"I have absolutely nothing to wear! Amber, please come over... and bring some options!!"
This was the panicked phone call I received from a friend. She had an interview and was stumped on what to wear. When I arrived to her studio apartment, it looked like a fashion massacre. Clothes strewn about everywhere, shoes in a pile on the floor, jewelry hanging from the doorknobs, and my friend on her bed with tears in her eyes.
What she experienced is something that we all face as millennial women at some point in our lives. I classify it as a form of interview anxiety, when we place so much value on the interview that everything becomes make it or break it. We think "If I wear the wrong shoes, they'll think I'm impractical and not hire me!" or "If I wear my hair in its curly state, they won't take me seriously." The best way to combat this form of anxiety is to remember what's important. When clients call me to seek advice on interview attire, I always give them a checklist of 10 important points to consider in choosing their outfits.
Here are the four most important considerations on that list that will make your next interview a piece of cake (and who doesn't love cake?):
1. What's the company culture?
The last thing you want to do is seem like you didn't do your research on the company. Imagine walking into Google for an interview in a two-piece suit or interviewing at American Express in ripped jeans and a T-shirt. Knowing what the company culture is can help you decide what level of dress you need for your interview. I also suggest that clients consider the attire of the company and dress one step above for the interview.
2. What are you doing during the interview?
I once interviewed with a Fortune 500 organization for a Corporate Trainer position. I knew the interview would involve a presentation, so I wore my most comfy heels, as I would only be standing for about 15 minutes. What I did not know was that the interview also involved an hour and a half tour of the company's campus! When you say "dogs barking" you still wouldn't be close to how my feet felt afterwards! Ask your interviewer for an interview schedule to avoid any surprises like this.
3. Is this your first interview with the company?
You may wonder what this has to do with a hill of beans, but hear me out -- it matters! The first interview, I recommend you go with a more neutral, toned-down interview 'fit. This gives you the chance to see what everyone else who works there wears. The traditional recommendation is to take the company's dress code and dress a step above it for the interview. You know, the whole "Dress for the job you want" rule. However, this rule doesn't apply if it's the second, third, or fourth interview. At those points, you should show the company you understand and appreciate their dress code.
I once interviewed a potential HR candidate who showed up to our "jeans and T-shirt" environment with a three-piece suit. The first interview -- no problem, he nailed the interview and we figured for the second interview, he would adapt a bit. Wrong! Homeboy showed up in a new three-piece ensemble for every single level of interviewing. Ultimately, we selected a different candidate due to skill-set, but by the third interview, I was disappointed that he hadn't picked up on our laid back dress code. It made me, as the hiring manager, feel he wouldn't do well with our company culture if, after three interviews, he still suited up.
I'm not by any means saying he had to show up in jeans if that wasn't his style (see number 4), but to tone down the severity of the suit for our company culture, would have showed us that he knew what was up!
4. Is the outfit reflective of your personal style?
It's important that you be yourself, we millennials are known for it. As a corporate trainer, I would tell new hires that they now are responsible for bringing the version of themselves that they showed during their interview to work every day. The same goes for you attire. Companies are much more progressive than they were 15 years ago.
The old thoughts of "dress conservatively" no longer apply and it's better to see how a company reacts to the real you during the interview, than it is once you have the job. I mean, think about it, I would never want to work somewhere that tells me I can't wear my natural curly hair, or that is frightened of a little print. Now, that's not to say get crazy in what you wear, always remember our first consideration. The company's environment may not call for you to rock bright blue hair, but if that's who you are and want to be, then perhaps that company isn't for you.
Remember, an interview is like a first date; they may remember what you wear, but they'll most likely most remember what you said and how you carried yourself. An amazing outfit is just the icing on the interview cake.