I distinctly remember trying to put together an outfit for my first real job interview. The night before the big meeting I went through every piece of clothing I owned, trying to mix and match outfits that would equally convey my love of fashion with my experience in the industry. I was 19 years old, interviewing for a store manager position at a local boutique, and I wanted to look smart so I could land the job. Truth be told, I ended up wearing something “safe,” which consisted of a button-up blouse, black pencil skirt, and patent leather high heels. In hindsight, it was secretary-chic and rather boring, but I landed the job and went on to run a million-dollar store.
The point is, first impressions are important, especially when you work in fashion. Here are 3 style strategies to keep in mind when putting together the perfect job interview outfit.
1. Black is Boring
We’ve all heard the saying, “when it doubt, wear black,” but when it comes to interview attire, nothing could be further from the truth. “Black is a recessive color,” explains Styled Seattle founder Darcy Camden, “and it makes you look boring.”
Of course, you can wear your favorite black pants, or a beautiful black blazer to the interview, but head-to-toe black is out of the question. Instead, showcase your personality through the color and texture of your outfit so your interview impression is memorable. Colorful, printed dresses, brightly colored jackets, and even printed pants can all be interview appropriate with the proper styling. Black is easy to forget, and you don’t want to miss your opportunity to shine.
Showcase your personality through the color and texture of your outfit so your interview experience is memorable. Colorful, printed dresses, brightly colored jackets, and even printed pants can all be interview appropriate with the proper styling.
2. Keep it Simple
The perfect interview outfit is one that fits properly, looks polished and makes you feel confident. Keeping it simple is not to be confused with looking basic. In this case, simple means your outfit shouldn’t overpower your accessories, instead, your apparel should compliment a great handbag, killer pair of shoes, or even a statement necklace. When you overcomplicate your look, your outfit may end up becoming a distraction.
“When I interviewed for my position at Forbes, I wanted something flattering that made me feel confident,” said Natasha Lekwa, social media editor of Snapchat at Forbes, “I ended up wearing a tailored dress with built-in shapewear so that I didn’t have to deal with Spanx, and wore red lipstick because it’s my power color.” Simple, yet effective. Needless to say, she got the job.
3. Take a culture cue
In an industry like fashion or media, where first impressions can literally make or break your career, the importance of the interview outfit takes on new proportions. Your outfit should showcase your personal style and understanding of current fashion trends while also communicating that you would be a natural fit for the company. When I worked for Zumiez in the action sports industry, the company culture was very laid back. Buyers would skateboard around the office and high-level managers had an unofficial dress code of jeans, t-shirts, and beanies. Showing up in Louboutin’s would have been a serious culture clash!
Do your research before your interview and make sure understand how current employees dress. If the office vibe is casual, take your outfit up a notch, but don’t be so over-dressed that you look out of place. When ClassPass Chief Marketing Officer Joanna Lord was interviewing for her role, she knew a traditional suit wasn’t appropriate. So she found a balanced way to infuse her personal style and the company culture. For the big interview, she wore a bright blue blazer layered over a silk top, black pants, and pumps and accessorized with gold jewelry.
When it comes to choosing your outfit for the interview remember that what you wear should make you feel confident and communicate that you understand and evoke company culture and values. After all, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression so find an interview style that works for you.