Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What To Wear To a Job Interview - For The No Longer, Stay At Home Mum.

There are some that would rather swallow rusty razor blades than attend a job interview. I have had my fair share, from both sides of the table. I worked for a number of years as a recruiter, hiring everyone from Secretaries to C.O.O's, and do I have some stories to tell! But this time, rather than revealing others in their most embarrassing moments, I can hopefully help you to avoid yours. I recently received an email from a Stay at Home Mum, who is no longer staying at home and has to hit the interview circuit. Not having been in paid employment for years, and her best suits long since gone to charity or the costume box, this Mum is in dire need of interview fashion magic. While I have a list of general interview tips a mile long, I'll keep this advice specific to the aesthetics of how to present yourself - on a budget.

Firstly; The Suit. While not all jobs call for a suit, interviewing in one is your safest option. You can get out your elasticated pants once you have the job, (but for god's sake please don't!). And one suit will do you for all your interviews. Worry about more once they start to pay you for being your fabulous self.

Now I know that everyone thinks that black is slimming and goes with everything, but that isn't always the case. Black fades when pieces are dry cleaned separately, it gets a nasty sheen with ironing, and will give the interviewer a clear picture of how many pets you own. So 'No' to the black from me. Instead opt for a grey that suits your skin tone (yes, there is one for everyone), in a shape that is both modern and conservative. Personally I love the 1940's look that is going around now, as good tailoring in your outfits sends a subtle message of an organized personality to your interviewer. Pant suits can be lovely, but skirt suits have more power, (and that's a whole topic right there) so if you have the option, make sure to buy both matching pants and skirt. This one suit will be the basis for all your interview looks so buy the best you can afford.

Corporate Job

Keep it simple, sleek and classy. Pair your skirt suit with a neutral coloured blouse that still has great detailing. It says, " I may be conservative but I still have imagination." That way your interviewer's first impression will not be that their next hour would be better spent chatting to Joe in Accounting.

When wearing a skirt ALWAYS wear hose. Do NOT wear coloured hose, sheer black hose (so 90's) or nude hose from the supermarket, (these always look like they have the texture of cheap sandpaper and come pre-prepared with dubious lumps). Instead purchase yourself a pair of near nude, ( just a little darker than your skin colour) hose with a subtle sheen. Make sure you get two so you have a spare pair for your interview bag.

Jewelry: Keep it to a minimum. Rings should be simple not statement, and earrings should just peak out with a little sparkle from behind your hair, not blind your interviewer with their size and brilliance. Bracelets and bangles are a no go, as they jingle around creating a distraction during the process.

Bag: Here you can use black, if for no other reason but that I know women are more likely to spend good money on a black bag than any other colour. Make sure it is large enough for everything you need, (but not oversized) structured (without being a brief case) and NOT containing baby bottles, left over sandwiches or a hundred parking tickets - they will come tumbling out at the most inopportune moment.

The Creative or Arty Job

Same suit, but punch it up with a coloured and detailed blouse. It can have more competing detail than the corporate blouse, and chances are that if you are going for a creative job you should have an eye for this.

Hose: While tights may be optional for these industries, I'd still play it safe and wear hose. However, this is the place for your coloured or patterned numbers.

Jewelry: This is where you can have a lot of fun in these interviews. Pick something that reflects your personality or interests. Something with irony or whimsy, not just another knock off vintage brooch. Interviewers love to have a visual cue that can get them talking to you on a more personal level; and jewelry is a great conversation starter.

Bag: You have your great black bag, but how can you punch that up? Add some embellishment in the form of key chain dangles to the handle. This can be customised easily and specifically to the job you are after. Travel involved? Add an Eiffel tower or an I Heart New York, (you get the picture). But just one please, we are not a Christmas tree.

Tech / Geeky Job

This time pair your suit with a witty T-shirt and industry humor jewelry. There is loads of this to be found online, (didn't you know that Geek is the new black?) so have fun, but make sure you get the joke, because there could be some very awkward moments if not.

