With startup culture becoming the new norm, and companies relaxing and revising their dress code, interview dressing is not what it used to be. Gone are the days when you were expected to wear the same two-piece suit with black or nude heels, with your hair pulled back in a bun; the times have changed and so have the rules.
As the owner & Image and Wardrobe Stylist at Modnitsa Styling, I work with my clients to help them refine the way they look, both in their daily lives and on special occasions, and I’m often asked to help my clients prep for and step up their interview game (at least visually!). I teach my clients important style concepts to help them understand the way that they are perceived, what types of messages they can send with their look, and how to refine and align the messages they send with others’ perceptions of them.
Before you decide on what to wear for an interview, my advice is to thoroughly research the vibe of the company to see whether it's more casual, business-casual, conservative (and note that it may even have its own micro-culture and dress code). Look for images on social media of how people dress for meetings, company events & presentations. The more information you can gather, the more prepared you will look - which will translate as being invested & passionate about working there. Even though the old saying that “there is no such thing as being over-dressed” is still mostly true, if you dress inappropriately (over or under dressing), it may come across as you not having done your homework, so if the company you are interviewing with has a very casual dress code, coming in wearing a strict suit might make you feel too much out of place.
So, how can you nail that important first impression? I'm sharing 5 styling tips you can apply to getting dressed for most interviews with success and ease, while always looking stylish and at the top of your game.
1. Choose your own version of black and white. Wearing contrasting colors (like black and white) comes across as serious, polished and put-together. However, for someone with a soft complexion, the true black (jet black) and the true white (diamond white) will feel too harsh – and will take over, making them look hidden behind the strong outfit. Choose your own version of black and white, based on your contrast level, which is the difference in value between your hair, skin and eyes (value=how light or dark the color is). This will help you look connected to your clothing, and more powerful as a result. For example: if you have low contrast in your features with dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes, you’ll benefit from softer contrast between your black and white pieces (think dark grayish-black paired with soft milky-white). On the other hand, if you have stark contrast (e.g. dark hair and super light skin) a strong black-and-white outfit will be perfect.
2. Choose the right necklines. Something as simple as deciding on what kind of jacket lapels to choose for your interview outfit can send a message that you’re either approachable or authoritative. Very angular and strong lines in your jacket, shirt/blouse, and details like button plackets and zippers will come across as strong, polished and sometimes a bit more masculine. Curvier necklines, like scoops, crew necks, and subtle details like ruffles and peplums can soften your look, making you appear more approachable and feminine. I recommend going for a mix of both – so as to bring harmony to your outfit to stay authentic, while looking like you take the position seriously.
3. Column of color effect. It’s no accident that most traditional interview outfits are made up of pieces in the same color or color family. In styling, it’s a concept called “Column of Color” – which allows your outfit to tell a story of elegance by using tones and shades of the same color from top to bottom. The effect is elongating, slimming, polished, elegant, stylish and professional. Even if choosing separates as opposed to a true suit, going for colors in the same hue (color family) can be a helpful way of making sure that your outfit appears put-together.
4. Power Blazer. Whenever you’re interviewing for a job in a more casual environment (think tech startups, creative agencies, etc.), wearing a suit even in its most modern iteration can feel a bit dated. I recommend choosing a power blazer instead in those cases, and pairing it with a skirt or cropped pants and a tucked-in blouse or button-down. Two elements can make your blazer a “power blazer”: its cut and its color. Choose a color that’s conservative, yet unique (like a dark purple, or navy-purple instead of black), and look for craftsmanship in the details like collars and tailoring. The better the fit, the more confident you will feel, and you’ll project that confidence during your interview.
5. Mind the little details. Once you’ve figured out your interview look and style, don’t forget the details and accessories that tie it together as a polished outfit. For example, the right style of eyewear can elevate your look to be more polished and professional, so if you wear glasses, this may be a great tool at your disposal. A more rectangular shape will enhance the angles in your features, adding authority to your look. Choosing a hair style that is appropriate is also important – sometimes putting your hair up in a bun or ponytail will make you feel more strong and professional – keeping it out of your face to eliminate distraction. Your makeup look is imperative as well – too much makeup can feel out of place in most work environments, so unless you’re interviewing for a job at a beauty counter at Sephora or Mac, save your makeup skills for Friday and Saturday night. Interview makeup should look natural, effortless, and enhance your best features while still being subtle. Choose shoes that you can walk in (last thing you need is to have sore feet or trip on something as you’re running to catch the subway on your way to the interview), but also be mindful of their color, condition and “vamp style” (the opening of the shoe). Slightly elongated versus a rounded toe gives an overall elegant effect, and whether you choose pumps or flats, it can pull your look together, making you feel more interview-ready.
It’s true that you never get a chance to make that first impression again, but hopefully armed with these tips you will get out there and wow them – leading to the job of your dreams!
Dina Scherer is a Certified NYC Image & Wardrobe Stylist, Personal Shopper, and owner of Modnitsa Styling. She helps women and men define & polish their authentic style, and build a wardrobe that makes them feel confident every day.
Some fun facts about Dina:
•Dina used to be a professional dancer as a child
•Dina has lived in NYC for 21 years
•As a kid, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Dina used to say "street sweeper". Dina's mom always points out that it sort of came true as she now "sweeps clothes off the shelves" when shopping with her clients! You can follow Dina on Instagram here.
Photo Credit to Rachael Doughty @_racha_6