Overdressed Vs. Underdressed for an Interview

A well-fitting suit with matching shoes and neatly styled hair should do the trick for an interview.

A well-fitting suit with matching shoes and neatly styled hair should do the trick for an interview.

You've heard it before: For a job interview, you want to be clean, polished and professional. Overdressing for an interview can be as much of an inhibitor as under-dressing. Not only will it cause distraction, but it also draws questions about tact and awareness, creating a halo of red flags around your perfectly coiffed hair. Sell yourself as a savvy career woman, not a shopaholic, at your job interview. Next time you land an interview and reach into the closet for a pair of shoes, leave behind the Louboutins and go for the traditional black pumps instead.

Omit Festive Makeup

This is not prom. This is not a fundraiser gala. This is your one shot to a career opportunity and you don't want to blow it with heavy lids of green, shimmery dust. Leave the eyeshadow in the drawer and opt for simple, clean makeup. Before you even fret about what's in the closet, remember this: For the majority of the interview, the manager is focused on your face. Yep, that's right. Your dewey skin and moving mouth in whatever shade of lipstick you chose before you exited your vehicle and entered the office. Keep makeup to a minimum. The last thing you want to convey is "cirque de face." Consider the last time you were able to take someone in bright orange lipstick seriously. Exactly.

Suit Up

Once you've locked away your carnival makeup, move to the closet and select a conservative, yet sharp, suit. This is a fail-safe option for those who aren't sure how to interview-ize an outfit. Conservative means that you don't draw attention to your dangerous curves. No low-cut blouses, no slit skirts. Simple, clean, and well-fitted do the trick. Pick a neutral colored jacket, such as black, gray, or navy, and a matching skirt or set of pants. Beneath the jacket, choose a top that's appropriate for the job description. If you're applying for a bank job or something in the legal profession, square and structured is the way to go. A quality oxford or collared shirt beneath your suit jacket conveys organization and power. If you're applying for a creative job, such as a teaching position or a marketing job, pick a stylish layer to tone down the severity of your suit. A conservatively-cut silk blouse or a colored camisole can soften your look and show character.

Understand Occasion

If you decide to swim past suited waters and opt for a dress or self-designed outfit, tread carefully. Occasion is crucial to selecting an interview-appropriate dress. A sheath dress in a sturdy fabric and neutral color works well, especially when paired with a cardigan or blazer and simple jewelry. Silk, jersey, or any clingy material sends the wrong message to the interviewer. Skip the clingy fabrics and cleavage boosting cuts, and opt for something simple, sturdy, and well-fitting.

Avoid Flowing and Casual

An over-sized jacket or dress is the fastest way to look like your mother dressed you for work. A floor-length skirt may be wonderful for teaching or dinner, but it does not convey seriousness in an interview. A business-casual outfit with laid-back pants and a shirt doesn't do the trick either. Under-dressing, or wearing something you might wear on a normal day in the office, sends a relaxed message to the interviewer that can derail your interview. Stick with the suit or stay in the suit genre with a similarly colored sheath dress. If all else fails, head to your nearest department store and tell the salesperson on the floor that you're shopping for a job interview. Most department stores have helpful employees who can help you pick out event-appropriate attire. It's worth a shot to walk into your meeting with an extra boost of confidence.

Shoe Yourself In

Leave the flats and the diamond-studded heels at home. Shoes can make or break your outfit, and you'll never get your foot in the door with inappropriate footwear. A solid black or navy pump is timeless and can carry any outfit a step higher on the serious-chain. Avoid flats because they're too casual, but avoid stilettos because they scream "dance party" rather than "I want this job." Shoes must be polished and un-scuffed. You don't have to purchase the most expensive pair, but they shouldn't be shiny or cheap looking either. Wear shoes that could carry you to an important business meeting your life depended on. After all, this meeting could drastically change your future.

 

About the Author

Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.

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