The style struggle between personality and professionalism becomes especially clear when one is dressing for an interview, a time when first impressions are crucial.
Interviews are often difficult, uncomfortable situations. Aside from the obvious tension and nervousness resulting from the job-hunting process, deciding what to wear for this important occasion can be especially daunting. An interviewee wants to look the part, but also wants to stand out. This is not a time to be boring in one’s attire! Let your true self stand out, while still fitting in to the corporate culture.
I always recommend wearing a suit to a professional interview, because not only are they office appropriate, but suits are also expected in 90% of professional job interviews. I believe that everyone should own at least two great suits—you want to be ready for that second-interview call! The key to wearing a suit is to have confidence: project an air of surety, professionalism, and control. (Remember, there is truth to the saying, "Fake it 'til you make it!) Knowing that you look great can be the first step toward projecting this self-assured image.
Some notes on suits:
- A suit must fit and flatter your shape. Just because suits were originally designed for men, doesn’t mean that a women’s suit should fit the same as a man’s! See a good tailor to help ensure that your suit fits you correctly. Not only will this make you look better, but you will feel more confident. Becoming acquainted with a good tailor or seamstress can ensure that you always look fabulous with the perfect fit.
- Go for a dark color. Suits in dark colors, like black and gray, tend to be more professional-looking and conservative (it may be a good idea to play it safe, on an interview!). Also, dark suits are more versatile; it won't be as obvious should you repeat this outfit during the week. Plus, a suit in a dark color is more appropriate for a variety of functions. However, remember the principles of looking both chic and professional: color, texture, and balance! Pair a dark suit (a masculine piece) with a lovely blouse or shell in a bright color and comfortable texture.
- Wear heels, but low ones. I remember reading somewhere that studies have shown that taller people tend to be more professionally successful, so why not add an extra bit of height? Also, the hemline for suit pants generally falls nicer when worn with a pair of heels. However, I recommend wearing low heels that are comfortable to walk in. Frequently, interview situations can involve quite a bit of walking (company tours, a large parking lot, or simply getting lost), so you want to be prepared to “hoof it” if necessary!
For more on what to wear to the office, check out my previous post: Women at work: what to wear?