Interview Attire for the Recent Grad
As a recent grad, I had a hard time finding interview dress guidelines that were both specific and geared towards those just starting out. And I mean just starting out. So I compiled my own personal set of guidelines geared toward the young modern woman. While I think these guidelines apply to anyone interviewing for a job, if this is your first time putting on a suit, or your first interview for a job that doesn't involve coffee or sandwiches, this list is definitely for you!
- It's a good idea to be completely ready with an interview outfit before you even start looking. You never know, maybe the first company you call will want to meet you tomorrow. If you're graduating in the spring and short on cash, check out the outlet stores right after Christmas for good deals. Check out stores like Banana Republic, Anne Klein, or J. Crew outlets for attractive, modern (and nicely discounted) suits.
- So how do you choose a suit? First of all, make sure it fits! Suits fit differently then the jeans and tee shirt you might be wearing from day to day. The sales women can be very helpful in determining fit. Good rule of thumb: if you can button it all up as you would wear it day to day without any pulling and with free range of motion, than it probably fits. Skirts should be around knee length and both pants and sleeves should be hemmed if necessary. Many stores offer hemming and it's worth the price to have a great suit that isn't pooling around your legs or covering you hands.
- Next you need to pick the color. The traditional line is go for a dark, conservative suit with a white or otherwise conservative button up shirt. While going this route certainly isn't a bad idea, I think there is something to be said for standing out, in a tasteful way, of course. So let's say you get a black suit? Then choose a deeply pigmented blouse that's in a color you love (I'm not saying neon, but jewel tones look good on most everyone). You love the way you look in a white shirt? Choose a light gray or subtly patterned suit. You don't want people to remember you only for what you wear, but in a sea of white and black interviewees, it's good to set yourself apart. My personal opinion is that you should buy a suit with both pants and a skirt, but wear the skirt to the interview. Cause everyone loves a girl in a skirt.
- That said, if you're going to wear a skirt, you should probably wear pantyhose. If you have truly lovely, unblemished, faithfully shaved and moisturized legs, it's probably ok to skip them. But if you don't have legs like that (like most of us), a pair of nylons can go a long way. Buy a few pairs. If the rest of you isn't tan, don't buy 'suntan' nylons. It looks tacky. Also, don't forget the wonders a pair of control top pantyhose can do for that pencil skirt.
- A note of blouses. In an interview, the last thing you want to do it be fidgeting around with your clothes. I am a big fan of button up bodysuits for this reason. You can find them a variety of places, but I really like Victoria's Secret's version. It might seem like a strange idea at first, but it will keep you looking pulled together moving around all day. Get it large enough so there is no pulling across the chest, it's not tight in the arms, and there's no cleavage showing. You'll have plenty of time for that once you get the job. Only joking.
- On to shoes and jewelry. Going with well-cared-for, closed toed heels and some nice, understated jewelry are always a good way to go. Most guidelines will say go with a low heel. Again, you can't go wrong with that advice, BUT if you can walk like a champ in stilettos (and more importantly if they make you feel like you can conquer the earth) go for it. Same with jewelry. Pearls and a watch are great, but don't be afraid to wear a single, memorable-in-a-good-way piece.
- So now you have your whole outfit ready to go. CRUCIAL NOTE: Lay out your whole outfit, jewelry, shoes, everything. Take scissors and carefully remove any tags. Now turn over your skirt and jacket. At the back, do you see a sewn-in little "X" at the bottom of the pleat (vent, kick, whatever you want to call it)? This is only temporary and is meant to keep the garment looking good while it's on the rack at the store. It will make the suit fit funny if you leave it there. TAKE THE SCISSORS AND CAREFULLY CUT IT OUT. While you're at it, double check every winter coat you own and make sure you're removed it there too.
- Most importantly, make sure you're comfortable. If you feel like you're wearing your mother's suit, you will look like you're wearing your mother's suit. Wear it around the house, break in your shoes in your pajamas, dance in front of the mirror, whatever you want.
- Now you have an interview! Luckily, your suit is all ready to go. How do you get ready for the big day?
- The night before, give your outfit another once over. Iron everything. Make sure you follow the instructions on the tag for ironing the suit. It might be awkward to walk backwards out of your interview because you burned it with the iron. Polish your shoes if it looks like they need it. Now is a good time to think about what you want to do with that nose ring, neck tattoo, whatever. I would take out any piercing except for one in each ear. If you have a tattoo that will be visible, that's going to be a judgement call. If it's a little flower on your ankle, that's on thing, if it's a jail tat with a variety of misspelled words, probably time to get some of that tattoo covering makeup. Finally, take a look at those paws. Unless you are a religious about manicures, go with short, clean, moisturized, and clear nail polish.
- Now it's the day of the interview. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get ready and get there early. As for makeup and perfume, keep it light. In fact, skip the perfume entirely. You never know what kind of allergies you interviewer has, and you don't want to be associated with an allergic reaction when they're reviewing your application. If you are carrying a bag, make sure it looks nice and matches. Throw some bobby pins, a hair brush, a mirror, some Chapstick, and and extra pair of pantyhose in there. You won't regret it.
- As for hair, I've heard a variety of opinions on this one. So here are my thoughts. Hair above the shoulder: wear it down and neatly styled. Hair below the shoulder: wear it down only if it is very neatly styled and professionally cut. If it's unruly or you cut it yourself or your having a terrible hair day, pull it back with an attractive clip or ponytail with some hair wrapped around the band and pinned into place. It looks professional, it's easy, and you don't have to worry about it during the interview.
- Once you get there, leave your jacket on an buttoned for the interview. Try not to fidget with your clothes, hair, or jewelry. Stand up straight and put your shoulders back. How could they NOT give you the job?
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