What to Wear to an Interview (Using Items You Already Have in Your Closet)
We'll just get straight to the point: Job interviews are nerve-racking. No matter how long you've been in the job force or what your résumé looks like, walking into an intimidating meeting with a lot at stake is anxiety-inducing. But there are several ways to set yourself up for success and quell your nerves, like preparing for the right questions (including the ones you plan on asking), doing your research about the position and company, and being personable never hurts. So once we've got all that in line, another tricky obstacle tends to surface: the outfit. If you feel good in what you're wearing, chances are you'll carry yourself with more confidence during the interview.
Since there's a lot of information out there about the dos and don'ts, we decided to ask an experienced talent acquisition manager what to wear to an interview. Anne Kimsey, manager of people and recruiting at Kobalt Music, says, "Personally, I stay away from casual sandals, tennis shoes, low-cut tops, really short skirts/dresses, and anything that is very tight" because it's best to place it safe when you aren't sure what kind of office culture you're walking into. That being said, there isn't exactly a firm dress code.
So instead of searching for one universal interview uniform, it's best to think about the staples that you can dress up or down depending on the position, location, industry, and culture. With that in mind, we worked with Kimsey to come up with a style-savvy, recruiter-approved list of items to shop for or mix and match if you already have them in your closet. With these on deck, you'll never have a last-minute clothing emergency before the big day. Find out what to wear to an interview below to make a good impression and feel your best.
First up, we have the power suit. It's a classic business ensemble and also happens to be having a moment in the fashion spotlight, which makes it the best of both worlds. As Kimsey says, "I do think this varies based on industry. If you are working in fashion, adding a little bit of personal style could enhance your look. If you work in marketing or design, your actual physical résumé might show off your personal style more than the way you dress," but as long as you look professional and don't wear too many distracting accessories, a pop of colour never hurts.
AlexaChung Double-Breasted Houndstooth Wool-Blend Felt Blazer ($744)
"If you aren't able to get any info ahead of time or don't feel comfortable asking, it's always better to be overdressed for an interview. If you are questioning if an article of clothing is appropriate for an interview, you probably shouldn't wear it," says Kimsey. So with that in mind, another great item that feels tailored, professional, and dressy yet has the potential to be playful and show off your personality is the midi skirt. If you don't have any in your wardrobe right now, Kimsey recommends opting for a pencil skirt.
"Recently, it seems like work dress code has become so relaxed and can vary between industries and cities. For example, the general dress code is L.A. is much more relaxed than what you would see in NY," says Kimsey. A good transitional item that you can dress both up or down is a blazer. If the company you're interviewing at feels more laid-back, you can throw it over a blouse and pair it with some dark jeans. Or you could dress it up. Kimsey reminds us that "candidates should feel comfortable asking their recruiter or contact what the recommended dress code is for an interview—I get that question all the time and am always happy to answer."
The one item that will never let you down in an office setting? The button-down shirt. You can make it look more fashion-forward and avant-garde with a half-tuck and printed pencil skirt, or you can look more soft-spoken with a simple pair of black slacks and loafers. The options are endless.
"It's best to do your homework and research the company and overall industry before an interview. If you have any doubt, being professional, presentable, and comfortable will never steer you wrong," she says. If you aren't really a midi-skirt kind of woman, throw on a pair of tailored slacks or wide-leg dress pants. This is a good option if you usually prefer wearing jeans but aren't sure if that would be too casual for the interview.
There's just something about a structured bag that exudes an air of polished refinement. A slouchy bag can feel a little frumpy while an evening clutch isn't very functional and might be overly dressy.
As Kimsey reminds us, "companies will always gravitate toward candidates who are both professional and polished," so investing a pair of pumps or kitten heels that you feel comfortable and confident walking in is a good idea. They'll dress up a more casual getup of dark jeans, a blouse, and a blazer, while also flattering a pantsuit, midi dress, or skirt combo.