Dress For Success: What To Wear To An Interview (Part 1 - Women's Edition)
Happy September! I hope you are well and that your month is off to a wonderful start.
One of my close friends, Hilawe, inspired this two-part series when she was telling me about a recent encounter with an interviewee in her companies' HR office, who came to his interview with a mission to impress. He later got a job offer, but declined it.
Love when applicants or interviewees have the option and power to be able to do that. This is because they carry something more than just the qualifications for the job vacancy. They also carry a strong personal brand. This makes them high in demand and, therefore, allows them to command and influence attention. Most people go into job interviews hoping to be picked. The process can be extremely tiring and discouraging. We must be able to change that perception the other way around because companies and organizations need you. You are the “resources”; talent, skill, experience, they need to get their jobs done in the most effective way. And because of you, they are able to meet their objectives and they are also able to make thousands, if not, millions of euros/dollars more income than your paycheck. So, take your power and influence back by building an influential personal brand.
A part of building a strong brand is making a great first impression. As you already know, first impressions are lasting impressions, so you have to exploit this one chance to communicate whatever message you want to the employer. If your goal is to portray ‘qualified’ to the position, then you have to look the part. Your image and what you wear alone can communicate who you are and what you can bring to the table, so bring your best with you.
Before I moved to Italy, I worked in HR in beauty and healthcare sector in Saudi Arabia, and part of our hiring assessment included how put-together the applicants looked. So, I know, first hand, that most HR or hiring managers will closely look into your non-verbal communication as part of your entire assessment.
I would always advise job seekers to plan their image or outfit at least a month prior to their interview. Start planning by doing a little research on the company culture. The best way to do that is to begin searching for the company name on LinkedIn. If you click on people, you will find the company’s employees’ profile account. Look at the employees’ profile pictures and you will get the feel of the dressing culture in that company.
I would recommend that you dress up in any case. “When in doubt, always dress up. It’s better to be the best dressed, than basic.” I would like to think I made that up because it's been my slogan/philosophy on dressing up for any occasion for as long as I can remember. The goal is to stand out from other applicants and to be remembered by the potential employer. Later, when you are hired, you will adapt to the company’s dressing culture and might have to bring it down a notch in case people don’t dress so formally in the office.
I understand that it can be a bit overwhelming to select the outfit/s to wear to interviews from your closet. When I was actively looking for a job, I had two to-go-to outfits/looks to wear for any important professional or interview meeting. It saved me the trouble of making that decision every time I had an interview. I knew exactly what to wear, with what shoes, accessories, the hairstyle I’ll sport that day and everything. So I would highly recommend you to have an interview uniform, as it’ll simplify your dressing up process.
I'm assuming that you already know:
Your skin undertones
Your body shape/type
Your personal style
Knowing the above qualities will allow you to customize your professional or work wear better. If you need me to specifically address each one in future blog posts, then let me know in the comments below. If you would like to learn how to develop your work wear style then read here.
For this occasion, collared shirts are the best. Your shirt could have nice ruffled, or button details on the shoulders, cleavage area or cuffs for an interesting look. Neutral colors are always safe and classic, however, feel free to play with muted colors as they are more preferable than bright ones. You want to stand out while embracing modesty and overly bright colors can be empowering and distracting. I would also avoid animal print or any type of print on clothes. On shoes maybe, but clothes, no.
Wear trousers that have a crease line running down vertically in front of the pants for a sharp and sophisticated look. Long or cropped pants are ok according to your body form and the style you prefer. I would avoid wearing chinos or jeans to an interview, as they could appear casual. The pants should be of the right fit, not too loose, and definitely no skinny pants. If you decide to wear a skirt instead, a high-waisted pencil skirt is extremely smart just make sure it is at knee-length and not below the knees.
If you’re wearing a complete suit, then great. Go for a single-breasted one. Otherwise, you can wear blazers. Tailored or classic-shaped blazers are the best, as they bring the whole outfit together. Patterns or some color are also alright as long as the shape is flattering and looks professional. The blazer should not be below hip level nor should it be too long.
Heels or stilettos are fine. Just be certain that you are extremely comfortable in walking in them. You do not want to wobble, tremble or trip your way into that interview, as you want to look capable for the job. Colors and prints on shoes are fun, but if your interview is with a conservative company, then go for neutrals instead as they are always safe and still elegant. By neutrals I mean, nude, brown or black. If you feel more comfortable in flats, loafers or flats with pointed toes or flat boots with a sleek and slim profile are preferable.
Accessories are expressive, so make it personal to reveal your personality to your prospective employer. Pick sturdy and well-shaped/structured bags for a polished accent to your look. When it comes to jewelry, subtle goes a long way. So, opt for sophisticated shaped watches, earrings, bracelets, necklace and rings. Brooches are elegant additions to your suit or blazer. Depending on your field, say, if you are in finance or education, I would avoid wearing facial (piercing) jewelry, as it’ll distract the interviewer.
Hair, Makeup, and Nails
As far as hairstyles, whatever you choose, make sure your hair is away from your face. So you can rock a sleek straight hair and wear your hair behind your shoulders. Same if you're going for loose wavy hair or natural hair. Other ideas for hairstyle include a high/low bun or a sophisticated ponytail with a sleek finish, and braids.
Your makeup should be natural and well blended. Your foundation should be naturally in-tune with your skin complexion, giving you a healthy glow. If your foundation makes you look sick, grey, or pale then you have the wrong shade. Consult with makeup specialists at makeup stores to give you the right shade for your skin undertones. I would advise to avoid colorful eye-shadows and use very light brown shade if you have to. For lipstick, go for light colors. Last, apply little blush for healthier glow.
Manage details as little as nails as they actually have a big impact on your overall image. Nails must be well kept with light colored polish, or french tip manicure.
Fragrances can be a little tricky. You never know what your interviewer is like and whether he/she enjoys perfume or not, or worse if they are allergic to it. So it's better to avoid at all costs getting on the interviewer's bad side. So instead of making it about your signature perfume, make it instead about class or freshness. So, use powdery, musky, perhaps jasmine, amber or like-water type of smelling perfumes or lotions instead. Remember not to overdo it.
Last but not least, don’t forget to bring your A-game and confidence with you! You look good, feel good, now it's time for you to go do your thing. You got this. Best of luck.
If you'd like to get in touch with me then email firstname.lastname@example.org or let's get in touch through my social media profiles. I love connecting with my readers. :)
Sending your way lots of love & well wishes,