The Hotpants Guide to Interview Attire
Hi, I’m Hotpants.
I’ve been a fashion blogger for a long time on www.DoTheHotpants.com. I like to write, and I like fashion. I’m also a crazy feminist.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that “find a new job” was one of your New Years Resolutions. Well in 2015, I spent the better half of the year in and out of job interviews. I had an okay job, I wanted a better one, I found a better one, then I got laid off of said better one, then I had to find an even better one. So I’ve decided to share my knowledge of interview attire do’s and don’ts with you, because I hope my hard-learned advice can help you fulfill that new job resolution.
So without further ado….Here’s The Hotpants Guide To Interview Attire!
Unless you were told specifically not to wear a suit, WEAR A SUIT.
While some of you might feel like a suit is “giving in to the man” or “going too corporate,” a suit is necessary at an interview.
Arriving in a clean suit says, “I’m not here to be fashionable or funky. I’m here to work hard and be a valued member of your team.”
In an interview, your clothes don’t tell the story, YOU DO.
It doesn’t matter if you agree with this or not…If you want your potential new job to take you seriously, leave the hodgepodge thrown together outfits at home, and invest in a suit. Never try to dress “cool” or “unique” for an interview.
The sad truth about interviewing is this:
No matter what job you are applying for, whether it’s at a top New York City hedge fund (I interviewed at a lot of those), or Vogue called you and begged you to come interview to be Anna Wintour’s #1 Assistant (yes that actually happened), a company is looking for an employee who isn’t going to make waves and who will follow the rules. As cliché as it sounds, companies want TEAM players. And they want TEAM players they can control. Trying to set yourself apart from the crowd by dressing “cool” on the first interview round will just being doing yourself a disservice.
Your suit doesn’t have to be expensive!
You can find perfectly good suits on a budget at Goodwill. The suit I’m wearing here is from Express. It was under $200. It is not tailored and it doesn’t fit perfectly, hence the bunching and tightness in certain places. But a clean black suit paired with the correct accessories (or lack of), will give the overall impression that you are calm, collected, and well put together.
It’s your choice whether you wear pants, capris, wide leg, straight leg, a maxi skirt, or a knee length skirt.
But I will say this. I always wear above the ankle pants for the following reasons:
-My pants don’t drag on the ground getting dirty
-I never have to get them tailored for length if I buy them online or straight off the rack.
-And I feel like I am taken more seriously in pants than in skirts (actually I KNOW I am taken more seriously). No one checks out my legs, and I don’t have to worry about shaving. I don’t have to worry if my skirt is the correct length for that specific company’s culture, or if it twisted around and the slit is now riding up my butt.
Remember, sexism in the workplace is very much alive and well. While it’s not your fault, it IS the world we live in, and it’s difficult to avoid. If you do decide to wear a skirt, make sure that it’s not too tight, that it’s knee length or below, and if it does have a slit, that the slit is in the right place when you walk into the building.
One of these days, shit like a woman’s looks, and whether her clothes are too frumpy or slutty won’t matter. But right now, it does. And until it doesn’t, I’ve got bills to pay.
THE BUTTON UP SHIRT:
My black shirt here is just a personal preference. If you’d rather wear white, then absolutely do it! Grey and any variation of black and white is also an option (pinstripes, etc.).
One advantage of wearing a black shirt is never having to worry about spilling coffee on myself and going into an interview with a stain on my shirt. An all black outfit is easy to keep clean, which means I’m able to wear my outfit multiple times before having to pay for expensive dry cleaning.
Just make sure you keep a lint roller in your bag!
Right before you walk into the building, do a final lint roll of yourself and remove any unsightly fuzz or dandruff.
If your hair is past your shoulders, put it up and get it out of your face. There is nothing professional looking about wild hair, or hair that might frizz out by the time you get to your interview. If your hair is out of the way, it’s one less thing to worry about when you arrive.
Remember when I had bleached ends? I hid them in interviews by tucking the bleached parts underneath my bun. If you have colored portions of your hair, hide them in an updo, or wear a headband to cover them up.
Be strategic about your hair color too.
Want to dye your hair a weird color for 2016, but also want to get a new job? Hold off on dying your hair until you find out if your new employer is OK with it. There’s nothing like not being considered for your dream job just because you wanted to try out the gray hair trend.
Minimal is the key word here.
People tend to move their hands a lot when they talk. And you’re going to be doing a lot of talking during your interview. If you’re wearing a flashy or colorful ring, or bracelets that move around on your wrist, you’re going to draw attention away from your face while you’re speaking during your interview.
For all my interviews, I wore 2 silver rings and grey pearl stud earrings. I like the way the earrings frame my face and match the color scheme of my outfit. If you choose to wear jewelry, keep it simple. Minimal rings, maybe a watch, and only stud earrings if you decide to wear earrings at all. Nothing dangly or flashy that draws attention.
Tattoos — Hide ’em.
Unless you’re applying for a job at a tattoo parlor, cover up! Like I said before, companies aren’t looking for people going against the grain. Maybe down the line they’ll want you to think outside the box on a project, but for now they want to know you’re a solid, smart, and EMPLOYABLE person.
