In my job as a recruiter, I coach people each day on what to wear to interviews. Seeing that we are a few years out of college, most of my friends are starting to make that first career change, and have been asking a lot about what to wear to an interview. I'm going to tailor this post to the ladies because well, I'm a female myself and men, you have it easy.
First, I am adamantly against the pant suit. I find it to be incredibly unflattering on women for many reasons. One, I strongly dislike pants in general. I have a single digit number of pants (running/yoga pants excluded) that consist of two dress capri style pants and a few pairs of jeans. Something about them, I find them highly uncomfortable and therefore limit their presence in my wardrobe. Two, when men purchase pant suits (who they originally designed them for) most of the time, they take the time to get them tailored to fit them specifically with a certain pair of shoes. From my observations, very few women do this and think the shoes are interchangeable. So they may wear a suit with flats one day giving that slightly baggy look and then the next day with high heels so that the pants are noticeably too far off of the ground. The sleeves aren't measured appropriately and therefore look odd. When it came time for me to purchase a suit in my life, I was thankful J.Crew had their dress collection where I picked out a matching blazer and had the two altered to fit my physique.
Shoes. In my opinion, there is really only one type of shoe appropriate for an interview. Solid, closed toe, pumps. My version of pumps. Think, Duchess of Cambridge and less Granny. I've seen girls come in wearing flats, sandals, platforms, and in full transparency, I judge. In regards to pantyhose, unless you are interviewing at your Grandma's yarn shop, that advice is dated.
Jewelry. Keep the gems to a minimum. While I'm sure your new hoop earrings are stunning, let's save them for the first week on the job (or never.) But seriously, studs for the ears and minimum jewelry elsewhere. You want the interviewer to focus on you and your talents, not your collection of charms on your arm clanking against the glass table.
Color. While I fully support your style as an extension of yourself, maybe try to be a bit more neutral during the interview process. I've heard the feedback before "I don't like red and he had a on a red shirt." Childish, I know, and you likely wouldn't want to work for this individual anyways, but better to play it safe, especially if you are desperately in need of work. For instance, I strongly dislike the color yellow. (As in, I am getting shivers even thinking about it.) If someone did come in to interview in a vibrant yellow dress or top, I would have a hard time focusing on what they were saying. Find other ways to stand out. Also, know your audience. I once had a girl come in to interview with me who was a graduate of the University of South Carolina (GO TIGERS) and thought it would be great to wear her school colors to an interview with me, a Clemson alumna.
Hair. I always recommend having the hair manageable. For me, I fidget with my hair out of nervousness, so when I was interviewing, I always made sure to wear my hair pulled back to avoid the temptation.
Make-Up. Unless you are interviewing for a make up artist, save the display of your artistry for another time. Keep the make-up minimal and neutral. I once met a candidate for lunch who had decided on bright purple nail polish. All I could think about was how her bright purple nail polish coordinated ever so nicely with her sparkly, purple eyeshadow.
You may think I am being obnoxious but interviews are intimidating enough. I once received feedback, great candidate for this potential $250,000 opportunity, however, it looked like at one point in his life, he may have had ears pierced and that was simply too hard for them to overcome despite his tenure in the industry. I posted a few options below that I selected from my closet. If you need help, let me know. I love playing dress up with a purpose!
Solid blue dress with white blazer. Simple necklace to be paired with nude pumps and stud earrings.
I wore a dress similar to this for my TFA interview. Polished enough that you don't necessarily need the added blazer.
Difficult to see but simple black dress with navy blazer. Pair with navy or black pumps and you are solid gold.
Should you decide to take a walk on the color side, this solid purple is pretty non-adventurious and not too offensive. Pair with a pencil skirt or dare I say pants. (Only ones that have been tailored to fit you, of course!)
For something a little more informal, I love this look. The stripes add a little bit of character but are still pretty safe in terms of incorporating pattern into an interview (if you must.)