So I’ve made my way around the interview circuit, but I’ve only done one corporate interview in my entire life, and after reading Helen’s bit below, I probably credit my lack of a callback to my green platforms and bare legs (also, my shoddy resume probably didn’t help either). Anyhoo—this is definitely Helen’s domain since I start weeping tears of sadness whenever I hear the term “business casual”. So for all of you going for corporate interviews (read: going the smart route and actually making money), here’s her take. Enjoy!
Many of you don’t know me as well – I rarely show my face amongst the uglies. However, I know many of you very well, because I’m the official stalker of the site (aka the CEO). Don’t be intimidated by the corporate title because, in a small startup like Chictopia, what my title says translates to the following duties:
- photographer for the uglies
– coat hanger during photo shoots
– packaging person for chic rewards
– candy dispenser (editor’s note: om nom nom)
I wanted to write this article because I’m been asked this question so many times in the past few months. Partly because as an interview veteran in my late twenties, I’ve been through at least a dozen interviews and have landed quite a few jobs. I can’t say that I’ve mastered the art of dressing for an interview, but I’ll say that I understand the basic rules pretty well. And now that I’m also an employer, I can share a bit more perspective on what the interviewer is thinking when she/he is looking at your outfit.
Should I wear a suit?
Yes, always wear a suit. No matter how hot it is and what your friends say when they see you looking so serious and stiff. If you don’t take yourself seriously, your interviewers won’t either. Black and navy blue are more traditional. If it’s summer, you can get away with a beige suit. But make sure it fits! If your suit doesn’t fit your body exactly, then go get it tailored.
Unless you absolutely look terrible in skirts, stick to the traditional skirt pairing. It looks more friendly and traditional. For those of you who went to catholic school, you should be familiar with the rule – skirt should not go above your index finger, when you hold your arms down.
**Stockings or no stockings?
Wear stockings/tights. There are corporate rules about wearing socks. Darker tights suit cold weather. More sheer ones are good for the summer.
No open-toed shoes. That’s what a lot of corporate policies say. Not to say that you won’t get the job by wearing your new Marnis, but why risk it? Simple black pumps or oxfords will do. Yes, wear heels.
Yes, wear a shirt or a blouse underneath your suit jacket and pick something not too contrasting to the color of the suit. How low can the neckline of the shirt be? Stick to one index finger below your chin.
Stay away from diamonds or anything that is too sparkly. Stay away from rings. When you talk with your hands moving, it can be distracting. Pearls, gold and silver are your friends. No dangling earrings either, you want the interviewer to focus on your face, not what’s to the left and right of it.
Where are good places to find an interview suit?
I know many of you think that Banana Republic or Ann Taylor are beneath you in terms of fashion creative outlets, but they make the best type of corporate clothes. If you really want to stick to the chic stores, Zara and H&M carry good basics. If you have a few hundred dollars to spend, Theory makes amazing suits. In any case, invest in a well cut suit. It’s worth it.
Unless you are absolutely certain that your eye makeup does not smudge, refrain from using too much of it. The last thing you want to worry about is having mascara goo stuck to the side of your eyes. Light foundation, lipstick, and blush are recommended.
What the interviewer is thinking:
- Does she know how to dress for a future client meeting? Will she look off-putting to the client by being too fashionable/outrageous/casual?
- Did she put effort into dressing up for today?
- Does she look comfortable? Are her clothes obstructing her from running around and getting her work done?
Keep in mind that depending on the specific industry and job title, the set of rules above can change. I know for the talented Chictopians out there, rules and restrictions can sound like the antithesis to creativity and freedom of expression in fashion blogging. Maybe this sounds like something Blair Wardorff would say, but for newcomers(to a company), traditions are to be respected. Basic dressing rules at companies are set in place so that people can collaborate better as a team. When you go to an interview, you are dressing to show that you are eager to become part of a powerful team that you admire, and the first step to emerging is to show that you understand the culture. After you land the job, then you are free to inspire others just like you do on Chictopia :-)