Interview style recon

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It can often be difficult to figure out what exactly to wear to your first interview. And while I stand by my claim that you can’t go wrong with this number, the right outfit can vary by occupation and industry.

If you’re going to interview at a larger company and have the benefit of some spare cycles prior to your interview, a small lobby stake-out can tell you a lot about the workplace attire. However, it may not reveal what’s expected of you as an actual candidate. As an example, I worked for a number of years in the engineering arm of a high profile software/hardware startup. While I wore jeans, company logoed unisex tees, and Keds to work, my expectations were that everyone I interviewed would come prepped and dressed to show me their interview dance. Even in that most laid-back environment, a suit was a given for at least the first round and the absence of one didn’t go without remark.

Cue Glassdoor.com. Although I have visited Glassdoor before, it wasn’t until today that I had noticed that some users were including comments on attire. The volume of posts that include style comments is low, but it could lend some insight into what you can expect. You need to join if you want to view more than ten reviews but accounts are free so there’s not much to lose. And, Glassdoor reviews cover a wealth of meatier topics that can help you know what to expect and get you prepped for questions.

It’s a great time for a new suit

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Did you know that January is considered one of the best times of the year to buy a suit? It is. According to Who What Wear, since January is considered a slow month for suit sales, retailers often lower prices to boost business.

Given it’s the last Friday of January, that means it’s a great time to shop the sales for a new suit.

High on the places you should start looking? Ann Taylor, where they are offering 50% off your entire purchase, in store and they have a great selection of marked down suiting separates online which are and extra 50% off as well. Most major department stores (think Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s) have some good finds (plus an extra percentage off this weekend) if you’re willing to spend the time digging through their sites.

My find of the day: a stretch silk shirt from Brooks Brothers.

Stretch Silk Blouse - Brooks Brothers

Um, hello? Did someone say stretch silk?! A silk blouse that won’t look like a train wreck after the first ten minutes?! I find Brooks Brothers to offer excellent quality, but often a cut that doesn’t work well for me, so I don’t often shop them. But I occasionally stumble on great (and more affordable) finds in their sale section and it’s worth checking out what’s lurking in there every now and then.

In the wild: marketing consultant

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What just walked through my door? Our marketing consultant in an Ann Taylor outfit that kills it.

In the wild: marketing consultant

What made this ensemble sing? The blush shell (almost like the one shown but with no embellishments at the neckline) and a rose-gold Michael Kors chronograph watch worked to soften up the brown suit and were spot on compliments to her skin tone and hair color. The large tote (again, almost a match to the one she was carrying) was large enough to let her slip her laptop inside-she was our PowerPoint queen-eliminating the need to lug along a clunky and ugly company issued laptop bag.

The ritual of the interview outfit

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Tip: the interview is about showing an employer how well you fit in. Once you have the job, you can show them how well you stand out.

No, seriously. It is. Some jobs may require you to be “artistic” and others may be looking for “out of the box” thinkers, but employers are all looking for you to fit the job description and ideal they’ve already created for themselves for who they plan to hire. For all jobs, this means dressing the part—and for most corporate jobs, this means nailing a variation on the interview outfit.

To this end, I submit the classic, neutral corporate interview outfit—ready for that first interview.

classic, neutral first interview outfit
*Editor’s note: Ignore how aspirationally priced these pieces are—I wantonly pulled them together from Polyvore. Future posts will be more soundly grounded in reality.

Now naturally some industries have a more prescribed uniform than others, but this number hits all the high points and reinforces the fact that you are no stranger to this part of the ritual of hiring. What makes it a can’t miss? Since it’s not a matchy-matchy suit, it looks less rehearsed (good for most industries, but not all) and you’ll be able to wear both the jacket and pants to work as separates once you land that job. Also, in the event you’re partway through your meeting and feeling way overdressed, you can slip off the jacket and dress things way down because—you’re wearing a tee (bonus points for comfort and, because you’re not wearing some fussy, sleeveless silk shell, you actually can take the jacket off!) The bag is large enough to hold a folder with copies of your resume without crushing it. And the understated watch, earrings, and shoes all quietly communicate that you pulled your look together in a calculated way.

Oh, and don’t forget to actually look at that watch—it’s not just for sending the subliminal message that you are a professional—it’s there to keep you on time!