Jul 3, 2009

Put Your Best Image Forward: What to Wear to A Job Interview

We all know the first impression is vital when meeting for the first time. I was amazed to learn in a communication class about 93% of communication between 2 individuals is non-verbal. Back in the days when I conducted interviews, a person’s demeanor and image definitely played a role in my hiring decision. With the current economy, jobs are hard to come by and there are additional competition from new graduates of various colleges and universities. So how can people put his/her best image forward to gain an advantage over other interviewees?

Since first impression is important, I asked my good friend and savvy image consultant Michelle T. Sterling, the founder of Global Image Group, to give us some pointers when putting together that important outfit for the interview. Michelle has been featured in many media such as: The San Francisco Business Times, Minneapolis Business Journal, World Talk Female Entrepreneur Radio, FabJob.com, Monster.com, Sales and Marketing Management, Audrey Magazine, American Way Magazine, Washington Woman, Associated Press, Women's Health Magazine, Men's Health Magazine, The New York Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, BBC London, Business Week, Forbes, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire Magazine UK, InStyle Magazine UK and Details Magazine. I used to spend hours trying to figure out what to wear to make the best first impression. I wished Michelle was around to help me back then. Now, we are going to offer useful tips so you can get that extra hour of beauty sleep before “the big interview.”

Part 1, How should women dress for that interview or important meeting?

1. How should I dress for an interview in a conservative industry, such as banking, corporate law, and government?

In general, you want to appear as neat and professional as possible and aim to wear a tailored, structured suit. Women should wear a dark colored suit such as charcoal, navy, or black. A good fabric of choice is virgin wool because you can wear it for 2-3 seasons. Skirt suits are for more formal industries. The shirt should be crisp, tailored, and buttoned-down in white or light blue.

2. How should I dress for an interview in the engineering and science industries?

Depending on where you are in the country, you should wear a well-structured jacket and if not, a button-down shirt and slacks. Interview attire tends to be more formal on the east coast.

3. What are some things that women should NOT wear an interview?

Just say no to: fishnet stockings, tight undergarments, midriff tops, strappy sandals (not professional enough), stilettos, gaudy nail polish, headbands, hats, and nails that are too long. If you want some toes to be free, wear peep-toe shoes. Clothes with polyester, spandex or shiny fabric are not your friends for this occasion. Avoid frilly tops as well. For nails, we suggest subtle colors from the Essie nail polish line.

4. How should I dress for an interview in the retail and service industries?

A general rule of thumb is to look as neat and put together as possible. For the retail and fashion industries, you can dress slightly more fashionable. In the hotel and service industries you can dress more professional.

5. Should I dress according to the job that I am applying for?

You should dress one level above the position that you are applying for in order to build your credibility. Dressing this way will show that you are taking initiative and that you want to move up in the ranks.

6. What are some guidelines on makeup and grooming?

For positions in the conservative industries, you should aim for a Bobbi Brown Cosmetics minimalist look. Remember that you can define your features while looking natural. For fashion industry interviews, you can be a bit more dramatic with the makeup application. Piercings are best if they are for your ears, if they are anywhere else on your body we recommend that you remove them to add to your credibility.

7. What about accessories?

Your shoes should be leather, and closed-toe with a non-chunky heel (no more than 2 inches high)
Jewelry should be simple, tasteful, and small like pearls. If you are wearing a skirt, pair it with tasteful hosiery.
Pack your things in a black structured tote bags are most functional because you can carry more in it.

8. How do you exude power and confidence without being too bold?

Women can do this by wearing pinstripes and creating dark/light contrasts such as black and white.

9. What if you cannot afford a tailored suit?

For your professional career, you must invest in flattering suit. You can find an affordable Tahari suit at Macy’s.

I want to thank my darling gal pal for her insightful expertise. She is absolutely fabulous with her clients and a ton of fun as a shopping partner in crime. Savvy readers, I hope this will give you an edgy over competitors and good luck to anyone looking for a new career or starting one.


  1. Great Post!
    Thank you for stopping by PFS and leaving your comment :0)
    Keep Sharing!!

  2. i really really like this esp since im gonna be hunting for a summer job when i get back from vacation.. thanks for the tips

  3. Awesome post! As I always say, there's only one first impression....
    Have a great weekend, SG :-)))

  4. I love this post! Happy weekend :)

  5. Very instructive, well-researched post, darling! Thank you!


  6. great post and thanks for your comment! xx

  7. I have two St. John suits I keep for interviews. One is beige, the other dark purple. I find a modest, yet stylish, business suit really impresses employers, especially if you are young.

  8. Good post and so relevent at the moment. Dressing well for an interview could definately help bag you that job!

  9. Amazing post, thank U so much...


  10. great tips! the first impression is really everything!

  11. This is such a great advice! I will definitely remember it when I have to apply for a new job! Thank you for sharing those tips! xxoxoxxo

  12. Great tips! It's always better to err on the more conservative side. There's plenty of time to show of your fashion creativity once you're hired!

  13. #5 is so true! Great post especially during these hard times. Great tips to keep in mind as first impressions do matter & dressing the part shows prospective employers that you took the time to prepare. Like it or not, it did impact my hiring decision.

    Thanks for your sweet comment. I hope you had a fabulous birthday and that you'll do a post with your bday goodies :)

  14. thankyou for these tips! merci merci!

  15. Great post and awesome advice, I've been seeking a job in the engineering field for over a year and must say that your pointers are exact.


  16. This was a super useful post! I will definitely keep in mind all these points for future job interviews!

  17. I so agree with fishnet stockings...even without job interview....Smart post SG!

  18. Great tips--really makes me dread job interviews though--there's so little room for personality in an interview. And right now, competition is fierce!

  19. Lovely interview. When I go out for interviews some time in the future I will have to remember all of these great tidbits.

  20. Great post! Especially right now...I think it's so spot on that she mentioned you can find a good suit at Macys-no excuses! :)

    Happy 4th Savvy!

  21. Great advice... Getting dressed for an interview is always a frightening experience :) at least for me.

  22. it really depends on the country, you know (dressing for work)
    even within countries, like east coast in the US is completely different from west coast

  23. Fantastic advice, it is strange to think of how vital your look at an interview actually is. Hope you are having a beautiful weekend :)

  24. I love this...very informative yet to the point. This is something I always have issues with. Not anymore! :)

  25. LOL. it's in issues all the time! great advices!


  26. great post. i love this article. very simple but we need this. some of us doesn't know about this and maybe that make us ignored for some interview.


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