By Emily Ching
At a recent meeting with graduate students at Xian Jiaotong University on how to prepare for job interviews, one marketing question came up among this group of young women: what to wear.
Academically well-trained students typically have little social and professional experience. The job interview is new for most students.
“In an interview situation”, I told them, “you are marketing yourself as a product. You need to project the best, appropriate image possible.”
It is not possible to prescribe an outfit to achieve this goal for positions in all professions and industries. In addition to the common sense issues of oral hygiene and polished shoes, here is a quick checklist to get you started.
1. Err on the formal side
It’s better to dress too formally than too casually for an interview. Interviewers will expect you to dress more formally than usual, especially for a profession in a conservative environment. However, for more creative professions like design, art, advertising and fashion, you can add trendy elements in keeping with your professional role. But consider presenting a classier image than you normally project.
2. Neutrals vs. Color
Keep your suit neutral color. Black is not the only option: grey, brown, caramel, navy are great too. What you wear under the jacket needn’t be neutral, but I’d stay away from anything too bold just because it might overpower you during the interview, and distract the interviewer.
3. Skirt vs. Slacks
In general, skirt and dress suits are more formal than pant suits. So if you want to make an even more formal impression, go with a skirt suit. But if you feel better in slacks than skirts, stick with the slacks suit. Personally, I always wear a slacks suit.
4. Blouse, shirt or item of knitwear
Wear one of these underneath your suit or separate jacket. Sometimes you’ll be able to wear a good quality knit top too, like a solid shell top. Wearing sleeveless blouses or tops underneath jackets is comfortable if you think your jacket does not need to come off during the interview.
5. Wear a jacket
A suit blazer or jacket polishes your appearance. It’s a simple way to step up a notch.
6. Limit accessories
Stay away from anything too flashy and oversized.
7. Light make-up and no perfume
Wear just enough make up, and go scent-free. You never know if the interviewer will be allergic to your perfume or cologne.
8. Neatly manicured hands
For ladies, short nails and neutral nail polish (or no nail polish) are best.
Senior Consultant, Crescendo Communications Consulting