Women’s Interview Outfits: What to Wear to a Job Interview
Interview outfits are a great opportunity to make a great first impression. Your outfit might not make or break your chances of getting hired, but it certainly plays a part in the interview process. Your outfit can affect everything from how seriously your coworkers take you to how much you get paid. Unfortunately, dressing for a job interview as a woman can be more complicated than it is for men – just ask any female politician, news anchor, or the women working in tech.
The truth is a lot of professions don’t have a standard uniform for women which can make shopping for professional and interview outfits confusing. On the bright side, never having to wear a standard-issue suit and tie is pretty damn cool. No matter how old you are or what or what position you are applying for, your interview outfit should be equal parts comfortable, fun, and confidence-building.
To help you find just that, we talked to three interview experts about pants vs. skirts, whether or not you should wear jeans to your interview, and the best manicure colors for ambitious applicants. Sit back, prep that resume, and let us be your style guide as we go through 8 rules for dressing for success and 5 interview outfits that will help you land the job.
Rule 1: Keep Your Outfit Simple
It sounds obvious, but when it comes to professional interview outfits for women, less really is more. You want the person interviewing you to stay focused on what you’re saying and not get distracted by what your T-shirt says. Maude Standish, Vice President Fullscreen Media put it this way: “You don’t want to psych yourself out but rather portray yourself and your ideas first, not your outfit. Because people hire someone for great ideas, not great outfits.”
Rule 2: Double Check the Details Before Leaving Home
Is your shirt bunching where you tucked it in? Do you have deodorant stains on your sweater? Will your skirt ride up when you sit down? Take the time to go over every detail of your outfit before stepping out the door. “I would encourage all women to try sitting in their skirts before going to a job interview. If you haven’t tried this in front of a mirror, you don’t know how it might ride up. I’m totally chill with a woman wearing a short skirt—you’re a modern woman do whatever you want—but you don’t want to get in a position where your underwear is showing. So just sit down and check before leaving.”—Standish
Rule 3: Elevated Comfort
The rumors you’ve heard about tech companies and their uber casual style may be true, but don’t let that put a damper on your natural cute-outfit-building abilities. Think of this as what you’d wear to brunch with your parents. You may not be expected to dress up, but you definitely don’t want your interview outfit to convey carelessness. And remember, this is a serious affair, so you’ll want to show your more conservative side and not too much skin.
“You don’t wanna show too much cleavage and you don’t want anything that’s too tight. You should still have fun with it, but you want to be taken seriously and you don’t know the background of the person you are meeting with sometimes.” —says Nicole Balsam, Executive Search Consultant | Stephen-Bradford Search
Rule 4: Save the Flash for Your Resume
Job interviews aren’t about showing off your knowledge of new trends, so keep interview outfits classic in silhouette and colors. The place for a quick pop of color, however, is in the extras. Standish explains: “Feel free to express yourself, but really, when you’re interviewing, you should be showcasing your ideas, not your look. You don’t want to wear anything that distracts from the conversation you are having.”
Rule 5: Favor Forgiving Clothing Pieces
Customer-facing jobs require a very specific level of put-together-ness not present in other industries. Down the line, your coworkers will forgive you if you accidentally spill salad dressing on your skirt. But working in a hotel or an upscale store means you represent that place to the world (including cranky tourists), and your interview outfit should show that you are ready to be the face to the customer.
Rule 6: Have Fun with Accessories
Now that you’ve nailed the basics, kick your outfit up a notch with a couple of cool accessories, and score extra points for wearing something with a story behind it—an instant conversation starter. “I like a nice statement necklace or any kind of jewelry is often great. It’s another talking point if you have something unique in some way.” —Balsam
Rule 7: Test Out New Shoes First
Everyone’s tolerance for standing in heels is different, so if you’re applying for a job where you’ll be standing a lot or frequently running around (see: teachers, stylists, photo assistants) wearing shoes you can’t walk in is a big no-no. Interview outfits should show you are ready for the job you are applying for.
“The height of the heel doesn’t matter so much as that you can easily walk in them. I think women could go a lot more casual than they normally do. I personally respect a woman who is taking good care of her knees.”—Standish
Rule 8: Get a Pro-Level Manicure
Your outfit important but don’t get lazy with your grooming, especially your nails. Your hands will be on full view while you discuss your latest achievements so invest in a professional manicure. Balsam advises sticking to classic colors. “When it comes to nail color, don’t go with anything too crazy. Nudes, reds, even dark colors are ok but I would avoid anything that’s too out there because it can be seen as not professional.”
Outfit 1: Finance or Law Firm
Probably the most formal environment you can work in is a law firm or a financial institution, and the clothing you choose should reflect that. But business attire doesn’t have to be boring and suits come in all colors and fits. This interview outfit says “I have my sh*t together,” while separating you visually from the glut of candidates in navy.
“In finance, I worked with two female Chief Operating Officers and what was notable about them was that they always looked neat.” —Daniel H. Gallancy, CEO of a cryptography and capital markets startup
Blazer: Long Puff Sleeve Boyfriend Blazer
Pant: High Waisted Front Slit Skinny Pant
Top: Printed Sleeveless Tie Front Shirt
Bracelet: Two Row Open Back Cubic Zirconia Ring
Shoe: Madison Heeled Sandals
Outfit 2: Tech or Startup
The tech and startup environment is more casual, and your interview outfit can reflect that. “There is certainly, in my view, a full equivalence. If a woman wants to come in wearing jeans and a sweater or a T-shirt that’s totally fine. If it’s the exact same thing I am wearing, totally fine.” — Gallancy
Blazer: Double Breasted Sleeveless Blazer
Jean: High Waisted Faded Side Vent Bootcut Jeans
Top: Lace Graphic Boyfriend Tee
Belt: Western Textured Buckle Belt
Shoe: Double Band Block Heel Sandals
Outfit 3: Creative Field Position
So you’re about to land your first design job, go you! The simplest way to avoid showing up in something too flashy is by skipping saturated colors in lieu of a classic silhouette and colors. This is a job interview outfit, not an art director costume contest.
“A lot of times we go into a job interview with an idea in our head of what the person who would do that job might look like and kind of create a costume around that. But that means you’re not seeing our self in that job. It automatically puts you in a bad mindset like ‘to do this job I need to create a different version of myself’ which will just make you nervous going in.” — Standish
Blazer: Cropped Double Breasted Long Sleeve Blazer
Jean: Super High Waisted Raw Hem Straight Cropped Jeans
Top: Satin Pleated Lace Trim Cami
Necklace: Two Row Paperclip Pearl Bar Necklace
Handbag: Embellished Bucket Bag
Shoe: Double Band Block Heel Sandals
Outfit 4: Hospitality or Retail
Your interview outfit should prove you’re up to the challenge and ready to represent the company to the customers.
Blazer: Double Breasted Collarless Tweed Long Sleeve Blazer
Jean: High Waisted Dark Wash Flare Jeans
Top: Fitted Crew Neck Tee
Necklace: Crackle Stone Pendant Necklace
Handbag: Textured Double Strap Shoulder Bag
Shoe: Steve Madden Inessa Sandals
Outfit 5: On Your Feet
Keep comfort a top priority for professional environments that require you to be on your feet.
Blazer: Double Breasted Boyfriend Blazer
Pant: High Waisted Supersoft Flap Pocket Straight Cropped Pant
Top: Linen Scoop Neck Tank
Shoe: Lace-Up Strappy Thong Sandals