How to Dress for a Job Interview (Conservative Field)

Dressing for a job interview is always stressful. This post empowers you to pick the right outfit to make a great first impression. In addition, it covers tricks to enhance your appearance by the choice of your accessories, grooming and the right makeup.

Contents
  1. Take control of your interview appearance
  2. How to create an interview outfit for the conservative work force
    • Aspects to consider for dressing
    • Don’t underestimate the power of your accessories and footwear
    • Grooming tips
  3. Outfit inspirations for a job interview

Disclosure: This post has affiliate links.

Take control of your interview appearance

Getting a job interview invitation means you made the short list. Congratulations.

For a successful job interview, an important thing is to take control when/where you have the possibility to do so. Your outfit is in your control. It should convey confidence, and competence. Your clothes also should convey the message that you are on top of things and up-to date.

How to create an interview outfit for the conservative work force

Let’s assume you applied for a job in a more conservative field. No matter whether you applied for a position in the conservative field or in the creative job field your interview outfit‘s goal is to create a polished, classic outfit that conveys the message

I know what I am doing, I take charge/control, I am a professional. Click To Tweet

Aspects to consider for dressing

Here are important points to consider when putting a job interview outfit together:

  1. If they company has a webpage with photos of their employees browse it to see what they are wearing. It is a good start to find the bar that you should up a nudge. Err on their most formal side of their wardrobe.
  2. Go for sober neutrals (gray, navy, black, camel, brown) and a pop of color in your top or accessories (scarf, bag, belt, necklace). See this guide on how to create non-boring outfits with neutrals.
  3. For younger women and men a suit is a great option as it reads “I am mature.” Once you are over 40, a suit may work in your disadvantage. It reads “I am conservative.” The suit makes you look old and may convey the message that you might live in the past. A skirt blazer combination is more modern, fashion forward and conveys that you stayed young and hip even though you graduated from high school more than 20 years ago. Thus, a fake suit made of a blazer and skirt works in your favor.
    • Nice combinations are a neutral color straight skirt in around knee length or wide leg pants (read not skinnies, but also not paperbag trousers), blazer in another neutral color, contemporary bracelet/bangle, brooch or necklace, court pumps, silky shell or blouse.
    • Another great option for women of any age is a tailored dress that flows over your body plus a short suit jacket with a scarf or medium long necklace and pumps. See this guide on styling with scarves and how to knot them.
    • Men take the analogous idea of great pants and a blazer/suit jacket in different neutrals that work well together, lace up dress leather shoes, a nice shirt and tie.
    • Both (wo)men over 40 stay away from tapered pants unless you have very thin hips. These trousers add bulk and may give a wrong impression about your health and/or weight and activity.
  4. When wearing tweed style it in a modern look.
  5. Avoid fashion mistakes that make you look Old.
  6. Women should not wear a heel higher than 2.5 inch (5 cm). Go for closed toe and heels even in summer. In many conservative fields, especially in corporate fashion, sling backs and open toe pumps or sandals are a no-no. The so-called court pumps are a save bet.
  7. Men, if you like to get some height, get it with an insole, a slightly thicker sole with 1 1/8 inch heel at most. Keep the cowboy boots at home.
  8. Make sure your clothes are flawless (no spots, runners, knots, open seams, wrinkles, polished shoes, no distress on bags or shoes, no heel damage, etc.). Runners are never in style. #dress4success #agelessstyle Click To Tweet
  9. Don’t forget about the outerwear when the climate/weather calls for it. Keep in mind when you enter the place your outerwear is what they see first, and the first impression should be in your favor. Thus, treat your outerwear as an outfit (see this post for how to style outerwear). Go for classic coats like, for instance, a trench coat, camel coat, cocoon or pea coat. A nice cashmere or silk scarf is always a great investment. Find out what the weather will be. If rain is in the forecast have an umbrella handy. You don’t want to enter totally wet and with a ruined blowout. Instead you want to enter dry with a wet umbrella conveying the message I am on top of things and stay the weathers. #dress4success Click To Tweet
  10. When you are a woman engineer also check this guide for additional engineering related dress-code tips for female engineers.
  11. When you applied for a position in the corporate world, check this guide on non-boring corporate style for further information.
  12. When you wear a skirt or dress, pantyhose is a Must. Have an extra pair in a sealable plastic bag in your purse in case of a runner. Alternatively, go for this new “unbreakable” legwear. My favorite are those from Hipstik® Legwear. You can find my review of Hipstik pantyhose at this link.  They are less expensive than those from Sheertex (see my review of Sheertex unbreakable pantyhose at this link.
interview outerwear for fall
Cocoon leather coat with tailored dress, structured office bag, tights and booties. In cold climate regions, opaque tights are acceptable when the temperatures are below the freezing point.

