Five Interviewing Dress Tips for Women
Your resume is impressive, you've practiced your answers to every possible question the interviewer might ask, and you've got the perfect combination of experience and skills for the job -- the job is yours, right? Not necessarily. You can sabotage even outstanding job prospects by making a bad first impression because of a clothing or grooming misstep. Follow five basic guidelines to ensure you present a professional, competent image for your interview.
Dress for Success
For an initial employment interview, dress professionally. The old cliché, "dress for success," still holds true for employment interviews, particularly for younger job-seekers. Err on the side of conservative, traditional attire and dressing up rather than dressing down. For women, this means a dark- or neutral-colored suit, a tailored, dressy blouse and matching, mid-heel pumps. A tailored dress topped with a simple jacket is also acceptable. Classy pantsuits are widely accepted in major U.S. cities; if in doubt, choose a dress or skirt over pants.
An Interview is Not a Social Event
You're not going out clubbing. Instead, you want to convey an image of professionalism, maturity, and good judgment. Your favorite little black dress may look really hot on the dance floor, but that is not the message to send to a prospective employer. Your attire should indicate that you're serious about the job for which you're applying, have enough judgment to avoid presenting yourself as a party girl and could readily fit into a professional workplace. Your goal: to stand out for your professional credentials and confidence, not your clothing choices.
Accessories, Hair and Makeup
Another cliché provides apt advice when considering your interview grooming and accessory choices -- "less is more." An unfussy, controlled hairstyle, one or two simple jewelry pieces, such as a watch and wedding ring, and understated makeup are the best ways to accessorize your interview outfit. Your accessories should complement your clothing, not overwhelm it. This applies to fragrance as well -- fragrance should be subtle, if worn at all, to avoid offending anyone or causing distress to those with chemical sensitivities.
Some companies permit their employees to dress casually or display their personal style, particularly in the creative arts, software development and recreation-focused career fields. Despite the prevailing company culture, dress for your first interview in traditional, professional business attire. The one exception is when an interviewer indicates you may "dress down" for your interview. Even in this case, err on the side of conservative choices -- tailored pants, simple blouse and low-heeled pumps rather than jeans and your favorite T-shirt. Once you are hired, you can adapt your clothing choices to fit the office norms.
What to Avoid
A tailored suit or business dress and jacket can convey the right impression to an interviewer, but wearing the wrong thing can have the opposite effect. For initial interviews, women should always leave certain clothing items in their closets. Jeans, cargo pants and shorts are definite non-starters, as are t-shirts or sweatshirts. Don't wear sneakers, flip-flops or boots. And anything that shows skin is the wrong choice -- showing your midriff, bare back or shoulders, or too much leg or cleavage are all taboo in a professional interview setting. As for accessories, don't wear hats, heavy makeup, wild hairstyles or distracting jewelry, and keep body piercings and tattoos covered.