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What to Wear to an Interview

If you’ve ever been curious about how to dress for success at an interview, you’re not alone. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out the best way to dress for success. I’m going to give you a few tips on what to wear (and what to avoid) if you’re interviewing for an office professional position.

Image: Ambro /


I prefer to wear a button down dress shirt, though it can be tricky to find one that fits me because of my bust. I hate the dreaded gap, so it needs to have enough length in the measurement from the shoulder to the bust. In my experience, the best colors for a top are white, navy or medium blue, though I think a dark, muted purple, light grey, light blue, or light blush pink would work, too.

In the image above, I’m wearing a medium blue shirt with white cuffs and a white collar. (I actually button it up once more if I’m going to an interview.) To go with the shirt, I wear black dress pants and a matching black dress jacket. I feel like this gives a professional, neat appearance. If you don’t like black, I would recommend navy or charcoal grey.

Shoes & Accessories
For shoes I wear black heels. A black skinny belt and black purse complete the outfit. I wear minimal jewelry, nothing that dangles or large, because I don’t want what I’m wearing to detract from me while I’m speaking.  So for me that means I leave in the earrings I rarely change (my 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th holes) and I take out my first holes or I wear studs in them. Usually I don’t wear a necklace, but I think a simple chain with a pendant would be acceptable for most people. I do wear my wedding ring.

Signature Scent
You should skip the perfume for the interview. You don’t know if a fragrance could trigger someone’s allergies. It’s best to not wear any so that you avoid causing a reaction. I’ve had people come in to interviews smelling so strongly of cologne that it nearly choked me.

For nails, neutral is the way to go. Since I don’t like boring neutrals, I would recommend fun neutral shades like Illamasqua Bacterium or Butter London All Hail the Queen. Bacterium is described as an opalescent beige with shimmer. It ends up looking beige-brown with blue opalescence. It’s not boring, but it won’t detract from you. All Hail the Queen is a neutral nude beige with tiny holographic sparkles.

For makeup, I recommend focusing on your skin. I think doing the whole ‘your face but better’ natural type look is the way to go for an interview since it gives a neat, put together appearance. Again, it lets the focus be on you and what you’re saying, rather than how cool your eye shadow looks.

Make your face look flawless. Mix concealer with a primer and apply it where you need it on your face. You can also mix an illuminator with a primer, or using an illuminating primer, too, so that you have a natural glow. For this post, I applied it under my eyes, on my nose, my forehead and chin. I applied a liquid foundation and blended it with a stipple brush. I chose the lightest, most natural looking blush I own and gave myself just a flush of color. I then lightly dusted a finishing powder on my face.

For eyes, choose a ‘my skin but better’ type of matte shade and then contour your eyes with a grey or brown matte (or whatever shade looks like the natural contour/shadow color on your skin). I used a face illuminator on my browbone. I tightlined my upper lash line and lined my lower waterline with a black liner. I went with my usual mascara and brow powder.

Once all my face and eye makeup was in place, I set it it with a finishing spray.

For lips, stick to a natural looking lip color. I lined my lips with Buxom Lip Stick in London and blotted. Then I applied MAC Blossom Culture on top and blotted. I think a peachy nude would work, too, but I like how the pinks looked together on me.

Too Faced Shadow Insurance
Lorac Posh – lid and crease
MAC Copperplate – outer corner of lid and crease
Silk Naturals Flattery – browbone
NARS Via Veneto – upper lash line and lower water line
MAC Blackberry – to define brows
Dior Diorshow Lash Primer
MUFE Smoky Eyes Mascara

Tarte Illuminating Serum mixed with MAC Pro-Longwear Concealer in NW15 & Smashbox SPF 15 Primer
Too Faced Amazing Face Liquid foundation in Vanilla Creme
Urban Decay Razor Sharp Finishing Powder
Skindinavia Makeup Setting Spray

MAC Blush in Stunner

Buxom Big & Healthy Lip Stick in London
MAC Lipstick in Blossom Culture

Butter London All Hail The Queen

Finally, some advice about what to do (and not to do) when applying for a job.  I’ve conducted a lot of interviews in the past and was shocked by the behavior of some people.