Don’t underestimate the power of your accessories and footwear

The accessories is where your personal style and personality, i.e. uniqueness come in. Here some tips to use your accessories in your advantage.

  1. Women, keep your jewelry in the conservative field (see this post for earring styles). Gold or silver color are great. Studs are best, as they do not make funny noises when you are on a phone.
  2. A pearl necklace is sort of the equivalent to the men’s tie. But don’t wear pearl studs and a pearl necklace at the same time. It looks old fashioned. It was a Do in the 1960s.
  3. I know you check your time on the phone like the next gal, but nevertheless, add a watch. It conveys the message that you take time (and deadlines) seriously. A men’s watch or watch with large dial is best as you can read the time without your reading glasses. Metals are sophistcated and elegant. Wooden watches are great for the business casual field. See this review of a wood watch.
  4. Add a structured leather bag, briefcase or tote that is big enough to hold a tablet, lap top and folder as well as all the other things that you typically have in your purse. This size conveys the message that you are prepared/willing to take work home if needed. When you prefer vegan bags you can find high quality vegan bags from sustainable resources at Jord.
  5. Make sure that your shoes are polished.

Grooming tips

Of course, you groom and take care of your appearance. However, there are some tricks to show it off to send a positive message about you and your professionalism.

  1. Get a nice haircut a week before. Your hair should fall naturally, look clean and healthy. If you dye your hair, make sure that no roots show.
  2. Get a manicure as you have to have your hands on the desk. Have your eyebrows done. You should strive to convey the message that you pay attention to details and take care of yourself. Groom for your job interview. #careeradvice Click To Tweet
  3. Your makeup should be barely there, but it should be clearly visible that there is makeup. A natural looking makeup is the finishing touch. It’s a balance act. The goal is to look professional, and not like going out or “I don’t care.”

Don’t let the right outfit be a random thing. Wear the right look in every situation by looking up what to wear when in How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy the book now.

Outfit Inspirations for a Job Interview

The following photos show interview outfit inspirations. I wore a similar outfit like in the upper left photo when interviewing for my position at UAF.

style blogger Nicole donning a business casual interview attire Oliveo navy blue blazer with gold metal buttons, gray pencil skirt, Oliveo chambray shirt, metallic pumps, pearl necklaces, silk scarf, and Modalo Pippa bag (all own)

Winter interview outfit with otk boots Ann Taylor floral tweed skirt, Oliveo chambray shirt, quartz necklace, Hermes collier de chien cuff, Tissot watch, Kate Moss for Longchamp satchel, Oliveo faux suede blazer, and Dior boots (all own)

Style blogger in above the knee fitted sleek belted dress and heels Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, unbranded pantyhose, Aldo leopard print ponyhair pumps, Hermes collier de chien bangle, bangle from my late mom, and Kasper coat dress (all own)

mature woman wearing a skirt and top in job interview style Black straight skirt with printed GNW top, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, Kate Moss for Longchamp satchel bag, Hermes collier de chien bangle,  scarf, Anne Klein pumps, and Oliveo blazer (all own)

corporate fashion fall interview outfit inspirationRuby Belle tailored dress with sheer panty hose, pumps, structured office bag and cocoon leather coat as outerwear (all own) for an interview outfit in fall

fashion book author in business casual unmatch suit Black skirt, L.K. Bennett pumps, light blue linen blazer, structured bag, Ann Klein scarf, GNW polka dot top, and pearl necklace (all own)

Good Luck 🙂 . I hope you get the job.

You can more tips for professional outfits and various other dressing situations in midlife, in my style recipe book “How to Dress for Success in Midlife”. Buy your copy now.

Get the inspirations to dress your best in life. Get a subscription to High Latitude Style. Deep inside you know when I can do it you can do it too.

Photos: G. Kramm

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