It’s a fact that job interviews are stressful. No one denies this. Some of us can prepare all we want but when the time comes, we still get nervous about selling ourselves, big upping our achievements, and trying to come up with our “worst quality.” (Hint: Don’t say perfectionism.) I have found that the only way to overcome this nervousness, even slightly, is to walk into the situation feeling in control. This takes practice (role-playing, talking to yourself in the mirror) and ultimately boils down to feeling confident in your ability to do the job.
For some us, what’s important—mentally—in preparing for a job interview is figuring out what to wear. My partner, who is much more attuned to the guiding principles of fashion than I am—your socks must match the color of your shoes, and go easy on the patent leather—is constantly telling me that I should be wearing a skirt or pantsuit to interviews. We normally negotiate down to a collared shirt, which I eventually dismiss for my original outfit of choice: back slacks, a nice printed blouse, and a cardigan. Why? Because that is the version of myself that I am most comfortable presenting to a future employer. I am not a pantsuit-wearing, stiletto-balancing woman, and I do not want to set the expectation that I will be wearing that to work every day, nor do I want to come off as awkward and insecure in my appearance. The analogy that I use is: Dressing as someone else for the interview is the same as “enhancing” your résumé with imaginary career achievements.
Now, it’s not like I wear yoga pants to interviews. I am 29 years old and have held professional positions for which I secured sponsorship from corporate partners, met with MPs (the British/Australian equivalent of congressman), managed staff, given speeches, and mentored youth. That said, I have never owned or used an iron and do not remember the last time I wore a collared shirt. I have broad shoulders and a large bust—business shirts feel like corsets to me. I own one pair of black stilettos, which I wore exactly once to opening night at the theater. I own two suit jackets that have maybe left my closet three times each over the past four or five years. These items feel like dress-up clothes to me. They do not showcase my personality or style.
Chances are you have a favorite classy-lady outfit. It’s the one you reach for when you have an important meeting or you’re dining with a friend’s parents or you’re going to be in an official photo. For me, that was a colored, loose-fitting singlet with a black cardigan and slim black slacks (in winter) or a vintage, bright-yellow skirt with a simple black solid and mesh top similar to this (in summer). I feel completely comfortable in both, and more important, I know I can move without fear of any buttons popping open or my skirt riding up.
The best advice I can give is to walk one city block dressed in your proposed interview clothing. If, afterwards, your feet are sore or you’re sweating through your blouse or you’ve had to readjust your skirt a few times, it’s best to go back to your closet. Wear something that makes you feel proud of yourself and most importantly comfortable in your own skin. If you feel good, you exude confidence and you’ll be able to focus on the real challenges of the interview. In the end, it shouldn’t be about how you look but how you think. And if your mind is focused on the task at hand, rather than your itchy blouse, you’ll be ready for any tough questions that come your way.
[Image via here]