Interview Tips: Dress for Success

16 Feb

This semester is flying by, for me at least, and that means summer internships are quickly approaching! In my experience, most places who have stated on their own company sites or on search engines are going to begin the interview process at end of February and in March. It is smart to prepare now so if you are busy around the time of an interview, you won’t feel the panic that you are not prepared.

To start out, let’s say you are at the point where you have schedule an interview. It may be an in-person interview, phone, or even Skype. Tip number one: Dress Appropriately!!

For an in-person interview and even Skype, your outfit and appearance is your second impression (the way you talk via e-mail was probably your first, and the reason you got the interview in the first place), but is equally important as your first!

For your outfit…

DO look professional, neat, and very well put-together. You can’t go wrong with a business suit as long as it is properly tailored to fit your body and flattering. It can be a jacket and pant/skirt or even a business dress. A matching business suit is something worth splurging on to get a good quality suit to last you for years. Also, a suit will never go out of style and if you look around a bit, you can probably find a good one on sale to not break the bank. I am personally a fan of black suits, however it is acceptable to wear a gray, navy, or brown. Some places I would recommend to look for suits are Ann Taylor Loft, Express, The Limited, Zara, Banana Republic, Macy’s, Nordstrom, or any other department stores. H&M, Nordstrom BP, Target, New York & Company, and Forever 21 may have some cheaper alternatives but make sure it is tailored well and fits you properly. Some stores even offer free tailoring! It’s worth asking. For jewelry, I like the look of pearl stud earrings and maybe a simple silver/gold necklace if you feel it’s necessary as I know many people have a necklace they wear every day. A cute bangle to show your creativity and style is also acceptable, or a watch (such as the popular Michael Kors watches). If you are going to have one statement jewelry piece, keep the rest simple. If you are applying for a Fashion PR firm for example, I do think it’s good to be on trend but in a simple and still professional way.  For shoes, I think a simple black suede or leather, round-toed pump at about 2-4in. is best. Peep toe and nude pumps are okay for most cases I think. I don’t think strappy heels are appropriate however. This is all flexible and should fit your personality, style, and comfort…but I’m giving examples just so you get the idea of what a professional attire is.

DON’T wear bold/chunky jewelry or colors. You want your personality to stand out, not your clothes/jewelry. I’m not saying you can’t wear color, but keep it simple. Wear something that you will be comfortable enough in to feel confident- the key ingredient in an interview. Don’t wear jeans- even black jeans. As much as I love the look of a black blazer and black skinny jeans, it’s simply not appropriate for an interview. Another VERY important tip is don’t show any cleavage! I don’t think I need to elaborate on this, but just DON’T do it. It’s simply unprofessional and not the reason you are there. This next one may be tough for some, but do NOT show tattoos, no exceptions. You don’t want super sky high heels or bright colored-block pumps. I am not a fan of wedges for an interview either. Ballet flats can be acceptable, but I prefer heels. I also think heels give you confidence and improve your posture. But if you’re not used to wearing heels- don’t! Again, comfort is most important. Don’t let any of your clothes be wrinkly! It’s wise to use a lint roller on your pants and jacket, especially if they are black. They should all be well pressed/ironed. Shoes should not be scratched and scuffed up at all, but wear them around if they are new so you are not uncomfortable with blisters.

For your hair/makeup/etc…

DO keep your hair simple and polished. I prefer straightening my hair and either neatly pinning or using a headband to keep my bangs out of my face. Nice waves/curls are acceptable if it’s a style you wear daily and are comfortable doing. I personally would not, but a neat sleeked back pony tail can be acceptable if done right. Make sure your hair isn’t too crazy long, it’s not practical for the workplace. It’s a good idea to practice your hair and makeup before your interview to make sure you like it and it comes out well. In terms of makeup, keep it simple and natural. I recommend a typical moisturizer, primer, concealer, foundation, powder routine with a light sweep of pink/coral blush and a light sweep of bronzer if that’s how you usually wear your makeup. Natural, often matte is best with a champagne/pearl color highlight under the brow bone and in the inner crease. I think gray, brown, ivory, gold, are the safe way to go. You may use colors such as a purple/brown or a taupe or a light pink, but it should look NATURAL. A little black or brown eyeliner is okay to define the eye and make you look awake, but no crazy wing or thick lines or sparkles! A neutral pink lip is best. Moisturized lips (no one wants to look at chapped cracking lips, yuck) and either lip gloss and or lipstick is acceptable. Eyebrows must be done/plucked/groomed/shaped. For great natural makeup look tutorials, browse through the youtube videos of my  favorite beauty gurus. I really like this look by @MakeupbyAlli that is also great for a quick look before running to class. Another one also by Alli that is slightly more dramatic, but still acceptable for an interview is this one. You should get your nails done so they look neat. French or nude/light pink shades are best. For any of you fellow sorority girls, think “recruitment style” hair and makeup!