1. Follow the instructions in the job posting.
You would not believe how many people do not do this. If the job posting states for you to send your resume in a specific format, such as .doc, .pdf or .txt, do that. Otherwise, if you send it in .rtf or .wps or .docx, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from them. Most people will use this as a way to weed out people who cannot follow instructions.

2. Make your email your cover letter. Do a ‘T’ cover letter.
A T cover letter is where you take the job requirements listed in the job posting and for each requirement list how you have experience with that requirement. This makes it easier for the HR person or Hiring manager to see how you are qualified for the position. Also, always send a cover letter. In this economy, I’d assume that if you didn’t send a cover letter, you wouldn’t be contacted.

3. Always have a contact phone number and email address listed on your resume.
I didn’t think that this needed to be stated, but it does. Some people, for whatever reason, don’t put their contact phone number on the resume. You need to leave this so that the hiring person can contact you. Don’t make it difficult for them to get in touch with you. I’ve had people that I was interested in interviewing that didn’t include their phone number on their resume, and didn’t respond to emails. I’m not sure how those individuals expected to get jobs.

4. Always arrive five minutes early.
Arriving 5 minutes early shows that you’re punctual and likely to be a good employee if you are a bit early. You don’t want to show up too early, because that might be interfering with the person’s schedule who is interviewing you. If you get there a half hour early, just wait in your car until about 5 minutes before your interview time, and then walk in. I hate it when people show up a half hour early, because normally I’m still doing other things, or getting prepared to interview, or interviewing someone else.

5. If you’re lost or going to be late, call.
If you’re stuck in a traffic accident, if you’re lost, if you’re late, etc, call and let them know. It’s only polite. I hate it when people show up a half hour to 45 minutes late and still expect to be interviewed. By that point, I’ve usually gone on to the next interview. If they’ve called to say that they’ll be late, that’s another story.

6. Always dress up for an interview, even if it’s for a casual workplace.
Even if the company has a casual dress code of jeans and a tee shirt, don’t show up dressed casually to the interview. Show up dressed up in business or business casual attire to show that you can be professional. You want to have a neat and professional appearance because that can reflect on how they view you. When you show up in jeans and a tee shirt, you’re not taking care with your appearance and the company will not look upon it favorably. And yes, I’ve had people show up in jeans, a stained t-shirt, and smelling as if they didn’t shower. Ew!

7. Make sure to answer questions properly.
When you’re being interviewed, if you’re asked for specific examples of how you handled things in the past, your most irate customer situation, how you’ve dealt with conflict in the work place, etc., make sure that you have specific examples to give to the interviewer. Whenever I receive vague responses, or ‘I’ve never had any,’ it instantly makes me wary of the person. Conversely, if you’ve really never had those experiences, answer them the way you would handle them. Additionally, research the top interview questions that you’re likely to be asked, prepare answers for those questions and then practice speaking them. Practice them until you sound natural.

8. Research the company you’re interviewing with.
In the age of Google, you can search for information on the company, the product or services they provide and probably make a good guess as to who you will be working for if the ad doesn’t specifically state who your direct supervisor will be. Learn whatever you can about the company and their product and it will make a good impression on them. Check LinkedIn, check for reviews or news stories or youtube videos. Look for people who work for the company and see what LinkedIn has to say about them. You should try to go into the interview with as much insight as possible about the company and their products.

9. Spellcheck/Grammar check your resume and email.
You want to make a good impression on the company, so spellcheck and grammar check your resume. If the job says that it needs someone who has a great attention to detail, don’t miss a detail like that! I really do recommend getting a few people to look over your resume for mistakes. Everyone needs an editor. A fresh set of eyes really helps.

