Trust us, we’re not being Chanel Oberlin-level superficial and shallow when we think what you’re wearing really, really matters—for a job interview, that is. “It shows a certain amount of respect for the company and the people that you’re talking to and also just an understanding of the culture of the company,” says Catherine Fisher, career expert for LinkedIn—you know, the professional networking website that many of us utilize to look for new jobs. (It’s OK, we won’t tell.)
“At the end of the day when you’re interviewing with a company, the person who’s interviewing you wants to get a sense that you’ve done your homework, and I think that the most obvious one is how you are appearing in your dress,” Fisher continues. But sometimes deciding what to wear to interview for that dream job isn’t so straightforward. Is there a way to sartorially sneak some personality into pinstriped I-banker suiting? Or more importantly, should you? And on the flip side, is a suit overly rigid and conventional for the hottest tech start-up in town? (But, what about a suit with a hoodie layered in? Just saying.) To answer those questions, Fisher shared some of her fashion-related expertise when it comes to career planning.
Do your research before the interview.
You’ve already read up on the industry and the job function (right?), so take a moment to study the corporate culture. One easy way: Ask someone you know at the company on the dress code. If that’s not an option, do some online digging. Take your investigative skills that you’ve honed from Instagram stalking and turn them toward LinkedIn. Fisher suggests searching the networking site for common connections at the company, your prospective manager/s and also people already in the position you’re interviewing for and check out what they’re wearing in their work photos. (This intel gathering strategy could also work on Instagram and Snapchat, depending on the industry, too.)
How to nail that corporate interview.
For an interview in finance, law, or any otherwise buttoned-up field, definitely err on the side of conservative. “The most important thing is getting a well-fitted blazer,” Fisher says. (A trip to the tailor can also help with that.) She prefers a skirt, but “long gone are the days that you couldn’t wear pants.” The jury is out on the subject of bare legs or comfort-sapping and Kate Middleton-advocated panty hose. While Fisher hasn’t bought a pair of hosiery “in years,” she suggests taking how conservative your environment is into consideration. As for accessories, let your personality peek through a little bit with an elegant pair of stud earrings or a pendant necklace—and you might even get away with a dressier, refined bootie, as opposed to a classic pump.
How to impress for a creative job.
While a stuffy suit might send the opposite message if you’re vying for a hip, cool job in an industry that encourages creativity and thinking outside the box, you still want to “dress appropriately,” per Fisher. (Although, a chic pantsuit is anything but uptight these days.) So watch your hemlines, your necklines, and just be smart about the image you’re presenting. She also points to celebrity stylist, fashion designer, and prolific LinkedIn member Rachel Zoe’s activity on the networking site for pitch perfect examples on dressing for a more flexible, but still professional, work environment. Think: a lace-collared shift dress and non-buttoned up white button-down shirts.
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How to network with the Marc Zuckerbergs of the world.
Ironically, the most perplexing outfit etiquette question is what to wear to an interview in the most fashionably relaxed industry where hoodies, ill-fitting tees, and non-ironic dad jeans constitute the power outfit of choice. “You don’t want to show up to a start-up interview wearing a suit,” Fisher says. “There will definitely be a sense of, ‘Wow, they doesn’t understand Silicon Valley culture.'” But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort. “If you show up sloppy, people might think, ‘Well, if they couldn’t even take the time to iron their shirt, are they going to be polished when they’re speaking to our customers?'” she adds. So make sure your outfit is neat, pressed, polished, and put together, even if, yes, you’re wearing jeans—just not your distressed, beat up ones. If you’re rocking denim, choose a tailored silhouette that mimics trousers, like flares or wide-legs, in a dark wash and pair it with a refined top, like a button-down shirt or neutral-hued cashmere sweater.
How to prepare your outfit.
Now that you’ve decided what you’re wearing, prep the outfit the night before your interview. First, try it on and make sure it’s comfortable. “If you’re doing a lot of standing or sitting, test it out,” Fisher suggests, so maybe do some squats and jump around to make sure everything stays in place. Press out any wrinkles and check to make sure there aren’t any rips or missing buttons, etc. “You want to be worrying about what’s happening in the industry that day, as opposed to, ‘Oh shoot, I have to go iron my shirt and I have to leave in 10 minutes,'” she says.
Lastly, your bag does matter.
“[Your bag] should fit the tone of the clothes,” Fisher advises. So if you’re wearing a suit, opt for a structured leather bag. Or if you’re wearing a printed dress, try a more chic bag in a ladylike silhouette. Whatever you do, don’t overstuff it and make sure it’s free of scuffs, rips, stains, and general sloppiness. Remember, the whole entire package is up for review, not just your resume.