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From Messy Buns to Blazers: Navigating interview attire

interviews Feb 06, 2024
Mom planning interview attire

What to Wear to an Interview 

Does your stay-at-home mom routine begin each morning with the same "mom uniform"? Perhaps it's that familiar outfit of leggings paired with a sweatshirt thrown over, hair pulled back, and those comfy shoes perfect for post-school drop-off errands. If this sounds familiar, the idea of stepping into interview attire and dressing for success may feel like uncharted territory. 

Navigating through the changing landscape of workplace attire and updated interview guidelines can be daunting, especially if it's been a while since you last went job searching. If you find yourself unsure about where to begin, don’t worry – we are here to help! 

This week, we're sharing valuable tips to unravel the mystery of what to wear to an interview.  Say goodbye to the mom uniform and hello to newfound confidence as you gear up to ace those interviews. Let's dive in! 

Interview Attire Categories

In the professional landscape, there are three main dress categories that candidates encounter – business professional, business casual, and smart casual. Your interview attire is likely to fall within one of these three categories so let’s talk through each one to ensure you're well-prepared and dressed for success. 

Business Professional Attire: This is the most formal dress in the workplace.  For women, this typically includes a professional dress, slacks or a skirt with a blouse and a jacket/blazer.  Shoes are also typically formal and either a heel or dressy flat are appropriate. 

Business Casual Attire: This is a bit more casual than business professional attire and doesn’t usually include a professional jacket or blazer.  For women, this may include slacks or a skirt with a blouse or sweater and shoes may be slightly less formal with either flats or boots. 

Smart Casual Attire:  This category is the most casual of the three and exists somewhere between professional and casual.  Typically, this look includes casual pieces with some more elevated and polished accents.  For example, classy jeans or trousers with a blouse or jacket and a more casual shoe – this could even be stylish tennis shoes 

Tips to Determine What to Wear 

It’s crucial to make a great first impression when you walk into an interview but without having set foot in a company’s office, it can be difficult to know what their typical dress code is.  You don’t want to automatically assume that business professional is the best interview attire, because one of the goals of an interview is to show that you’re a strong fit for the company’s culture.  Dressing in a way that fits into the company’s dress code is a great first step to making a great first impression.  It will also help you to feel more at ease – like high school all over again, it makes a big difference to feel like your clothes “fit in”.  Beyond that, with remote work becoming more prevalent, you may be wondering what’s considered appropriate remote work attire and video interview attire.   

Let’s talk through some general rules to follow and tips to set yourself up for success. 

  1. Dress one step above the current office dress code.  For example, if employees at a company typically wear business casual attire, you may want to consider something that’s more business professional or consider adding a jacket to your business casual outfit for a more elevated look.   
  2. Research the company to learn gather clues about their dress code.  Check out the company’s website and LinkedIn company page to learn about their company culture. The company may have photos of their employees and workplace, which may provide insights into how employees typically dress.  In addition, if you know someone who works at the company you can ask them for their recommendations on optimal interview attire. 
  3. Ask the recruiter if you aren’t sure.  If you’ve been working with a recruiter to schedule your interviews, you can ask them about the company’s dress code to help you prepare.  
  4. Consider proactively gathering your interview wardrobe. Even before securing an interview, assembling a versatile collection of professional attire will save you from the last-minute scramble when the opportunity arises. As you're preparing your interview wardrobe, we recommend being ready for multiple rounds of interviews with the same company. Aim to have 3-4 outfits for each interview attire category to ensure you're well-prepared for any scenario. Remember, this doesn't necessarily mean acquiring entirely new outfits. Instead, focus on creating a mix-and-match wardrobe, allowing you to create fresh looks by swapping out specific pieces. 
  5. Dress as though you’re interviewing in-person, even if it is a remote or video interview. Even if your interview takes place through a computer screen, you still want to be sure you’re making a great first impression. You may be tempted to hang on to those leggings, and only wear interview attire on top, but we’d encourage you to go all out anyway. Dressing professionally will help your mental and emotional confidence, and that will come through virtually. Your leggings will be there waiting, we promise!  

Start thinking about your interview attire now – it will not only help you approach interviews with confidence (as you step out of the house in something other than that beloved mom uniform) but it will also free you from the stress of last-minute outfit decisions, enabling you to focus on preparing for the interview itself. Get started now – you've got this! 

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