Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Style Supplement: What to wear for an interview

It's that time again!  I've got three interviews coming up in the next two weeks which will decide my fate forever.  So I'm gonna try to look awesome.

I always find interview dressing difficult as the whole interview process can be so stressful.   To put it in perspective, having one to approximately fifteen interviews over the last few years, I can say that most of the time, no one really cares what you wear as long as you meet the baseline criteria of looking clean, presentable and professional.  But-- I hear you say, we are fashionable!  We need to look good!  And I totally agree.

Image from J.Crew.
Wearing a polka dot sweater with slim leg pants and pointed cap toe shoes in a monochromatic colour scheme is chic perfection!

I find that there are two major interview outfit missteps: 1) being inappropriate and unprofessional and 2) being boring.  I think most people know how to avoid the former, and the most common problem is the latter.  Being professional is easy, but being professional and stylish is something else altogether.


There are some general guidelines that are good to follow to avoid this particular misstep.

1) No cleavage.
Also make sure you don't have to pull at your shirt to keep it from sliding down.  Gaping blouse buttons (even just a little bit!) are also a no-go.

2) Skirt hems should hover around the knee.
While I don't agree that your hem has to be at the knee or lower, I think it should still be around the knee somewhere.  An inch or two above is fine, and really helps those of us who are a bit shorter look taller.

3) Clean and iron/steam everything!
The quality of your clothes should be impeccable!  Make sure everything's clean with no stains or holes, and ensure you have no strange wrinkles or creases.  If your pants have a crease, make sure its nice and sharp.


There are a lot of guidelines I think are trotted out for interview outfits that extol how to be professional but end up being much too restricting, and everyone ends up looking the same and suspiciously like a waiter.  While you don't want to be too revealing or too crazy, I think showing some of your style is an important part of making you feel good and broadcasting a bit about yourself to your interviewers.  Here's some guidelines I don't like:

1) Wear a collared shirt.
Not a necessity!  I don't know about you, but wearing a collared shirt with a suit makes me very much feel like serving staff.  Collared shirts aren't really my style, and when I do wear one, I generally like to wear it in a different way than with a suit.

2) Wear a black or grey suit.
Unless your interview dress code is very strict (which I think is true for only a handful of situations), don't feel restricted to wearing a black or grey suit.  Unorthodox suiting colours are very much on trend right now and can be appropriate.  I wouldn't advise a bright red or green suit, but something like a cream or rose colour would be great for a spring/summer interview, and burgundy, navy or camel would be great for the fall and winter.

3) Avoid too much bling.
So I have recently realized I have an addiction to shiny.  Being sparkly is like the number two most crucial component of my personal style, so this one hits close to home.  I often see it being advised to avoid too-big jewelry, embellishments and sequins.  However, I think you can definitely incorporate some of these things into your interview outfit appropriately.  At my first residency interview, I wore a grey sequined slouchy t-shirt with a black pantsuit.  I felt awesome and although I looked professional and appropriate, I also thought I stood out in a good way.  It's important to not go too over-the-top; try more muted colours and limited embellishments.

4) Wear nude hosiery.
Just a quick word-- in all but the most conservative of environments, this is an antiquated rule, and no one should feel obligated to wear some nude pantyhose.  It's OK, I swear.

That's it!  What are your go-to interview pieces?



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