Suiting up for a job interview presents the challenge of fitting in while standing out. Ideally, you’ve pegged the company culture using our checklist from parts 1 and 2 of our 7 part series of Nailing Your Career: The World (Wide Web) Is Your Oyster and Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. Interview outfits are one way to show your fit into the company’s culture; however, you also want to solidify your memorability in the minds of the selection team. Balance is key, and the following uses the “Goldilocks Principle” of too much, too little and just right to guide your interview outfit decision making.
The culture of the company you are applying to might be casual in nature; however, you aren’t showing up for a day of work there, you are showing up for an interview.
- Too Formal: Overdressing for the organization’s culture. For example, showing up in a full Armani finance getup for a business casual environment.
- Too Casual: Looking like you stumbled into a job interview on the way to your family’s summer get together. For instance, wearing open-toed shoes, athletic wear, strapless tops, T-shirts or otherwise revealing clothes.
- Just Right: Dress in business professional attire. Unless specifically told otherwise, aim for one notch more formal than your potential future co-workers.
Comfort is critical. It’s important that the clothes you choose allow you to stand, sit and move around freely. However, taking comfort to the extreme can be perceived as a lack of care or indifference.
- Too Comfortable: Wearing garments that are too big, too long or wrinkled. Things like skipping out on a well-fitting suit, pulling a belt through empty pant loops, tailoring, hemming and ironing your final outfit selection.
- Too Uncomfortable: Putting on apparel that distracts you from the interview due to being ill-fitting. Wearing items such as toe-pinching shoes, tops that ride up or down constantly, or slack-less slacks that force an awkward seated position.
- Just Right: Dress in attire that makes you feel confident walking in the door, portrays your attention to detail and effort, and that doesn’t distract you once the interview begins.
A mutual fit is an essential decision making factor in bringing on a new hire; however, it’s much better to express your personality through conversation rather than your outfit.
- Too Much Style: Gracing the company with the newest runway look. This is not the time to make a fashion statement. Choosing loud statement pieces or colors that keep the attention and assumptions on your outfit instead of your interview answers. For instance, wearing mostly red can be perceived as aggressive, and light pastels can be viewed as timid.
- Too Little Style: Feeling restricted and sticking to the archaic suit and tie combo. Don’t hesitate to add some edge such as a skinny tie, tasteful patterned shirt, a brooch or pocket square.
- Just Right: Black, gray and navy are good neutral colors. Start with these basics and add in accent colors. Adding in a branded color of the company as your accent piece might even send subliminal signals to the interviewer.
Accessorizing has the ability to polish and add the finishing touches to your chosen outfit.
- Too Many Accessories: Throwing on every piece of jewelry in your collection or filling in every piercing you’ve acquired over the years. Choosing bracelets, rings, watches or necklaces that make noise with movement or that you will excessively use as fidget tools.
- Too Few Accessories: Showing up naked of all jewelry. This can be perceived as indifference and lack of care in gearing up for the interview.
- Just Right: Choose conservative, inconspicuous and well-coordinated pieces of jewelry that won’t distract you or an interviewer from your interview discussions. One accessory you should most certainly have is a pen and portfolio to take notes.
Grooming can make or break the sharp appearance of your final wardrobe selection.
- Too Much: Letting everyone know you have arrived well before they see you due to your scent and flare reaching a room before you do. It’s unlikely that you’ve pegged each interviewer’s fragrance partialities and/or their sensitivity to certain smells, so don’t add in extra cologne or jewelry spritzes (in some cases it’s better to avoid it altogether).
- Too Little: Letting your unkempt hair unravel all of your work in preparing your interview outfit. Forgetting to return your hair, beards and mustaches, and hands to a well-manicured state.
- Just Right: Remember less is more; keep hair styles, makeup, nails and fragrance to a conservative maximum.
First impressions are lasting, and you want yours to last you into a career with the company interviewing you. When preparing for an interview, make sure you take time to organize your notes, plan your answers and practice with a willing volunteer. The same goes for your interview wardrobe. Plan your outfit, and ask for a second opinion. There you have it! You are all set to go to your interview with confidence.