The perfect outfit for every type of job interview
By Lauren Le Vine
You've got a stellar resumé and references up the wazoo, but when you head into a job interview, your appearance dictates how it will go. "It takes about 2.2 seconds to make a first impression, and what you're wearing is a huge non-verbal and often subconscious way of ensuring the interviewer thinks you are a great fit," says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's Connection Director. She adds, "Speaking of fit, regardless of industry or what you wear, fit is the key to looking your best."
Since sartorial choices are often the last thing on your mind when heading into an interview, but your outfit can give you a confidence boost (classic chicken and egg situation), we've narrowed down the field so all you need to prep is your "I just care too much." response to the "What's your biggest weakness?" question.
Knowing what to wear to interviews when applying for jobs such as graphic designer and copywriter can be tricky because the creative world dress code varies from company to company. The great thing about the creative sphere is that you have the chance to express your individuality and really show who you are. Just make sure your outfit isn't too distracting: "You risk sensory overload with an arm full of jangling bracelets or the interviewer's preoccupation with wondering, 'Is that a bird in her hair?'" says Williams.
Dress, $79.99, mango.com; Necklace, $15.99, piperlime.com; Tights, $14.95, gap.com; Shoes, $120, zappos.com
When interviewing for a teaching position, your intellect is paramount to your outfit, so the fashion rules are a little less strict. "As a teacher, the key to your success is commanding attention, and so much of that has to do with your posture and presence," Nicole Williams advises. "The use of your hands and facial expressions to convey information is as important in the interview as your clothes in this industry."
Dress, $98.93, amazon.com; Earrings, $38, piperlime.com; Bag, $72, baghaus.com; Shoes, $89.95, zappos.com
In the financial sector, "You are responsible for one of the things that many people hold most dear: their money," Williams points out. That means your outfit must project confidence with a professional and understated look. Wear a simple hairstyle (Williams recommends pulling hair back), and a suit or dress with a jacket -- always in subdued, more neutral colors. Your shoes, bag, and accessories should also be simple so as not to distract from your qualifications.
Tank, $35.90, zara.com; Blazer, $79.99, mango.com; Pants, $49.90, zara.com; Watch, $75, amazon.com; Bag, $150, bananarepublic.com; Shoes, $159, llbean.com
Much like finance jobs, when you interview for a legal position, you don't want your outfit to outshine your qualifications. Nevertheless, there is a bit more wiggle room when it comes to the interview dress code. "Power is a big part of the legal industry, and -- from my experience -- investing in a beautiful bag or a signature piece of jewelry is a good way of saying, 'I'm here to play and win,'" Williams says.
Dress, $115.99, amazon.com; Earrings, $29.50, bananarepublic.com; Bag, $92; oliviaandjoy.com; Shoes, $69, zappos.com
"One of the interesting things to consider when dressing for an interview in the 'helping' sector is that the focus is not on you, but on them," Williams points out. Your outfit should make others feel comfortable and not overpowered, so think simple: an understated shirt in a soft color, pants, and a neat, polished hairstyle.
Sweater, $49.99, whitehouseblackmarket.com; Pants, $98, bananarepublic.com; Bag, $72, baghaus.com; Ring, $43, panchoandchlo.com; Shoes, $97.99, zappos.com.
P.R. & fashion jobs
When interviewing for jobs in fashion or public relations, your outfit is going to be scrutinized as much as -- and possibly even more than -- your resumé. "In selecting your interview outfit, you'll want to show you're on top of fashion trends, so feel free to wear the color, fabric, design of the season," Williams advises. If you're interviewing for a fashion job, try to wear the brand.
Jacket, $67.20; kohls.com. Top, $17.80; forever21.com; Necklace, $37.62, qvc.com; Watch, $88, piperlime.com; Bag, $94.80, qvc.com; Shoes, $89, ninewest.com
Phone interviews are becoming a lot more common these days, especially to act as preliminary screenings in early interview rounds. It may feel silly to dress up for an interview where you won't be seen, but Sara Sutton Fell, an expert in the online job market and CEO/founder of FlexJobs, recommends wearing professional clothing to put yourself in the career mindset. "Wearing business attire puts you in the right frame of mind, makes you sit up a little straighter and act a little more professional, and give a better interview," she says.
Sweater, $49.90, thelimited.com; Pants, $49.95, gap.com; Necklace, $25, lulus.com; Flats, $24.99, payless.com
Even though the interviewer will most likely only see your top, Fell recommends dressing the part from head to toe -- you never know when or if you'll have to get up. Be careful with accessories, too; depending on camera quality, shiny jewelry may be extra distracting. The backdrop is also key; try to avoid setting up in front of a window or in any room with eye-catching details. Make sure to test everything from lighting to the height of your chair ahead of time -- when you can control so much of the situation, why leave anything to chance?
Blouse, $36.94, asos.com; Blazer, $109.99, mango.com; Pants, $29.50, oldnavy.com; Earrings, $28, piperlime.com; Shoes, $39.90, zappos.com
Still not sure what to wear?
If you're not sure about the level of formality or dress code at a place you're interviewing, Nicole Williams recommends doing some extra research before selecting your outfit. "Nowadays, you can look at LinkedIn profile pictures and company pages to get a feel for how the employees at a specific company dress. A person's profile photo is a perfect representation of what she thinks is appropriate career attire."
At the end of the day, if you're still not sure what to wear, it's still best to adhere to the old-fashioned rule that it's better to be overdressed than under-dressed. Oh, and this great advice from the musical Annie: "You're never fully dressed without a smile."