I remember the first time I wore a blazer for an interview – it didn’t fit, it was itchy, and I felt like a straight fraud. I was reminded of the times when I would play dress up with my mom’s clothes, drowning in the oversized jacket and scooting around her closet in too-big heels. Sometimes that memory feels a lot more like last year rather than 20 years ago…
Now, as someone who’s done her fair share of interviews and worn quite a few blazers in her life, I can confidently say that blazers (while odd the first time you wear one) are the ONE thing you must wear in a job interview. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear boring colors with a plain white button up and “sensible” heels.
If you caught the podcast earlier this week, one of DeRetta’s tips was to add a personal touch to the basic interview outfit. That way, when the interviewers think back to your interview, they’ll remember the tiny details that make you stand out. For instance, I usually wear red shoes. They’re a way to show your style (and attention to small things) and let the interviewers know you’re thoughtful all the way down to your feet.
I also love this grey patterned jacket because it provides more than your basic black blazer.
I’ve paired it with a white turtleneck shell (which I highly recommend you invest in) and black dress pants.
SN: whether you prefer pants, skirt, or a dress, make sure that your base (the piece that goes under your blazer) is a block color that isn’t distracting or competing with you blazer or accessories. I also recommend that you not make your base a loud color. Red is my power color but you never want to overdo it. Red pants would be too much for a professional interview. But if you’re applying to work at a more creative company or organization, the rules are slightly different.
As far as accessories go, do keep them to a minimum. I opt for small diamond studs and one or two rings. You can wear a watch (I wear my apple watch everywhere so I obviously agree with wearing it into an interview room but always turn it on ‘do not disturb’). If you’re a fidgety interviewee, take extra precautions to not wear something that allows you to fiddle during the meetings. This is distracting and could be off-putting to your potential employer.
As far as hair and makeup, I also keep that at a minimum. I have my hair out of my face so my bangs aren’t distracting me. While I usually curl my hair, you can also wear it straight but the main point here is to keep it in its place. Use as much hairspray as necessary to keep it out of your eyes. And in regards to makeup, I won’t use as much as I would on another day but I do make sure I have a neutral lip color and use a brown palette on my eyes.
If you have to ask yourself if it’s too much, it probably is so err on the side of too little makeup rather than too much.
One final point that’s important to remember: While you want to stand out in the interview, make sure whatever you wear is true to who you are and that you’re comfortable.
I remember doing pageants and the #1 thing people always told me was “Be true to who you are…that way, no matter how things shake out, you can feel confident knowing you were yourself the whole time.” Same with outfits. If you’re wearing something for the sake of being ‘different’ but you’re not comfortable, you’ll be distracted, you’ll probably distract your interviewers, and potentially not get the position. Always, always, always be true to your brand and take into account the type of interview you’re going into.
For formal positions like government, traditional corporate, finance, or law, err on the conservative side. This will look a lot different from a creative or tech company outfit. As always, if you have questions, please ask!
I hope this gives you direction on your next interview outfit – if you enjoyed this post or if you want to listen to my conversation about job interviews with Atlanta Braves Sr. VP of HR, DeRetta Cole Rhodes, click here!