As far as pants vs. skirt, I would still chose the skirt for this one, but if the job calls for crawling around on the floor with networking cables, those pants could come in handy. Oh, and even if you don't wear glasses, you could always get a fashion pair because they always seem to add a few points to the perceived IQ; and it is another chance to accessorise.

Fashion Job

Relax the suit a little with a structured cardigan jacket, belted with a contrast belt. Once again, the hose with a sheen is still appropriate here. Keep in mind that you want to look professional and fashion-forward, but not outshine your prospective employer. So show of your style with some well chosen accessories instead.

Shoes: VERY important here. Shoes are always important at interviews, but this is the interview where you can really choose fabulous shoes that give a clue to your personality. A good rule for interviews is to never wear open toed shoes. However, for a fashion interview, something along these lines with opaque hose would indeed work.

Jewelry: Given that you are likely to have a fairly animated interview in this environment, I'd recommend a huge, sleek and gorgeous cocktail ring for all that gesticulating. Not super sparky mind you, but still dramatic and day appropriate. And remember to leave those bangles at home.

Bag: Using your trusty black bag, give it a little character that is a hint to your personal style preference (and probably budget too) by adding a colourful scarf tied to the handle. While I'd go for skulls on pink, you might choose Hermes or Versace instead.

So, 'No Longer Staying At Home Mom', you should now be well kitted out to make a great impression at your interview. Better make sure that your resume is just as fabulous as your wardrobe.


miss cavendish said...

I especially like your point about eyeglasses for the tech-y interview. I have a pair of Lulu Guinness frames (with sparkles on the rims) that I wear when I want to appear particularly bookish (there's clear glass in the lenses).

Lady said...

Great post S.K.M, I love your idea about the grey suit. I have lovely grey suit I wear to all manner of occasions, my mother taught me that it's just as serious but not as imposing as black.

Amy G said...

I want that grey suit to jump off the screen and into my closet. It is BEAUTIFUL! Suits were part of my work wardrobe, and I loved their versatility. I had (still do) a row of pretty blouses and scarves to change the looks, and just a much-more-boring grey suit, a navy suit, and a medium-chocolate one. Mixed in with dresses, they were so easy to wear!

I am not planning to re-enter the workforce for a while, but I may seriously track that grey suit down. Gorgeous!

This was a great post! There are creative and tasteful ways to express your personality in an interview, and to stand out a bit from the many people the interviewer is seeing. Good luck to the job-hunting mama!

K.Line said...

Excellent post, SKM. Your combo experience as recruiter and style maven makes you a perfect person to discuss this. Great choices all around. K

enc said...

Beautiful looks. I'd be happy to interview in any of these.

Lil Midget said...

I say...ruffles and bows to interviews! looks professional and stylish...i need to get meself some ruffles and bows for my placement at the hospital next semester :)

Lil' Puch said...

Love the skirt suit, Im hunting the perfect one!!

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Miss Cavendish: Yes, you'll see mine in that top picture. I always wear them if I need to look extra smart.
Lady: That's a great way to describe it.
Amy G; so glad you enjoyed it. I could certainly see that suit on you, probably the Corporate look with some of the Creative accessories.
K.Line: Thank you. You wouldn't believe some of the horrors I came across in my time as a recruiter. I'll save that post for another day.
enc: Me too.
Lil Midget: Indeed, it would be a perfect choice for you.
Lil Puch: It can be so hard to find the right one, so if it has great tailoring and comes your way, don't scrimp and you'll wear it for years.

Alison Jerabek said...

This post makes me want to get a real job simply so I can get dressed in the morning. :) How do you do it?

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Alison: Make every day an occasion. If nothing else it gives the Mr a laugh when I'm cleaning the bathroom in heels!

Lil' Puch said...

Love your post, you inspired me for my today's outfit, you can check it out at my blog, thank you so much!!!