What to wear to a job interview: 9 Style Panel tips for dressing right for every office
Job interviews are nerve-racking, to say the least. Aside from prepping answers for a myriad of potential questions, you’re also wondering what to wear to a job interview that will help leave that lasting impression. While the answer may seem clear for typically corporate office jobs, the options become a little more open-ended with creative and freelance occupations.
We may not be able to help you with your interview responses, but we can definitely aid you in the wardrobe department. We want to make sure your outfit is ready for battle, so we asked Style Panel to help inspire us with stylish, yet professional job interview outfit options.
One Chic Mom’s Iva Grbesic believes in knowing your industry before deciding what to wear. Though she chooses a classic suit, she plays with jewellery pieces to glam up her look. Both A Fashion’s Love Affair Cara McLeay and Suburban Faux-Pas’ Krystin Lee consider adding prints, textures and pops of colour like orange and yellow to your interview ensemble to showcase your personal style. And though we’re all striving to make a memorable impression, With Love Gabrielle‘s Marta Tryshak reminds us to always wear something you feel good in and true to your personality. No accessory beats confidence when it comes to meeting your future employer.
Or jump to: AMBER DESILETS, LONDON | ANUM KHAN, TORONTO | BECKY KUNG, CALGARY | CARA MCLEAY, VANCOUVER | IVA GREBESCIC, TORONTO | KYRSTIN LEE, TORONTO | LYNDSEY FOREST, EDMONTON | MARTA TRYSHAK, TORONTO/MONTREAL | NICOLE WILSON, TORONTO
Cara McLeay, 28
Vancouver | A Fashion Love Affair
I like to keep my interview outfits respectable yet fun. I think mixed prints, pops of colour and some statement jewellery all add a little something to let your potential future employer see a bit of your personality when they meet you.
Cara’s wearing: Pants, ASOS. Shirt and necklace, J.Crew. Heels, Bebe. Jacket, Old Navy. Bag, Marc by Marc Jacobs. Sunglasses, House of Harlow.
Krystin Lee, 26
Toronto | Suburban Faux-Pas
I personally love dressing up for job interviews. I feel that they are the perfect opportunity to showcase your true personality without having to say too much. Working in the PR field, I’ve found that while maintaining a ‘professional’ look is a must, you can often play with patterns, textures and colours. As you can see with this outfit, I’ve put a personal twist on the age old ‘suit’ look by toning down bold polka dots with an oxford inspired blazer and bow blouse.
Krystin’s weaing: Blazer, Banana Republic. Blouse, Spiegel. Pants, Forever 21. Sunglasses, Karen Walker. Purse, Prada. Shoes, Zara. Watch, Micheal Kors. Bracelets, Stella & Dot.
Nicole Wilson, 29
Toronto | Dainty Girl
I had no idea how to dress for my first job interview so I went with the standard “white collar” look – dress pants, a button up shirt and a blazer. I didn’t stand out, I felt awkward and there was absolutely none of my personality in that outfit.
It’s always easier to take the safe route, but you’ll feel 100% more confident and comfortable in your job interview if you’re wearing something that you feel great in. Now that I’ve been in the workforce for a decade, I know that not only is it acceptable to incorporate your personal style and flare into professional looks, but it’s often embraced. Offices that used to be dominated by neutrals are starting to show their true colours and retailers are supporting that with new twists on old classics.
If I were going for a job interview today (let’s say Marketing for a fashion/beauty brand), I’d most likely wear a dress because that’s what I feel my best in. For this look, I opted for an elegant and chic black and white A-line dress – it’s on trend, office appropriate and versatile to accessorize. I wouldn’t go with anything too trendy, too bright or too casual for the first impression; it’s always better to gauge your audience and atmosphere first. You’ll also need a bag that’s big enough to carry your important documents, but that doesn’t mean you need Dad’s briefcase! I went with a bright pink structured handbag to add a pop of colour (and flare) to my look.
I think it goes without saying that you shouldn’t wear your shortest skirt, brightest colours or most statement jewellery for a job interview, but you also don’t need to wear that boring monkey suit! It’s all about balance. Employers want to hire someone who’s polished and professional with personality! Be yourself, because that’s who their hiring.
Nicole’s wearing: Dress, French Connection. Shoes, Aldo. Handbag, Kate Spade. Bracelet, Ann Taylor. Watch, Michael Kors.
Amber Desilets, 30
London, ON | Canadian Fashionista
If you’re wondering what to wear to an interview, the most important thing to keep in mind that you must look professional and polished no matter what job you may be applying for. Although it’s important that your interview attire be professional and conservative, that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment and have fun with colour; stick with one statement colour and pair it with neutrals. When it comes to your shoes you want to always have your toes covered, no matter the season, stick to classic styles like a pump. Limit your jewellery. You don’t want to be making a ton of noise when walking into the room. Also make sure your hair is neat and professional, go easy on the makeup and perfume and have your nails nicely manicured.
I built my outfit around this red pencil skirt, as red is known to be a power colour that brings attention to yourself. You always want to stand out a little when you’re going for an interview. When going for a skirt make sure to keep the hemline conservative (so you’ll be able to sit comfortably), hemline should not exceed higher than three inches above your knee. I added a classic black dress shirt and a tailored blazer to pull the look all together. Added a mid-size black Coach handbag so that’s it’s not overpowering the outfit and finished the look with classic Christian Louboutin pumps.