Believe me, I have 5 tattoos! I know what I’m talking about!
A while ago I interviewed at Refinery29, the COOLEST and HIPPEST employer I have ever met. When I got there, I realized my entire look was a bit too corporate. So what did I do? I took my hair down to expose my bleached ends (this was in the summer), and I cuffed my sleeves to show off my wrist tattoo. That was all I needed to do to “funkify” my outfit. Any more “funkiness” and I would have looked like I was trying too hard to be cool without properly assessing the company’s culture. It took me all of 2 minutes to remove some of the “corporate-ness” of my outfit but still remain professional looking. I actually received compliments on my look that day.
YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR. And if they’re looking for something a little more laid back, just take your hair down and unbutton your jacket. Remember, no matter how cool the company is, you’re still at a job interview. Never be in a situation where you regret leaving your suit at home…
Buttoning and unbuttoning your jacket.
Rule of thumb: While standing, keep your jacket buttoned. When you go to sit down, unbutton it to keep it from bunching up while seated. Button it back up when you stand again.
Shoes — Make sure you can walk in them.
Because I still love fashion and try not to let my interview outfits feel completely soul-sucking, I try to add a bit of character with my shoes.
Hotpants Shoe Rules:
-No open-toed shoes. EVER.
-The chunkier the heel, the better. Chunky heels are easier to stand and walk around in.
-Go with a dark color or a nude, and don’t draw attention to your feet. Let them be more of an accent to your outfit than a statement piece.
-Not sure? Go with black, plain, medium to low heels. You can get shoes like this from Payless and no one would ever know.
Makeup — neutral, Neutral, NEUTRAL!
Again, sexism is alive and well in the workplace. Women are constantly faulted for being too sexy, or not sexy enough.
Neutral colored makeup will help keep the attention and focus of the interview on your words and your skills. Remember, once you get hired and get an idea of the company’s culture, you can start playing around with your makeup. But an interview is not the time or place for colored eyeshadow or bright lips. Unfortunately for interviews, women must fight sexism by conforming to what society says is acceptable beauty. I’m not saying any of this is fair, and it was a very bitter pill for me to swallow during my interviewing process.
Nailpolish — go neutral or GO HOME!
One time I accidentally went to a job interview with green nailpolish. I somehow completely FORGOT to take it off the night before, and while I frantically tried to chip it off in the waiting area before my interview, I ended up making it look worse. A few hours after I was done with what I thought was a great interview, I got a call from my recruiter. She said the interviewer liked me but was completely distracted by my nailpolish.
Remember what I said about jewelry and talking with your hands?
Avoid distractions and do NOT show up wearing this season’s hottest nail art.
And while it sounds stupid that nail polish is such a big deal, in reality, it actually is very distracting. Nailpolish takes 2 minutes to remove, so don’t let green nails stand between you from your dream job.
Always better safe than sorry.
Portfolio Bag — Leave your backpack at home, you’re not in high school anymore.
Lol, I can always tell when the summer interns are coming to interview because they bring backpacks. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a backpack (I wear one every day), it doesn’t exactly spell out professional. A backpack isn’t business attire, and most people I see with backpacks at work are fresh out of college and still learning the ways of corporate America. Instead, bring something like a briefcase, or a black or neutral colored purse. Just make sure inside you have enough copies of your resume, a notepad and a pen, and a lintroller!
Using your phone while waiting to interview — don’t do it!
I know it seems like a good idea to check Facebook or Instagram to kill time while you’re nervously waiting to be interviewed, BUT DON’T DO IT!
Being on your phone instead of waiting patiently for your meeting doesn’t look good.
Is there company reading material in the waiting room? Read that! Do they have a TV playing? Watch it! Do they have magazines out? Read them! Most likely any media that the company has in the waiting area contains important information about the company that you can use to your advantage during the interview. Always be alert and present while waiting, because first impressions are everything. If you’re busy scrolling through Twitter on your phone, the interviewer might feel like they are inconveniencing you when they do finally appear.
So there you have it, The Hotpants Guide To Interview Attire!
I really hope this post helps anyone looking for a new job. Know that your appearance at an interview is everything, and it really does make or break you. While my advice definitely errs on the corporate side, these rules should be used for anyone applying to a job anywhere. Do not underestimate the power of a clean suit, and how showing up to an interview looking put together is one of the most important details of your interview process. Well that and also researching the company…
Remember, the focus should be about YOU, YOUR SKILLS, AND YOUR EXPERIENCE. Not about your fashion sense or your funkiness. You can sneak those things in AFTER you get the job. Fight your pride. Just because you’re in a suit doesn’t mean you’re not cool, amazing, creative and wonderful. Even cool people have to dress normal every once in a while!
And if you’re showing up to a creative job interview or an interview in the fashion industry, follow these rules and wow them with your mind first. If everything about your outfit is taking attention away from your WORDS, your clothing is doing you a disservice.
Give yourself a fighting chance to make the most amount of money you possibly can at a new job, by ditching the cool and following the rules.