Fact: The workplace has become increasingly casual for most industries – making interview outfits even more baffling. Are suits mandatory? Can you get away with pants and a blouse? What about bare legs? No matter which field you’re applying to, here are the five cardinal sins of job-interviewing outfits. (Followed by the ideal look you want to achieve.)
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1. Heels You Wear Twice a Year
Rule of thumb: If you wear the shoes less than once a month, they’re a no-go. Heels, flats, it’s all the same. You have to walk comfortably in order to project confidence, so make sure your footwear is properly broken in and that it won’t pinch your toes or rub a hole in your Achilles’. Even if you have to take a step down in fabulousness, it’s worth it for your overall carriage.
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2. An Oversized Bag
No, you don’t need to schlep your lunch, water bottle, makeup bag, and 52-week day planner to shake the hand of this new CEO. An overstuffed bag could signal the fact that you aren’t able to edit out extraneous details. Leave the floppy tote at home for one day and carry a smart, structured satchel instead. If you need to bring a portfolio or binder, it’s perfectly okay to carry it separately under the other arm.
It doesn’t matter what power blazer you’re wearing or what statement bag you’re carrying. Denim conveys “bare minimum” and can translate into a poor impression of your attitude. Even if you’re applying in the media or at a start-up (two incredibly relaxed environments), the very least you can do is swap your jeans for a chic peg-leg trouser.
4. Flowy, Bohemian Fabrics
You’re such a trendsetter, and that’s awesome – most of the time. This, however, is not the place. Remember that hiring managers aren’t always as stylish as you are and may read your incredible vintage muumuu as “sloppy.” You want to convey the fact that you’re sharp and detail oriented, and sometimes that requires a crisp cotton poplin.
5. Anything Too Trendy
On that note, steer clear of anything that might make the company remember you only for your outfit (and not your wealth of experience and killer ideas). A grey bomber is chic at dinner with your friends but not so appropriate in a conference room with your potential new boss.
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6. What You Should Wear: Your Version of “Professional”
Every industry and every job has its own dress code, so use your best judgment. If a suit is necessary, try to infuse something fresh into it (say a patterned silk blouse). If the office is less formal, lose the blazer and try a statement plaid pant instead. The bottom line: You want to appear fresh and cutting edge but, more importantly, simple and sharp.
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