A new year means a fresh start—and for some, a new job. Landing an interview can seem like the hard part, but choosing the right outfit can be almost as tough.
After all, the wrong look can cost you the job. We’ve had candidates show up in flip-flops and cutoff shorts (and you can guess whether they got hired). Even a nice shirt and slacks can give off a careless vibe if something is wrinkled, covered in cat hair or too tight.
On the flip side, the right outfit can make a winning first impression and help you relax. You’re more confident when you’re comfortable and not tugging on hemlines. That translates to a smoother job interview.
Need a cheat sheet? Here are three different interview outfit ideas based on the type of work environment. (If you’re interviewing to be a paralegal, your look will obviously be much different than Chief Officer of Fun at a startup.) When in doubt, contact the HR person who scheduled the interview with you and ask for general dress code guidelines. Here we go!
- Conservative job interview outfit
Finance, law, politics…if you’re interviewing in a conservative environment, play it safe. Start with a classic black suit. (According to experts, orange is the worst job interview color; black is safest.) If you’re wearing a pencil skirt, sit down in the dressing room to make sure it’s long enough and doesn’t pull at the hips. Whether you wear a skirt or a pantsuit, make sure it fits perfectly–take it to your tailor if necessary.
As for suiting material, we’re partial to our Seasonless Wool or Ultra 9™ wool suiting. The latter has a pinch of stretch. Either way, wrinkles fall out of wool and it just plain looks sharp. (What can we say? We’ve been perfecting wool for over a century, so we’re biased.)
Once your outfit is clean, ironed or steamed and impeccably fitting, add subtle jewelry and moderate heels. Since it’s winter, finish everything off with a peacoat or trench coat. For last-minute touch-ups, toss a lint roller in your car’s glove box or tuck a travel-sized one in your purse. Last, don’t forget to breathe. You’ll do just fine.
Here are a few of our pieces we love for conservative job interviews:
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- Creative job interview outfit
Applying for a job in the arts, fashion or teaching? Your outfit can be more fun. Play with color, pattern and texture while staying squarely in “professional and polished” territory. January in particular can be a dull sea of black winter coats, so seize the chance to showcase your personality with a touch of florals, stripes or color. But don’t go too wild. Pick one eye-catcher and keep the rest of your outfit simple in solid, more subdued tones.
Now to accessorize! Unlike conservative workplaces where quiet, delicate jewelry is key, creative settings mean you can wear statement jewelry. As for shoes, heels are always safe, but why not try booties, Oxfords or equestrian boots? Stay away from sneakers no matter how nice they are. (I know. Wait until you get home.) Hint: If you’re interviewing for a job here at Pendleton, you should be at least this dressed up!
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- Casual job interview outfit
At certain tech companies and startups, wearing a suit won’t impress the boss; it’ll get you strange looks. (It’s especially true here in Portland, land of the casual.) The good news is, you can tone down the formality without heading into jeans-and-hoodie territory.
It can be tricky to strike the right balance, so start with a blouse, casual slacks and a blazer to give a “I’m competent” vibe. Then add nice flats and a brightly colored belt or vibrant bag for a down-to-earth touch. And remember, no matter how casual your outfit, it should be well-fitting, well-maintained and not too revealing.
You’ve probably heard the general rule: However employees in your (future) department dress, you should dress one step nicer for the interview. Translation: Even if everyone in the company wears jeans, resist the urge. Save your favorite faded denim for once you get the job! One last tip: Don’t forget to send a thank-you card after the interview. Works every time.
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Good luck—we’ll see you in the conference room!
What’s your go-to outfit for a job interview?