Studies report that it just takes 90 seconds to make a first and lasting impression. For any new readers today, I’m recounting my interview experience at Ralph Lauren’s New York corporate offices in 1988 where I wore a cream-colored boxy Ann Taylor suit, not a Ralph Lauren design to the potentially life-altering meeting. My straight-out-of -Vogue Magazine-advertisement interviewer had a good 89 seconds to spare after looking at my “I-clearly-don’t-know-where-I-am”-Ann-Taylor-for-a-Ralph-Lauren-interview attire. Perhaps she used the time to recall whether she had confirmed her manicure appointment after work or to ponder how she was to going to actually fill this position with a qualified person who understood not only the fashion industry but the Ralph Lauren brand. No need to delve into the rest of the story. We sat, we spoke. I advanced every impressive morsel about Ralph Lauren every chance I got and then we parted. And so did my hopes and dreams for a career at Ralph Lauren. Not to overstate the magnitude of my wardrobe blunder, but I went on to law school and spent nearly 17 years in corporate securities and compliance. But enough about me.
As you prepare for your interview – or series of interviews – plan your wardrobe several days in advance of the date, as you are taking time to plan your presentation.
A few helpful tips to start:
- Your interview outfit should demonstrate that you understand the industry and organization in which you are seeking employment. See above.
- Look age appropriate: not too young, not too old.
- Your presentation should be impeccable: pressed clothes, perfectly heeled shoes that are current, not trendy, and an appropriately sized handbag. Jewelry and makeup should enhance not distract. Cover up the tattoos. There, I said it.
Now, what to wear in 2011 for a job interview in a professional industry (not much has changed in the last 20 years):
- Skirted suits for the first interview, with a shell or blouse underneath.
- Sheath dress with a tailored or suit jacket.
- Pant suits are acceptable for second interviews in law firms, but most probably not in banking.
- Grey, navy and black are still the lead colors for suits. Hold off on browns until you get the job.
- Stockings/pantyhose are experiencing a come-back, thanks or no thanks to Kate Middleton, but most women are still not wearing stockings with their suits. Again, more traditional financial industry positions would encourage stockings/pantyhose on an interview.
- Skirts should be mid-knee length. Shoes should have a 2-3 inch heel at most, skip the stilettos, wedges and platforms.
Interviews in creative industries such as advertising, marketing, media and the arts allow for greater expression of one’s self. However, the interview is your one and, perhaps, only opportunity to present your very best self, so keep the ensemble tailored and the accessories expressive not ridiculous. Again, no tattoos.
Let me suggest a few options from Lafayette 148 all available at Julia Farr. The designer, Edward Wilkerson, makes designs that are chic, becoming and appropriate for an interview in any industry.
Stretch wool Stefan jacket. $498
Rachel Roy makes beautiful dresses that could work for a second interview in sales, marketing and advertising.
And for a good pump, go to Stuart Weitzman or Kate Spade:
Dressing for an interview is not the time for a fashion statement, unless in my personal Ralph Lauren story, you are expected to make a fashion statement. Ann, what did you wear to your Ralph Lauren interview in 1988? And how’d that turn out for you?