“I was turned down for a job yesterday, to my face the woman said “I would not possibly think of hiring you, you do not have the correct presentation for my office, you should really invest in a suit if you want to make it into the corporate world”. I wore a white shirt and black pants, I did not wear the suit jacket solely because I caught the train and it was 30 degrees. My Mum thought I looked good (that’s not very reliable though) and I loved the shoes and earrings I wore so I even did a daily outfit photo but then I was shot down by this woman.”
Just a quick warning: all of what I’m about to say runs in absolute opposition to what I normally write about — I think individualism is really important! But sometimes you need an office job, so here we go!
First of all, don’t let her get you down! She sounds a bit miserable, so you’re better off not working for her anyway. However, she does have a point.
Reverse the roles in your mind. Imagine you’re a middle-aged woman running a department of an office. You have maybe 20 people under you & you’re looking for someone to fill the shoes of a woman who left recently. All your staff are pretty good — you’ve hand-picked them yourself, they all behave quite well & more to the point, they all look pretty much the same. There is one woman who works on reception who is predisposed to the odd piece of statement jewellery, but mostly they all wear a sort of uniform. If you walk in wearing something wild, you don’t fit that mould — & you’re less likely to be hired. However, if you walk in looking like everyone else, you have better chances.
The number one piece of advice I’d give you is that you should dress as if you already have the job — so don’t dress up too much or anything like that, just dress to fit in with everyone else. But walk in with the attitude that you’re pretty much expecting to find out how much they’re going to pay you & when you’ll start.
If you have absolutely no idea what the dress code of the place is, you can go undercover & loiter around outside the building at lunch-time a couple of days before your interview. You’ll see all the employees walking in & out, talking & eating, & you’ll get an inkling of what the company culture is like. Then you can dress to fit in.
Of course, what you wear will depend on the sort of job you’re applying for, but if you’re going for a standard, corporate office job, a suit jacket & a skirt are your best bet. Even if it’s really hot, you need to at least carry your suit jacket — or just sling it on just before you walk into the building. Most offices are air conditioned so you won’t suffer too much! While I tend to think suits are horrendously boring (I had to wear one when I worked at a bank), they do show that you fit in & anyone in charge of hiring will tend to think that you’re more “serious” if you have one on.
Here’s a great prospective outfit for a job interview.
Stockings. Bare legs are a no-no. Wear black sheer stockings rather than opaques.
Suit jacket (even if you only put it on at the last moment) & a suit skirt.
A good shirt. It doesn’t need to have a collar on it — you could wear a good quality cotton round- or v-neck shirt instead.
Low high heels. Anything too high makes you look too snazzy & frivolous!
A good bag. No satchels or backpacks.
Simple jewellery, if at all. A fine chain around your neck, simple earrings or a plain ring are good choices — nothing too jangly or distracting.
Clean hair & a good hairstyle. If you have long hair, make sure it looks neat.
Clean nails! If your nailpolish looks a bit ratty, remove it. I think good natural nails always look more professional than anything else.
Things I have worn to interviews for jobs I didn’t get:
Combat boots worn with suit jacket & suit skirt. Do not do this.
A scarf over my head. Half my hair was shaved off at the time, so it seemed like the best option. The interviewer gave me a really hard time about it & said I was “rude” for doing so.
A big red Emily Strange hoodie with my skirt.
Multiple lip piercings.
Things I have worn to interviews for jobs I did get:
A black suit with a black & white collared shirt.
A black round-neck top with a business skirt & a freshwater pearl necklace.
A black pleated skirt with a white business shirt, black stockings & black heels.
Lots of black! Really, the more understated your clothing the better.
The best way to think of it is that you should dress in such a way that your personality & skills are what come through, not your love for flamboyant shoes or your penchant for neon nailpolish.