After what seems like an eternity of job searching, you’ve finally done it – you’ve landed an interview! Congratulations!
Prepping for the interview means studying up on the company, compiling questions and practicing your firm-but-not-too-firm handshake. And if those things weren’t enough to worry about, there’s the time, energy and hard-earned cash to spend on picking out the right outfit. In fact, that last part might be critical. In 2017, dressing inappropriately for a job interview was considered the third most common interview mistake.
So what constitutes a wrong outfit, and how can you make it a right one? What’s the difference between “business casual” and “business professional,” anyway? We’re here to give you the quick and dirty on how to look your best for the big interview – without breaking the bank – by focusing on the three key pieces you need to dress up clothes you already have.
Tip: Make these investment pieces last as long as possible. Read your labels, wash with the pre-measured ease of Tide PODS and toss in some Downy Unstopables to keep them smelling fresh-out-of-the-wash for up to 12 weeks.
The key to success in building your interview wardrobe is investing in pieces you can mix and match to accommodate any situation.
A well-cut blazer can add an air of adulthood to nearly any outfit, and is critical to pulling off business professional or business casual. Match it with jeans (no holes!), heels, earrings and a simple but quality T-shirt for a business casual environment, or dress it up with slacks and a button-down for the business professional workplace. Pick one in a neutral color – think black, gray or navy blue – so you can use it over and over. And don’t be afraid to show some personality! Pair your blazer with a patterned top (or even a concert T-shirt once you have the job) to show off your personal style in a pulled-together way.
Pencil skirts are the definition of interview appropriate: They’re conservative but not dowdy, stylish but not trendy, understated but not boring. Paired with a button-down shirt, they pull off the appearance of a suit (though you can certainly add a jacket for more traditional interviews). But they can even work their professional magic on a more casual shirt. Just make sure you tuck it in to take advantage of the streamlining effect of a higher waistband.
A statement necklace is a focal piece of jewelry you pair with little or no other embellishments – it stands alone as an accessory. Try throwing one on over a plaid flannel shirt for a funky-yet-sophisticated vibe, or with a traditional suit to add some flair.
A great suit is a great investment, but for those first interviews, it can be more than the budget allows. Instead of borrowing Dad’s go-to wedding suit from the 90s, pick a few key pieces to create a faux-suit that looks totally fantastic.
These are more or less a must-have, but don’t feel like you need to splurge on Italian leather. Focus on getting shoes you like that are actually comfortable (some interviews take a while, or you may have to walk a few blocks in them if you’re interviewing in a major city). The right pair can go with slacks, but we especially love how they dress up nice jeans and a button-down shirt.
The ultimate grown-man move, a sports coat pulls together pretty much everything. Seriously, guys, we’re not sure if we can fully express the leeway a great sports coat buys you in building your interview wardrobe. Throw it on with khakis, corduroys or even tinted, fitted denim, add a (nice) T-shirt and you’re in business for business casual. Choose a coat that’s neutral to make the most of it.
Tip: Freshen up hard-to-wash items like blazers by spraying them with Febreze FABRIC.
Let’s be clear here, guys: No, a clip-on doesn’t count, and yes, you need to learn how to tie it. A tie is absolutely necessary in the interview wardrobe. Business professional workplaces require them, and even business casual places appreciate them. They show that you take care of yourself and know how to express your personal style. Get at least one in a solid neutral, like black, gray or blue, but pick out a paisley, gingham, spotted or polka-dotted one to sneak some fun into the same old, same old suit and tie.
Before You Walk Out the Door
Ahead of any article of clothing, making sure you’re well groomed can go a long way in winning over your interviewer. Remember to brush your teeth, fix your hair, check your deodorant and keep any perfume or cologne to a minimum (better yet, skip it altogether). These last little checks will not only show your interviewer that you’re taking the job seriously, but they’ll leave you feeling confident and calm through their toughest questions.
Now get out there, and good luck!