Summer is looming and that means only one thing. I need to find an internship. If perfecting a résumé or writing a clever cover letter is not stressful enough, what you wear to an interview can determine whether you are stocking the fashion closet at Teen Vogue or working the Jersey Shore boardwalk. Thus, the hunt for the perfect interview outfit begins.
I realized I was not the only one with this dilemma. Students of every age and major are getting ready for interviews. Undergraduate students are applying for graduate school and grant programs, while many seniors are already searching for their first full-time jobs.
There is no concrete answer to my most frequently asked question; “What am I going to wear?”
For answers, I turned to Temple’s Career Center. They offered a packet that described how to dress for career success. The best tip I received was to learn the employer’s style. Each company has its own unique image that employees should follow. You may wear something entirely different to an interview at a music publication like Decibel, than you would at a local public relations firm. Do some research to learn about how the employees dress and what the office atmosphere is like.
For most interviews, professional attire is the best option. I always thought that a well-tailored pantsuit was the most polished outfit choice. However, the Career Center recommends a skirt suit over the Hilary Clinton look. A safe bet would be either a black or navy skirt suit that hits just below the knees. Keep the jacket buttoned, with a solid color blouse underneath that complements your natural coloring. A pale rose or sky blue oxford shirt would work well. Ann Taylor is the go-to place for classic skirt suits and blouses.
An outfit’s fate all comes down to the shoes. Avoid sky-high heels, open toes and open backs. A pair of black, closed-toe pumps is a wardrobe essential. This is a good time to invest in a pair. Hosiery is also a must, so stick with a nude color or black for colder weather. Accessorize with a modest ring and a pair of petite pearl or diamond stud earrings.
I always thought men had it easier than women when it came to fashion, but there are just as many dos and don’ts for men’s professional attire. A tailored wool suit in navy or charcoal is an appropriate choice. Wear the suit-jacket buttoned over a dress shirt in white, pale blue or a subtle pinstripe. Ties are the best way to add color to the outfit, but avoid loud prints or colors. Try a subtle pattern in a shade that is darker than the shirt.
Loafers are a comfy classic but winged-tip or lace-up dress shoes are more interview-friendly. Black is the safest way to go for shoes and belts. Limit accessories to a simple tie tack and dress watch.
For jobs in artistic career fields, there is more creative license in interview attire. In fact, creative expression through fashion is often recommended when interviewing at places like a production company, magazine or art gallery. Wearing one stand-out piece like purple pumps or an orange tie can set you apart from other candidates. If an employer can recognize you as “the girl with the purple shoes” or “the guy in the orange tie,” they are more likely to remember you and consider you for the position.
In the end, I settled on a charcoal skirt suit over a white blouse with a ruffled collar. To accessorize, I took the creative route and picked yellow round-toe pumps.
Check out the Career Center for more tips on professional business attire.
Nicole Saylor can be reached at email@example.com.