For men, this issue is fairly simple. The only area where entry-level job-seeking men tend to get tripped up is with the crispness of their outfit.

ALL items should be freshly cleaned and pressed: suit, shirt and tie.

The ladies on the other hand, have a lot more options when it comes to job interview attire – and that’s what tends to get them in trouble.

Keepin’ it profesh for a job interview – and beyond – is very easy. Below I have some simple formulas to follow; but the most difficult thing is getting past our desire for self-expression. There are plenty of times in life where we have the chance to make a serious fashion statement – a job interview just isn’t one of them.

However, follow my guidelines, and you’ll be all set up to wow your future boss with your talents and personality. I recently took a trip to the newly opened OC Goodwill Boutique in Tustin to find some interview-appropriate threads.

Men: What to Wear for a Job Interview

Preferably, a suit. Meaning, both the jacket and pants are matching material. That’s not always an option if you’re shopping secondhand, but not to worry – finding a simple pair of black wool trousers and a dark jacket work just as well. The key is to make sure the jacket fits in the shoulders, and the front crease of the pants break only slightly over the shoes. Jackets are expensive to alter, but pants are not.

Men's shirts for interviews, found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

Men’s shirts for interviews, found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

Pair this suit or separates with a crisp dress shirt in a muted color and/or pattern with a tie. Don’t wear a red tie or anything too aggressive for a job interview. Choose a small print or horizontal stripes. Wear black dress shoes, make sure they are cleaned and polished.

mens ties

An array of ties, perfect for job interviews – found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

Women: What to Wear for a Job Interview

Because women have more options, they also have more opportunities to make the wrong choice. Below are some easy formulas with which you can’t go wrong.

Option 1: Dress + Jacket

Muted or dark dress, preferably a solid color with a dark wool suiting jacket. A sleeveless dress is a more comfortable option under a jacket, but avoid removing your jacket. Choose a dress in either wool or twill, but never knit of any kind, and make sure the length is not more than an inch above your knees.

Great example of the dress + jacket combo, found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

Great example of the dress + jacket combo, found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

Option 2: Skirt + Blouse + Jacket

Muted blouse, minimal detail, nothing too low-cut. Pair with black skirt and dark gray jacket. Same guidelines apply to the length of your skirt.

Option 3: Dress Pants + Blouse + Jacket

Same as above: muted blouse, black trousers, dark jacket. Also, like the fellas, your pants should break only slightly over your shoes. This will require coordinating your pant length with your heel height.

Option 4: Suit + Blouse

If you can find a 2-piece suit, great! It’s a very conservative look, perfect if you’re interviewing for anything in the financial, insurance or legal industry. Pair with a muted blouse.

Keep shoes simple. Closed, almond toe is best (slightly pointed). Open toe is fine if your feet are freshly manicured and toes are polished. Stick with black, gray or beige. Heels are fine – but absolutely no extreme platform stilettos (that’s kind of a dated look anyway).

Carry a very simple bag – nothing slouchy or overly ornamented. No status bags or anything too colorful. Remember, this is a business meeting; you’re being evaluated based on capability. The last impression you want to give is that you’re overly concerned with your appearance.

Keep the accessories simple for job interviews. A bag and shoes found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

Keep the accessories simple for job interviews. A bag and shoes found at the OC Goodwill Boutique

Once you’ve passed all the interviews and gotten the job (congrats!), then you can begin to assimilate more into your new firm’s culture. Take your dress code cues from your boss and boss’ boss. Dress as if you’re presenting to a client everyday and you’ll be recognized for all the right reasons.

And, now that you’re raking in all this moolah from your new job, you can start to build a unique wardrobe that expresses your unique personality – both on and off the job

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