A great way of expressing that you are the perfect person for the job is to dress the part. It takes about three seconds to make a first impression and what you’re wearing is a huge non-verbal and often subconscious way of ensuring the interviewer thinks you are a great fit. Speaking of fit, regardless of industry or what you wear fit is the key to looking your Most Unexceptional. Don’t hesitate to ask a tailor to help!
When you’re “artistic
In creative fields, you want to do just that, express your inspiration through your outfit. This can be one of the harder industries to dress for because the boundaries are much less defined. In this industry, you have more leeway to express yourself through your clothes, hair and nails via colors, prints, shapes and fabrics. The interesting thing about the creative industry is that whatever you’re wearing should ideally be inspiring you to be your Most Unexceptional in the interview. There is going to be less judgment on the other side of the desk, so make sure it’s something that you feel reflects you and helps your creativity to shine.
There is one caveat with this let-your-creativity-shine-through advice; make sure whatever you’ve decided to wear isn’t distracting to your interviewer. You risk sensory overload with an arm full of jangling bracelets, a mix of too many colors or the interviewer’s preoccupation with, ‘is that a bird in her hair’?
If you’re on Wall Street
In the financial sector what you are attempting to communicate via your outfit is utter confidence. You are responsible for one of the things that many people hold most dear: their money. There are much stricter rules for dress and in a lot of ways, this makes your outfit option must simpler. Very simple hair (pulled back off your face), a suit or a dress with a jacket. If you’re wearing a skirt or dress, in many firms the expectation is that you should be wearing pantyhose.
The good news is that the shape of suits and the style of professional looking shift dresses are very flattering. In this industry, you are choosing a more subdued color. Stay away from neon, loud pinks or Easter egg pastels. The goal is to not distract away from your intelligence and in fact to emphasize your ‘seriousness’. Shoes should also be simple and a professional bag (that is well organized and not filled with kid’s toys and fiber bar wrappers) is a key to conveying an, ‘You can trust me with your money’ message.
Dealing with Patients
One of the interesting things to consider when dressing for an interview in the ‘helping’ sector is that the focus is not on you, but on them – the patient (who in the interview is being played by the interviewer). In this industry, you want to wear an outfit that doesn’t overpower (by virtue of being under or overdressed) and ideally, makes others feel comfortable with your competence. This industry is uniform-dominant with the aim of not surprising people (for example when you walk into a hospital you expect to see scrubs).
When interviewing in this industry think simple. Hair styled in a bun or beyond your ears, ideally with your hair off your face. Wear a modest dress of pants and a button up shirt. Soft colors are preferable. Sometimes when thinking about what works for an interview in an industry it’s helpful to think in reverse: what wouldn’t work. And in this case, anything provocative, a towering, trendy heal, a ton of heavy make-up or perfume. Even if this wouldn’t be your usual selection of wardrobe for you day-to-day job in this industry, make sure it isn’t what you decide to wear for the interview.
Laying down the Law
The legal industry is much like the finance sector where competence is the key message that you are trying to communicate in the interview (as you would be with a client). But importantly, there is more room for conveying a sense of individual style.
Power is a big part of the legal industry and from my experience investing in a beautiful designer bag or a signature piece of jewelry is a good way of saying, I’m here to play…and win. More traditional suits, dresses, a mix and match of jackets and pants should be your staples. You can integrate some individual flair via your accessories – a beautiful scarf, trendy shoes or luxurious portfolio. This is also an industry where a blowout and a manicure can go a long way in the interview process.
Head of the Class
The focus in academia is your brain so this is an industry where the rules are much less strict. As a teacher, the key to your success is commanding attention and so much of that has to do with your posture and presence. The use of your hands and facial expressions to convey information are as important in the interview as your clothes in this industry.
One thing to consider is that the choice of your outfit is also going to depend upon the faculty you’re applying to teach or research within. Many instructors are expected to dress in a way that is consistent with what would be appropriate in the field they are teaching within so you can follow the information above. If you’re applying for a marketing teaching position you’re going to be more creatively dressed than if you were applying to teach law.
The fashion industry is a whole different beast. The outfit you choose is going to be as scrutinized as your resume so you better to be ready to impress. The rule to fashionable dressing is you want to as closely dress to the brand you are applying for. How close? The outfit you choose if you’re applying to Calvin Klein is…Calvin Klein. Discounts are provided to employees so they can afford to wear the brand they are working for exclusively – it’s that important. For the interview bag, borrow a friend's or rent one to get your hands the brands’ tote.
When you work in PR you are an extension of the brands you are representing. That means you really do need to dig in and get a feel for company culture and the companies business prior to selecting your interview outfit.
In PR a business is hiring you to “be them” when you are pitching and sometimes representing them in the media. This means you have to think about your outfit very carefully. In selecting your interview outfit you’ll want to show you’re on top of fashion trends so feel free to wear the color, fabric, design of the season. This is one industry where a dark wash jean with heels and a jacket may fit the bill. Just make sure to roll up your sleeves and wear accessories that dress this ensemble up!
If you’re not sure
LinkedIn profile pictures are the key to success and this question is infinitely easier to get a feel for. Before you go into an interview you should definitely be checking out their Company Pages and the interviewer’s profile.
Not only are you going to get a ton of valuable information about their career trajectory, their picture is a perfect representation of what they think is appropriate career attire and what they think works for them, is likely to work for you. How formal is their hair, their clothes, their posture…all of this will give you some important clues to how to dress for the interview. But at the end of the day and long story short when in doubt: wear a black shift dress.