DON’T change your hairstyle or color right before your interview. Chances are they will notice or you may not like it and then be self-conscious about it. Getting your highlights touched up the same way you always do is acceptable, but try to do it at least a week or two in advance so it looks more natural and faded into the rest of your hair. You don’t want your hair to be messy, any crazy streaks, pink strands, braids, pigtails, etc. You don’t want your bangs to be in your face as a distraction. For nails, no sparkly or dark colors. If you’re in the interview fidgeting and wondering if your new makeup products are holding up or if your skirt is riding up then you’re not focusing on what’s most important- the interview itself. You want to represent yourself in the best way, and having little worries on your mind may hinder that.

Here are some examples I’ve found that are appropriate:

Another tip which may only apply to some is that if you are applying for an internship in beauty PR, you can do more with your makeup and it make it a focus. Same goes for fashion PR, you can add some more fashionable, on-trend pieces. They want someone who has interest in what they’ll be doing at the job so there is nothing wrong with showing your personal interest and creativity. The more risk you put into your outfit, the more risk you put to yourself at the interview. That’s up to you interns!

Once you have the job, depending on what/where it is, you probably won’t need to wear a suit every day. Many places have business casual attire or casual Fridays. With that said, you should still be prepared for the most professional and conservative attire requirements.

Sources to check out for additional information:

My “Internship Resources Part 1: Advice & Tips” featuring my inspiration for intern knowledge Ryan Kahn, NYC PR Girls, and InternsNtheCity

Intern Queen Pinterest: 9-5 Intern Dress Code

Intern Queen blog

Her Campus

Today Show Article: “Study- Makeup Makes Women Look Competent, Trustworthy” 


Any dress for success interview tips I DIDN’T mention? Comment below or tweet me @trulytwenties!


8 Responses to “Interview Tips: Dress for Success”

  1. Emine Kasapoglu February 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    Always a good reminder…

  2. findingmyworth February 16, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    I haven’t had to interview in years, but the Do’s and Don’ts haven’t changed much.

    • trulytwenties February 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      I completely agree! It’s so great because buying a classic black “power” suit for example is timeless and won’t go out of style.

  3. Kandi February 23, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    Great post! I completely agree with the jewelry notion. Also, be careful of wearing a sorority lavaliere, some people who aren’t in the Greek community can be quickly turned off at the site of your letters. Then again, you never know when a fellow Greek is interviewing you! 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

  4. Emine Kasa February 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    Hi Ariana,

    When going in for an interview my number one rule is: PLAY IT SAFE! If I ever have to ask myself “is this appropriate?” then it’s not appropriate. My number two rule is: DOUBT MEANS DON’T. When you aren’t sure if a piece of jewelry or a specific type of shoe can be worn in an interview, DON’T wear it.

    A black blazer, conservative blouse underneath, black slacks, and dark colored flats are my go-to items for an interview.

    Also, it is best to dress as if you are applying to a position that is one level higher than one you are applying for. For example, if you are interviewing for an internship position, dress as if you are applying to be an account executive at the company.

    It is always better to be safe than sorry!


    • trulytwenties February 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

      Thanks so much Emine! Every bit of that is such wonderful advice that I completely agree with.

  5. Eugene Meske March 4, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Just wanna comment on few general things, The website design and style is perfect, the subject matter is rattling wonderful : D.


  1. Before, during, and after an interview « trulytwenties - March 7, 2012

    […] For in-person and Skype interviews, you should plan your outfit at least a day in advance to make sure everything you need is out of the laundry, ironed, lint-rolled, and without that stain you forgot about from the last time you wore that shirt! For more details on how you should dress for an interview, go to my post Dress for Success. […]

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