The traditional advice to wear a suit on an interview is still valid. This remains true whether the company you’re interviewing with is business casual or professional dress. Oftentimes someone coming in for an interview will be dressed more formally than those actually employed there, but this is nothing to be concerned about. The key is matching the office environment style whether it’s trendy, elegant, conservative, or dramatic. There is more involved to wearing a suit, than simply matching a jacket with pants or a skirt. Here are some other considerations to help you achieve your optimal style when getting dressed for an interview.
1. Consider the industry you are interviewing with. If it’s a creative field you will want to add some unique elements to your outfit, while still keeping it business professional. Consider wearing a trendier pattern or unusual mix of colors. Or match up a unique scarf, necktie, or other accessory. A pop of color with a handbag, belt, blouse or necklace adds a creative touch as well.
2. Choose your shoes carefully. Interviewers have shared with me they sometimes use footwear as an indicator of professional standards and attention to detail. Your interview shoes should be shined and in optimal condition. For men, I suggest thin soled lace-up shoes in black or brown leather. For women wear closed-toe pumps, slingbacks or Mary Janes. Women can decide to get a little more trendy, if appropriate, while still wearing a closed-toe style. Color for women can be more varied; black, navy, beige, gray or two-toned are all good options. I do not suggest sandals, or very high heels.
3. Check hem length of skirt or pants. The hem of your skirt or pants should be observed both in a standing and seated position. As you’ll be seated throughout most of the interview you don’t want the hem to ride up too much. Your skirt or dress should be no shorter than 1″ above the knee; pants should reach the top of your shoe with a natural break when standing, and be about an inch off the floor at the back. When you sit down about two inches of your sock will show. Double-check your socks, they should match either your shoe or your pant hem and come at least to mid-calf. Patterned socks are okay for a more dynamic or creative office environment.
4. Dress in neutrals, with one light, or bright color. This is where a jacket comes in handy, as it provides a dark contrast to a white shirt, or colorful blouse. Men are better off in navy, or gray, women in black, gray, navy or medium blue. I am not crazy about a black suit for men because unless it’s a super-high quality fabric it will show every imperfection The contrast of the jacket is important as it will draw the eye up to your face. A necktie, scarf or pendant will complete your look.
5. Eliminate extra details. When considering the features surrounding your interview suit simpler is better. A dark, solid color suit, classic jewelry, and a conservative cut will help your true personality show through. Keep the flashy accessories and extra details such as leather trim, pick stitch or shimmery buttons to a minimum. You can add more pizzazz when you get the job.
The only exception to the suit rule is a construction job or other environment where you’d get dirty or are working with heavy machinery. In that instance I recommend a collared shirt to gain a look of professionalism without the jacket.