how to dress women

How to Dress For a Job Interview (Women)

You’re ready for the interview. You’ve got the skills, the experience, and a list of industry connections that people would kill for….but do you look like someone whom this employer wants representing them to the world? You’re in Sales, so you should already know that image and perception are everything. Make no mistake; anything that’s a little ‘off’ about your appearance or your attire will be noticed and taken into account. While men tend to err on the side of not looking polished enough, women tend to err on the side of not looking professional enough. Remember, you’re not going out dancing, you’re going to an interview. Too much jewelry? Too much cleavage? Raggedy old purse? Chipped nail polish? Scuffed shoes? If so, I guarantee you won’t get the job. Here’s why; you missed the details, and either didn’t notice or thought it wouldn’t matter. That’s all the employer needs to know about you. See, by presenting yourself in the most impeccable way possible, you’re telling the employer that you are aware of these crucial nuances and that you know how to play the game. I can not stress how important this is.
So, we’re going to clue you in to some of these crucial elements and give you the basics of dressing for an interview. Read and learn….

  • Do your homework on the company you’ll be interviewing with. Familiarize yourself with their standard dress code. If you don’t know anyone who works there, spend the time to stake out the front door to find out what current employees wear on the job, then make sure you look slightly better than that for your interview.
  • Don’t ever borrow clothes for an interview. If you don’t own a skirt suit and you’re interviewing at a very traditional company, it’s time to invest in one, and don’t skip the tailoring. The psychological aspect of this is if you look uncomfortable or awkward in your clothes, it won’t be attributed to your clothes; it will be attributed to your personality. Don’t let this happen.
  • Never wear casual clothing to an interview for a Sales position. Even if denim and a polo shirt are the uniform for the sales team, you do not go to the interview that way. Again, it’s about showing the prospective employer that you know how to play the game.
  • I’ve gotten into heated debates about this one, but it is still an accepted standard in the interview ‘game’ that women should not wear pants to interviews. It has no more to do with sexism than saying men should always wear a tie. Again, it’s about showing your prospective employer that you know how to play the game; that you are clued-in to the unspoken rules. There are exceptions to all rules, and of course it is up to you to use your discretion.
  • For a formal or traditional industry (banking, insurance, pharmaceuticals, etc); we prefer darker colors, and a very tailored (not tight) fit to your ensemble. The more casual or progressive the industry, the more you can branch out into looser shapes and warmer colors.
  • Never wear shoes that are lighter than your skirt and stockings. It visually makes you look less grounded, and you don’t want to send that psychological message.
  • Polish your shoes the night before your interview. Scuffed leather, cracked soles and dusty uppers is another psychological cue to your interviewer that you miss the details and they will perceive you as sloppy.
  • Avoid strong perfume. A lot of people are very sensitive to scents and if they smell you coming down the hall, the interview may be over before it even begins. Here’s a general rule of thumb for wearing perfume in an office; spray one good squirt in the air then walk through the mist. That’s it! People should only be able to smell your cologne after a minute or so of standing right next to you. The scent should sneak up on people, not hit them like a ton of bricks.
  • Keep your accessories professional; remove the 6 extra earrings, the 4 rings and the stack of bangle bracelets. Those are for weekends. The only accessories you should be wearing are one pair of earrings that are size appropriate, 2 rings at most, one necklace, and your watch. Take everything else off. You can work your personal style back into your wardrobe after you’ve gotten the job and established your credibility. Your business accessories should be just as minimal; take a clean, polished leather briefcase or tote, and do not take a separate purse. Put what you need for that few hour window in your tote along with copies of your resume. Leave the fuchsia patent leather purse and jangle-y key chain at home. You want your appearance to be clean, uncluttered and classic.
  • Your hair can speak volumes about you and your professionalism; make sure your hair is neat; not too much product, not too wild, and not too stiff. If you have long hair, you should seriously consider pulling it back into a low ponytail or a simple chignon. Long hair left loose usually looks very young and slightly messy. Yes, I agree it is very sexy, but that is not the look you should be going for on the day of your interview. If your hair is short, wear it tailored, not spiky. If your hair is highlighted in ‘chunky’, high-contrast pieces, you may want to seriously consider dying it all one color until you land a job.
  • Makeup- another landmine. Inappropriate makeup will prevent you from getting a job. Seriously. Again, it’s an unspoken cue to your interviewer that you are not aware of what is appropriate for the occasion. Leave the crimson lipstick at home…right next to the blue eye shadow and black eyeliner. If you are not sure what is appropriate, go to an upscale department store and ask for a quick makeover by a sales rep from an established (not trendy) line of makeup. Stick with neutral colors, skip the blush if you can and choose to either emphasize your eyes or your mouth- not both.
  • Leave your ego at home. If you have multiple piercings, an obviously artificial hair color, are known for your flashy jewelry, or have people ask you all the time what perfume you’re wearing, you need to get over yourself and downplay these things before you go to your interview. The point is to dazzle them with your professionalism, your industry knowledge, your social skills and your comfort in stressful situations. You will not dazzle them with your individuality, your trendy fashions or your trademark ‘look’. If there is too much ‘visual noise’ about you, your interviewer will not be able to retain as much of what you said as they would if your look was clean and calming. Again, get the job first and then work your own personality back into your look.
  • Always visit the restroom before you walk into the lobby and announce yourself for your interview; check that your clothes are smooth and buttoned appropriately, you have no strings hanging from your hem, your teeth are clean, your stockings are not bagging and are free of runs, your hair is groomed and your makeup is appropriate under their lighting. Wash your hands and dry them thoroughly so they don’t feel clammy or sticky when you shake hands.

Now go get that job!