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Work Your Look Blog

Fail-Safe Job Interview Outfits: What to Wear When You Don't Know the Company Culture

By Amy Leigh Morgan Jul 20, 2012 5:22PM

They say you only have 30 seconds to make a first impression (no pressure!), so your job interview outfit is a pretty big deal. Obviously, it's important to look polished and professional—but what do you wear when you don't know the culture of the company you're interviewing with?

Believe it or not, it's easy to assemble an arsenal of perfectly neutral (but still impressive) interview outfits from an array of mix-and-match separates. The secret is a low-key, stylish mix of prints and solids. Start with these ingredients: 

  • Black or brown slacks
    When it comes to job interviews, you can't beat a well-tailored pair of slacks. To avoid the bank teller/waitress look, invest in a pair made from nice fabric, like lightweight wool or good cotton—and have them tailored to fit.
  • Two skirts, one printed and one neutral solid
    Everyone looks good in a pencil skirt or a gentle A-line skirt with a hemline that rests just above the knee. Again, fit and fabric make all the difference. 
  • Two tops, one printed and one solid
    Whether you choose button-down or pullover, soft silk or crisp cotton, the perfect interview shirt is modest without being frumpy, flattering without being overtly sexy.
  • Pull it all together with a blazer or jewel-neck cardigan in a solid color that echoes one in your printed skirt or shirt. 
  • Speaking of prints: Keep your prints small and unobtrusive. Discreet polka-dots and demure florals are safe bets for both tops and skirts, while crisp, gingham checks are best reserved for tailored, button-down blouses. 

Now that you have the essential pieces, you're ready to rock. These fail-safe formulas will get you through any interview with flying colors:

  1. Solid, neutral bottoms (pants or skirt) + pretty, printed top + solid cardigan or blazer that picks up a color in your top
  2. Printed skirt (no printed pants, please) + solid top + solid cardigan or blazer that picks up a color in your skirt
  3. Throw on a pair of low heels or ballet flats and you're good to go in almost any environment, from advertising to banking to the tech industry. It's really that simple. 

P.S. It’s okay to be the best-dressed person at the interview. Do your homework about the company, and don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter what the dress code is.
 

What are your fail-safe job interview go-tos? Let us know!

 

19Comments
Jan 2, 2013 4:04AM
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Black or Blue are commonly worn on a job interview.  It does not have to be a suit but one can match blue trousers, slacks or skirt with a nice blouse or shirt, or black slacks or skirt with a white shirt.  Suits are nice but everyone is not comfortable in a suit.  One can select a jacket whether suit jacket or some type of outerwear jacket, (outerwear jacket casual or dressy) it can work.   It depends on the individual, just keeping it clean and professional is the key.   

 

FYI for women, wear a business shoe not a night club shoe.  Men can pretty much wear the basics, pants, shirt, tie, blazer or suit jacket, shoes and a nice hair cut with a nice smelling cologne nothing to loud that sticks to the ink pen after he has left the room.

 

We women take pride in what we wear, at least most of us do, and it takes more for us. I am not into anyone wearing my clothes but if one does not have enough check out your siblings, friends, or parents to see what lurks in their closet then mix and match. 

 

Yes...dress for success and sometimes that can be over-rated.   The main thing is to give the right answers to the interview questions and do it confidently, professionally all at the same time. 

 

P.S. It is understood that everyone may not have the attire to wear to an interview or the money to buy something for the interview.  So check out your shelters to see if the have an organization called "Dress for Success" or simular,  they normally give nice suits, dresses, shoes and other attire free of charge.   Don't be ashamed because they have a lot of good attire such as designer wear of all kinds. 

 

LifeLessons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 19, 2012 8:14PM
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Man or woman.  Get a nice business suit for an interview.  Blue or Black, one solid color.  If there are two interviews, wear the blue for the first.  Black for the second and if needed a grey for the third.  You can mix the blazers and skirts.  I would never wear pants to an interview, unless it was a pant suit.  I may be "old fashioned", but I think the more conservative the look, the more professional the look.  I work in an office and hold the title of supervisor, there is never a second chance to make a first impression.  It is OK to be the BEST DRESSED at the interview. 

Sep 19, 2012 8:13PM
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Not true.  It depends on where you are going for an interview.  I didnt get a job becuase I was over dressed.  I was wearing black slacks with silver pin stripe stitching,  a white button up top and black flats.  Over dressed for the manager possition at a Construction Company :/  I thought I looked professional.  But then again, this was in Berkeley, CA.  Guess I needed to dress like a grungy hippy and come in smelling of Pot Smoke... lol
Sep 19, 2012 7:58PM
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This is Obama's new "Jobs" Program.....
Sep 19, 2012 7:54PM
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I'd just like to have and interview. That's all. I would go naked if it would get me the job...
Sep 19, 2012 7:41PM
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Last time I went to an interview I wore a Suit and tie.

 

Cotton shirt (white ) Light blue or grey Tie) Dark grey or medium grey suit and Florsheims.

 

However I am a man that is a professional.

Sep 19, 2012 7:40PM
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"Interviewing is a lot like dating.  The only difference is, at the end of the date, there is a slim chance you might be naked"  - Seinfeld
Sep 19, 2012 7:31PM
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Wow,

I hope Amy doesn't quit her day job.

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