How to Dress for Success: Women's Interview Attire

Dressing Successfully for a Job InterviewThe hard part is over—you got the interview. The actual interview itself will be easy. You're marketable, well-spoken and presentable. You have multiple printed copies of your resume, your three strengths and weaknesses are on the tip of your tongue, your red lipstick matches your red fishnet stockings…

Uh, wait...perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration—unless you're interviewing to be Lady Gaga—but I had to grab your attention. If the do’s and don’ts of interview attire were that easy to spot, I would have nailed my first job interview. And second.

The rule is hard and fast: don't wear anything you wouldn't wear around a conservative, intimidating potential mother-in-law. The interview is not the time to showcase your costume jewelry collection, or prove your ability to match your bra to your toenail polish. Does that mean you have to completely stifle your personal sense of style? Absolutely not, but it's better to give your potential employer insight into your skill sets and professional knowledge than into your shirt.

To make this whole process easier, let's build an outfit. Acceptable interview attire varies between industries. As a general rule, media and communications environments are much less stringent than corporate, hospital administration or educational offices. Always err on the side of caution. Just as it is preferable to be early rather than late, no one will fault you for being too formal.

Business Professional

Dressing Business Professional on Interview DayFor business professional interviews, dark solids are ideal, as is a suit. Classic dilemma? You don't have a suit. Suits are expensive, and you need this job to make the money to buy one. A good suit is an investment worth making, because (sigh) this will not be your last job interview. A well-tailored black, navy or gray suit will last you a lifetime. If you don't want to spring for a suit, a pair of dress pants and a cardigan is acceptable.

Business Casual

Dressing Business Casual for an InterviewFor less formal interviews, black is still your safest bet, but you don't have to look like you came from a funeral. We'll start with a dark base, like a navy pencil skirt. Add to that a plum colored top and cap it off with a beige cardigan. Notice that the aforementioned colors are all neutrals, and you can't go wrong with neutrals.

The Shoes

Make Sure Your Shoes Are Work AppropriateAh, shoes. I often say you can tell a lot about a guy from his shoes. By that same token, your employers can tell a lot about you from yours. Stay away from a spindly stiletto, a peep-toe or a heel that exceeds four inches. Flats are perfectly acceptable. If you are wearing pants, the hem should hit about one inch from the ground. If you are wearing a skirt, your thighs should be nice and toasty because they are covered in fabric. Hemlines should hit at or below the knee. Hosiery isn't required in spring and summer.

The Finishing Touches

The Finishing Touches of an Interview OutfitNow, for the finishing touches. Minimal makeup and simple hair are musts. Jewelry should be understated, and steer clear of fragrances. You know that Curve-infused guy on the elevator? You don't want that to be you. Match your bag to your shoes and go with a neutral nail color.

Does this sound boring to you? Here's a comparison. On average, potential homeowners make their decision within the first six seconds of viewing the house. In this scenario, you are the house. You're an investment. However, you get to decide how marketable you are. You can sell yourself. You can choose whether you want to have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, or if you want to have rotting drywall and no closet space. You are more than prepared for this, and you shouldn't have to rely on anything other than your abilities to get this job. That may sound cheesy, but if the shoe fits, wear it...

...As long the heel is less than four inches.

This article was republished permission from

About the Author: Recent Grad

RecentGrad is a website designed and operated by recent college graduates that gives a voice to college graduates and undergraduates frustrated by the entry level job search. RecentGrad provides a unique social network and online community for an emerging generation of young professionals searching for employment during tough economic times. The site offers advice and tips on resume writing, cover letters, interviewing techniques, as well as how to build a professional brand. For more information, visit the website at

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