10. Ask questions about the position.
If you have questions about the position, ask them! Don’t be afraid to ask things like, “Is there the possibility of advancement?” or “Do you offer tuition reimbursement?” “What qualities do you feel will make someone successful in this position?” “What do you hope a new employee will bring to this position?” You should always ask them a few questions when they ask you “Do you have any questions?” because it shows that you’re interested in the company and in the position.

I’ve based my suggestions on what has worked successfully for me when I’ve interviewed in the past, as well as on the countless of interviews I’ve conducted for companies I’ve worked for in the past.  What do you think of my suggestions on what to wear for an interview? What do you do differently? What colors do you feel are best to wear?

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  • What you said was great about how to dress, shoes to wear, jewelry, perfume, makeup, spell check, punctuality — everything. I would also recommend making flashcards of possible interview questions.,,, etc. have a lot of articles on how to interview and possible interview questions. Write the question on a flash card and then think about how you would answer it. Some disconcerting questions I’ve had have been, “Tell me a time when you wanted to wring somebody’s neck and how you dealt with it.” and “Tell me an area where you need improvement.” “Tell me about a time when you have been corrected on your business skills.” Or the dreaded, “Tell me about yourself in 30 seconds or less.” After I got laid off, we had an agency teach us resume and interview skills, and one thing they recommended was to have a lot of SOAR stores. Situation, Obstacle, Action, Result. “S=My company had poor sales because our sales system was old and outdated and constantly crashed, O=The budget was slashed in half for new purchases, A=I researched and discovered a sales application that would fit in our budget. It was a cheaper alternative to upgrading our current application. We purchased it and they threw in training for the sales staff, R=Our sales increased by 50% the next calendar year.” You can also shorten these up to the last 2 items to make a resume bullet point — Purchased and implemented new sales software that increased sales by 50%. And, if you are a tech person, there are a lot of things you are expected to know but may not do on a consistent basis. So, make up flash cards for those things and quiz yourself. Realistically, you may be able to look it up while you are on the job and have the answer in 3 minutes, but they want to know that you are skilled and already know it. Some questions come straight out of the book — so at least be able to talk about these things.

    • You’re entirely right on the practice! That’s one of the most important things, so you don’t get nervous 🙂

  • Thank you for this. Any tips on interviewing for university? Even though I’m in my 30’s this is my first time applying and interviewing for school admission and I am nervous.

  • This is a great post. Really well thought out and helpful. I’ve had people hand in their CV which was hand-written on a torn crumpled bit of note paper.

  • I completely agree with many of the points you’ve said especially the putting the contact information on their applications/resumes and calling ahead of time if they’re late/lost and following the instructions when they apply.

    On our applications, we have the simple instructions of writing in black ink and tearing off the back portion. 90% of the people don’t and that’s one of the first things we look for in our applications, if they can follow instructions.

    I was quite amazed that people could forget to put down their contact information when applying, but it DOES happen.

    I haven’t had the bathed-in-cologne/perfume experience yet, but I do have some extreme allergies to floral scents.

    • Yeah, I would just get frustrated when someone would submit their resume in the wrong format, with no cover letter. I would wonder what they were doing.

  • Thank you so much for this post! I graduate at the end of the year and if I don’t decide to do Masters, I’ll be thrown out into the big wide world trying to find a job. 🙂 *bookmarks*

  • Great tips!

    On the vitality of spell-check/poofreading: I once got a resume that listed “delait oriented” as a skill. I just said “no,” and tossed it in the bin.

    And on skipping perfume/cologne – oh yes! I’ve had to skip interviewing someone because the cologne they wore was enough to trigger a migraine when i just walked past the interview room. Oy.

    • I waffle on that one. I know that sometimes people make mistakes, sometimes they grab the wrong version of their resume, etc. so it depends on the content on the resume as well.

      Ug, migraines suck 🙁

      • Well, considering it wasn’t the only mistake on the resume, I didn’t feel bad tossing it aside. (It may has also been the one where the person claimed to be an “excellent poofreader”.) Even a two-page resume is hard to get absolutely perfect; it’s the number and types of errors that i keep an eye on.

