Fairygodboss

Welcome to Office Hours. We're so glad you dropped by. This column is an initiative of The Fine Line and Fairygodboss created to address the career questions of women 40 and older. The Fine Line is a lifestyle publication that provides cutting-edge guidance and practical resources for women who are redefining what it means to grow older.

 Each month, a Fairygodboss expert will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding a job, starting a new career, or an issue in the workplace, please write us at [email protected].

Q: It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a job interview. What should I wear?

A: If you’re going on your first job interview after being out of the workforce for a while, you’re not alone. Many women take time off from particular industries or work in general to raise families, travel, and pursue other interests. And though job interviews can be intimidating, here are some pointers that will help with the age-old dilemma of what to wear.

Unless you're interviewing for old-money positions in, say, finance or banking, you may not need to wear a business suit. Many companies today embrace business casual, and if you’re interviewing for a job in a sphere like technology or communications, you don’t want to look as though you don’t fit the modern, casual culture. You do want dress a bit more professional than the average employee, because you’re looking to stand out and impress your interviewers. To look professional for your interview, pair slacks with a blouse or skirt, or wear a dress. Do not wear jeans, a crop top, a T-shirt, or a tank top. Don't wear flip-flops, heavy makeup, or clinking jewelry.

It’s always best to play it safe with well-fitted separates in neutral or soft colors, comfortable shoes (classic pumps or neat flats), and natural makeup with little bling. Once you’ve got the job, you can express yourself more freely through clothing colors and jewelry, but during a job interview, you don’t want to be remembered by your outfit; you want to be remembered by your resume and personality.

What you wear to an interview doesn’t really matter, so long as you keep it professional. In a SmartRecruiters survey, 78 percent of hired candidates rated themselves as “average” or “slightly unattractive,” whereas 66 percent of rejected candidates considered themselves “attractive” or “very attractive.” What does matter, however, is having a tailored resume and spending time researching the company before your interview. 

When it comes down to it, what you wear to an interview isn’t going to make your chances of getting the job, but it can certainly break those chances. Keep it smart and simple. Focus on the interview itself, and no one will even notice the shoes on your feet.

If you missed The Fine Line's profile on Fairygodboss co-founder Romy Newman, read it here.