One of the most stressful parts of applying for jobs is the interview process. Making sure you are on time, knowing the right questions to ask, and especially figuring out what to wear to make a good impression, are all sources of major anxiety. Fortunately, we live in a digital era that has created a shift in general company culture. Many companies have a more relaxed environment with ping pong tables, Friday happy hours, and green juice bars in-house.
But even in more lax environments, what you wear to your first interview is extremely important. To help make the process a little easier, we talked to two professional experts: Rachael Bozsik, CEO and founder of The Brand Girls, a personal brand consulting company for college women, and and Mike Moradian, the executive director of HonorSociety.org, an honor society that recognizes academic achievement and provides valuable resources and tools to its members. They gave us all the tips you could need for figuring out what to wear for a job interview, depending on the industry.
Corporate: Classic and Professional
When applying for a job at a corporate company, Moradian says it's important to know those kinds of offices are typically more traditional and formal than other workplaces. Especially in fields like law, professionalism is extremely important. These are the interviews men want to wear a suit and tie to, and stick to basic, solid colors. After you land the job, you can try wearing more exciting pieces depending on the office culture, but it's best to play it safe during the interview and always just dress up.
Bozsik says the same goes for women. Typically, the rule of thumb is that dresses and skirts must, at a minimum, hit right above your knee. But that doesn't mean you can't be creative. Many individuals think corporate means frumpy matching pant or skirt suit but, news alert, that is so 1999. Now, you can mix your basics. If you have a black pencil skirt you can tuck in a sleeveless pale pink shirt and tie it together with a structured gray blazer then voila, you are set.
Government: WWYTW (Wear What Your Teacher Would)
Applying for a job in the government sector is intimidating, but it's not as formal as it may look in the movies. Bozsik says she recommends her clients take it one notch below what they might wear to a corporate interview. "Rather than having a skirt and a blazer, you can do trousers with a tucked in blouse, pearl earrings and ballet flats or heels." But if you are unsure if you are being too casual, it is always better to err on the edge of conservative.
Moradian agrees that the same goes for men. "Stick to business casual attire like slacks, button-ups, etc., to make the best impression." But no need to wear a full three-piece suit. The atmosphere is more casual and relaxed, but still extremely professional.
Creative: Have Fun, But Look Good
Working in a creative industry gives you a bit more leeway for what you can wear to a job interview, but it doesn't mean you can slum it. For women, Bozsik says, "if you are interviewing at a prestigious, fashion-focused company, make sure your outfit is stylish, not trendy, classic, polished and, most importantly, makes you feel confident." And if you stick to the neutrals, you can do no wrong. If you are going to be covering all of the latest fashion and beauty trends, it is crucial that your outfit says: "I am here to help your magazine take on the world."
For fall Fashion interview outfits think sleek ponytail with black studded hair tie, mid-calf fluted black skirt, and tucked in cream button up blouse, finished with black pointed heels. After your research you may realize that the company culture is distressed jeans, flannels and converse but while this all sounds enticing, you are not in quite yet. Bozsik always emphasizes to her clients that it is important that you elevate your look while still dressing relatable.
Moradian agrees that creative jobs tend to be less formal, so there's a lot of variance in what men can wear to a job interview. He says, "It can range from business casual in sales, to jeans in tech," but although some of these offices may have a very relaxed dress code, you shouldn't walk into an interview in jeans and a T-shirt — it's always better to overdress than underdress in an interview with slacks and a button down.
At the end of the day, it is crucial to know the company culture of the group you are interviewing at (research via social media). You always want to be the perfect mix of elegant, polished, and confident without looking too stiff or too sloppy. So, before you decide to rip up your closet, make a mess of your room and start panic shopping online, take a deep breath and think "what image do I want to portray during this interview?" And only then start selecting basics from your closet that align with this image. And remember, no matter what industry you are pursuing, dress the part, but maintain your personal style.