        The irony amuses me, though.

  • Add me to the list of ones who hadn’t thought abt not wearing perfume! Excellent tips & very relevant! I was a stay-at-home-mom for 7 years before reentering the workplace 4 years ago. I was dumbfounded at how out of touch I had become when it came to sending resumes, etc. No one wanted a hard copy – it was all electronic! I felt like I was entering the workplace for the first time.
    Your tips would ideally be stickied somewhere at the top of the list that Google returns when someone googles what to wear/do for an interview!

    • Yay I’m glad you like the tips, Kristi! I really do hope that by writing this post it will help others. I’ve really been shocked by how it seems like some people just don’t know what’s appropriate for an interview, and in this awful economy, I want to help people have every advantage they possibly can.

      I can only imagine how hard it must have been if you’d been out of the workforce for that long! Things would have really changed in that amount of time!

  • You’ve provided straightforward advice that all job seekers should know.

    I usually leave my nails bare, clean, and trimmed so that I don’t have to worry about polish chips. If I want the look of my-nails-but-better, I get an application of CND Shellac. My nails grow out before the Shellac chips.

    I’ve been meaning to buy double-sided tape to prevent gaps at the bust of button-down blouses. Also, I would like to find the perfect unscented deodorant/anti-perspirant. Some underarm products are very strongly scented!

    • I agree that bare nails works really well, too 🙂 I’ve never tried Shellac before.

      For blouses, the best thing to do is make sure they’ve got enough to length to fit your chest. Since I wear 34DD/34F, I’ve got a challenge :/ However, you can always use safety pins if you don’t have any double sided tape handy.

      I usually go for the Dove Cucumber Green Tea scent for deodorant lately, since it’s very light and clean. I agree that some can be WAY TOO strong!

  • THANK YOU for saying people should skip perfume for interviews. Really, if you’re working closely with people, you probably shouldn’t wear anything heavy anyway. But sometimes, even with people in the service industry, you get within ten feet of them and their scent just smacks you in the face.

    I like the nail polish tips as well. I want Bacterium really badly and I’ll end up picking up All Hail the Queen, probably. My favorite interview shades are Rage by Orly, Meet Me on the Star Ferry by OPI, which isn’t a nude but it’s a very pretty and sort of conservative shade, and Cyberspace by China Glaze.

    • Images are fixed now 🙂 And you’re welcome! Since I have allergies (and asthma) I tend to be sensitive to heavy perfumes. I usually hate it when I can smell someone from 10 feet away.

  • I couldn’t see the images either and I’m on Chrome but I have to say I love the mix of posts you’ve written lately. I’ve always enjoyed your blog but I really like the direction you’re taking it.

  • I could see your images in my reader, but not when I came to your site (I’m on Chrome). Nevertheless, great post, Phyrra! I hadn’t thought about the perfume thing, either – thanks for that heads up!

  • Great tips! I totally agree with everything you’ve written. I’ve had so many terrible interviews with young women who even though only applying for a casual position would either show up late / not show up at all / wear short denim pants and revealing tops / caked on makeup suitable for a night at a club etc etc. I’ve even had some girls answer simple questions like “why would you like to work *here*?” with vague things like “i don’t know” and “i just want a job”. I feel kind of sorry for those people that are so unaware that interviews are literally trying to sell yourself – unfortunately appearance is quite important especially in retail/customer service where you’re with potential customers every day; not to mention being able to construct actual sentences and replies is quite helpful also (lol).

    Anyway, I think this post is super helpful for those who may not have been to many interviews 🙂 And I liked the tip on skipping perfume – I hadn’t even thought of that before but it’s a good point!

    • I have allergies, so sometimes people’s perfumes/colognes can overwhelm me!

      And god, yeah, I understand that people want jobs, but it’s better to say ‘I’m interested in what this company has to offer to x, y, z field’ than ‘I just want a job.’

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