Lyndsey Forest, 23
Edmonton | Over My Styled Body
Gone are the days of boring old pant suits and pencil skirts, and in are the times of mixing and matching separates and adding some colour into your wear to work wardrobe! That being said, this new mindset needs to start right from the beginning of your career, aka the first interview.
Along with your amazing credentials, you want to have another competitive edge that sets you apart from the other candidates. Enter- your fabulous first interview outfit! A great trick to making a memorable impression is to add some colour into your look. That way amongst the sea of grey’s and pinstripes you can stand out as the girl in the amazing red blazer, or in my case the mint jacket. You also want to keep your look professional so make sure that your separates are still modest and hemlines are at the appropriate length. And lastly, no employer wants to hire a Plain Jane, so show off your great personality and add in some fun with your accessories. A statement necklace or an amazing pair of shoes can act as a great conversation piece to help break the ice. So have fun with your interviews and your outfits! You never know, that outfit could land you your next big break.
Lyndsey’s wearing: Skirt, Forever 21. Chambray shirt, H&M. Jacket, heels and Jewellery, J.Crew. Bag, Urban Outfitters.
Anum Khan, 23
Toronto | SummerxSkin
At a very young age I was taught that interviewers might look for a few items: hair pinned back and covered legs. For some reason that has stuck with me since and whenever I prepare an outfit for an interview or even if I’m meeting a potential client for the first time, I make sure to dress appropriately abiding by those rules. You never know what the person you’re meeting could be comfortable with. That being said, we’re lucky that printed pants and skirts are on-trend. While I’m wearing my favourite pair of black pumps and my hair has been tied back, I styled my outfit with printed pants to show that I am still passionate about fashion and that I like to stand out. Once you’re more comfortable with the client or have a better idea of what the office atmosphere is like, you can plan your outfits accordingly in the future.
Anum’s wearing: Printed pants and necklace, H&M. Handbag, Kate Spade. Pumps, Nine West. Ring, Myles Sexton. Bracelet, Drama Queen by Flhair
Iva Grbesic, 37
Toronto | One Chic Mom
Interviews are difficult enough without worrying about what one is going to wear. My first piece of advice is to know your industry. The field of Law, Business/Finance and Banking are still very conservative. When dressing for interviews in those fields I would stick to dark suits (black, grey or navy blue) a simple blouse and minimal jewelry. Once you’ve proven yourself to your employer you can push the fashion limits. Get the job first and push later. Other fields tend to be less conservative and if you’re applying for anything related to Fashion, Art or Music you have a chance to express yourself through your clothing choices.
I decided to wear a suit, however, I still had fun with my choices. My chosen field would be more marketing driven where companies still rely on stability with a bit of creativity. I’m not going to apply for an entry level position and this gives me a bit of flexibility and allows me to chose some fun jewelry options. When you’ve built a name and reputation for yourself people allow for your personality to shine through your clothes. If this was a more junior position I would just leave the bracelets and necklace at home.
Iva’s wearing: Blazer, skirt and button down shirt, Banana Republic. Shoes, Prada. Necklace, Cocoa Jewelry. Bracelets, Cocoa Jewelry & Stella & Dot. Handbag, Coach.
Marta Tryshak, 24
Toronto/Montreal | With Love Gabrielle
It’s your big day and you want to make a positive impression! And, what you wear will set the tone for the entire occasion. It may be hard to believe a skirt, pant-suit, or a blouse can have such an influence, but fact is they can! What you wear will not only put you in a positive self-assured frame of mind, but it will portray the image you want your colleagues to have. When getting ready for an interview, staying true to yourself and what you love might be challenging but with some objective thought it can be done. If you’re an overly girly girl who loves bows, then incorporate them in a subtle way. For me it was wearing a pair of Tory Burch heels that were classic but with a fun print and an adorable bow to a marketing conference where I presented. Accessories and nail color are also a great way to show off your personal style, and add some pop to an otherwise conservative and professional look. There is nothing wrong with letting your personality and style shine through, because that is what can set you apart and above! Dressing for success is essentially believing in yourself and allowing your personality to shine through!”
Marta’s wearing: Blouse, Talula Babaton. Jacket, Diane Von Furstenberg. Skirt, BCBG Max Azria. Purse, Kate Spade. Pumps, Tory Burch.
Becky Kung, 30
Calgary | Velvet & Vino
Putting an outfit together for a job interview indeed needs to be well-thought out and strategic. It is important to have a solid understanding of the type of job you are interviewing for and also the industry the job is in. If you are interviewing for a Corporate Banking role or a law firm, you wouldn’t want to dress in much less than a business suit. On the contrary, if you are interviewing for a fashion-related job, your outfit needs to demonstrate professionalism with a stylish edge. My outfit here pairs well to a casual and yet professional environment. For example, I would wear this tweed skirt and button-collared blouse for an Oil and Gas corporate interview taking place this current season. My number one tip is the importance of knowing the culture of that company and be able to answer questions to yourself such as how conservative is the environment? What is the format of the interview, is it a coffee interview versus an interview with the executives? At what stage of the interview process is taking place? Then from there you can dress accordingly. My final recommendation is that every woman’s closet should include the staple white button-collared top, it is perfect to pull any outfit together!
Becky’s wearing: Tweed skirt, Forever 21. White button blouse, Le Chateau. Pump, Sam Moon. Necklace, Banana Republic. Watch, Michael Kors. Belt, Jacob. Earrings, Aldo Accessories.