Dressing for job interviews – Part 1

Some of you may be thinking of new job opportunities. There are exciting times ahead, but first you need to land that dream job.

That means job interviews – at least one, more likely two or more – and facing these can be daunting. Looking confident and competent will not only inspire your potential new employer’s confidence in you, but it goes a long way to helping you perform at these critical times. Dressing for a job interview needs to be as simple as possible because this is a time when you are going to be thinking about lots of additional things.

In this two part piece, I’m going to break it down for you. In the first part, I will talk about the three basic rules you need to consider when you put together your appearance. In the second part, I will get specific with do’s and don’ts and I will also discuss some of my everyday work outfits and how I would adjust them for an interview.

Let’s get into it.

Do you research

Before you do anything else, do your research. This means finding out what the culture of the company is and what the expectations are in terms of dress. The best way to do this is to consult your professional network (surreptitiously so as not to give away that you’re on the job market).

Also do a Google search of the company and find out what sort of work and clients they have. You can assume a lot from these results, as the dress standards will be as high as those of the company’s clients.

If you don’t find a lot of information, that’s alright, because there are simple rules to follow regardless of the employer. You can also make certain assumptions based on the type of company you’re interviewing with. For example, a professional services firm will expect a conservative corporate look regardless of the industry.

Keep it understated

The first thing to keep in mind when putting together your outfit, is that you do not want your outfit or appearance to be a distraction for the interviewers. It’s best to aim for understatement, or in other words, turn down the volume on your look. Choose simple silhouettes and avoid embellishment. Lace, ruffles, print, studs and zippers all look cool and can give you a sartorial edge ordinarily, but save these for when you’re comfortably ensconced in your new position.

Understatement also means avoiding extremes. Take a pencil skirt, which is standard corporate wear. For an interview, your pencil skirt shouldn’t be too tight, but should skim over your body and end somewhere near the knee, either just above or just below.

Stay true to your style

Keeping it understated doesn’t mean that you need to give away your style. Keep the essence of it but make sure that the edges are smoothed down. This is not a time to experiment with a new look, so staying true to yourself is important.

There are easy ways to do this. Stick with the colours you normally wear and wear your favourite pieces styled professionally. For example, I wear a lot of black and other dark colours. While classic interview wear suggests a white shirt or top, I deliberately chose a black silk blouse for this shoot to demonstrate how I would stay true to my (dark and brooding) look while dressing for an interview.

I also prefer pants as I find them more comfortable and I think they look better on me than a skirt. If you prefer pants, wear them. You don’t have to wear a skirt to an interview. If you prefer dresses, that’s cool too. Pop a sharp blazer on top and you’re good to go. Staying true to your style also means that you can use the clothing you have. There is no reason why you need a new outfit for an interview. Just check your existing outfit for stray threads, fraying hems and stains.

If you do need to buy new pieces, look for things that you can incorporate into your existing wardrobe and will wear again. When I’m looking for something new, I test myself by picturing the item in different combinations. Some say the magic number is three different combinations, but I don’t set myself a rule, I just picture the item in the context of what I already own.

The key is to make sure you don’t end up with something that was a one hit wonder. If you want to buy tailored pieces on a budget, I have a neat trick for you – buy one size larger and get them tailored. I do this all the time, I have some amazing pieces from Asos that fit me just right thanks to my amazing tailor.

Aggie Goss is a Sydney based lawyer and fashion instagrammer @style_by_aggie.

Related articles