What to Wear: Job Interview: When In Doubt

Job Interview: What to Wear When In Doubt


I recently read where a young lady felt she was being discriminated because of her attire. She appeared at the interview wearing very inappropriate attire (low rise pants and a tongue ring). When the interviewer inquired about the tongue ring, she explained that she made a poor decision getting the ring, but unfortunately, the ring has to stay in for two weeks so the hole would not close up. The interviewer asked if “that was still the style” and told her the company had a strict dress code policy. It was pretty clear she was not going to get the job.

In this state of economy and the fact that there are more potential employees available than there are employers, it is imperative to present oneself in a way that communicates what the company is seeking in an employee. It is no longer enough to simply show up at a job interview; one must perform preliminary work prior to arrival. It is important to find out the dress policy. It is totally proper to inquire about the dress policy as you want to “fit” into that particular company’s dress culture. But it also allow you to decide whether the company’s dress policy is a good fit for you or is something you can adhere; saving you time and resources.

There could be some situations where you cannot get the information regarding the dress policy. Here are some basic suggestions for dressing for a job interview:

When in doubt, wear a suit. A classic suit in a dark neutral color such as navy or black is an acceptable article of clothing that spans across industries. You may show your personality by simply adding a splash of color with the handbag. If you prefer not to wear a suit, then a sheath with a blazer is also an appropriate alternative.

Keep accessories to a minimum. When interviewing, less is more. It is not a good idea to wear anything that would distract the interviewer. This includes covering tattoos, removing multiple earrings (ladies; men- no earrings), no noisy or bright, huge jewelry and yes, remove the tongue and nose ring. Additionally, make sure that your nails are properly manicured and no bright colors to draw attention. Shoes should be polished (free of scuff marks) and the heels should not be run-down. A closed-toe shoe such a pump would be appropriate (no flip-flops, sandals or tennis shoes)

Make-up. Avoid using a heavy-hand with your makeup for an interview.  Forgo trendy eye shadows, heavy smoky eyes and super long lashes. Lipstick colors should be a neutral shade so the focus can be on what you have to offer the company in terms of qualifications.

Be on Time. It’s not stylish to be fashionably late. Make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your meeting. This lets the interviewer know you respect the company’s time.

Apparently, this young lady was intriguing enough on her resume to validate being invited to interview for the position. If only she had taken the time to do a little more homework, she may have been the newest employee at XYZ Corporation. By the way, the attorney stated that her rights were not violated under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Update:  The Donna Koran wrap blouse is actually a white silk blouse although it appears to look silver metallic in the picture.  It is a good idea to keep the blouse simple (no shimmer or metallic) to avoid distraction of the main purpose of the interview:  to expound on your qualifications not on your attire.

Jones New York plus size sheath dress$89 – macys.com

Donna Karan wrap blouse$1,195 – net-a-porter.com

Miu Miu gabardine jacket$990 – net-a-porter.com

ALICE9 pencil skirt$55 – yesstyle.com

Donatella Lucchi leather shoes$89 – yoox.com

Steven by Steve Madden silver tote bag$98 – nordstrom.com

David Yurman sterling silver earrings$525 – saksfifthavenue.com

Founder | Phenomenal Image
Nancy Gettridge is founder and principal of Phenomenal Image.  Her passion is helping aspiring women achieve their dream careers (Her guilty pleasures are playing Design Home, reading and suspense movies).  Nancy frequently writes about gender bias in the workplace. Key topics include career development and strategy, leadership, and overcoming workplace issues.
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