Thursday, February 21, 2019

My tips for dressing for a corporate interview

Hooray! I just got hired. The past ten years I've worked at the Big 5 book publishers, which is a bit on the conservative side style-wise. There's over a hundred years of tradition at these companies and they were every stereotype of Old New York book publishing. It's not that I couldn't dress goth at my job, but I did have to be more couture than punk rock, if you know what I mean. I wrote a good post on dressing this way some time ago, if you are in a similar work situation and don't want to go full corporate (I never will): 

My NEW company is a Silicon Valley company, and I have no idea what they wear. The stereotype is California athleisure, but I guess I'll see. I'm heading off to California next week!

That being said, I've changed jobs so many times that I think I have a good sense of what to wear for these interviews. The outfits that I was hired with all had some similar characteristics and if you are someone who dresses in dark fashion and want to represent yourself accurately at an interview, you might find this useful.

1. Never wear black (or almost black) head-to-toe

Those outfit ideas I posted above? OK for everyday. I'd wager that most people wear black to the office. But do not wear all black to an interview. I've only been hired once with an all-black outfit, and it was leather pants with a suit and I had green hair at the time--this was at an indie publisher geared for edgy teens, for an internship. For a while the below was my interview outfit: an almost-black dark red button Ben Sherman shirt and this silk Brooks Brothers circle skirt. You would think it's a good interview outfit, just dark fashiony--and I'll tell you that I was never hired with it.
But when I replaced the button-up with the exact same cut, just in pastel green, I was hired. I can't tell you why, but I think you look too boring and not memorable in all black.

2. If you know what your interviewer wears, start there

Obviously you will not always know this. But aside from not wearing black, I've noticed that the "luckiest" outfits somehow matched the interviewer's personal style. The pastel green button-up shirt I mentioned before? Turns out my interviewer always wore pastels. My sister did some research for a company she applied for, learned that she'd be the only one under 60 years old, and dressed like a grandma. She got the job. I know how people dress at the Big 5 publishers, so I know I should never wear a suit--way too stuffy and formal. You will look clueless. My new job is at a Silicon Valley company, based in California but the office is in NYC, so would my interviewer be laid-back Cali sunshine or a no-nonsense pushy New Yorker? I dressed for both...

3. Go for "eccentric" rather than "spooky"

If you don't want to misrepresent yourself and want to skip the "easing into your style" phase of a new workplace, I suggest wearing something a little more funky and bold to the interview so you can let them know immediately that, hey, you don't dress like the other normies. This was what I wore to the most recent interview:
Bold color blocking, a big in-your-face necklace, and very vivid red lips (washed out in the photo...this is fire-engine-red lips). If you're intense in a socially acceptable way, I've found you can pretty much wear what you want on day two.

Other ideas: Bold prints, colors, textures

4. A note on body mods

Earrings and nose rings are mainstream, though in the stuffiest office I worked at I heard one very stuffy executive wonder about hiring someone because she wore a nose ring. I've never taken mine out. Gauged ears are hit-or-miss--I think it's safer not to wear tunnels, since I have heard coworkers say that it "grosses" them out when they can see through your ear. I didn't wear anything when I interviewed at this place, but I did wear tunnels with hoops through them in my last successful interview, and I was interviewed by a conservative man: 

If you do not want to hide your piercings, I suggest matching all your metals/materials as per usual and to wear your most beautiful pieces. If you have something more extreme that you can't hide, all the more reason to dress eccentric. Bold prints, etc blend face tattoos, bold hair colors etc into a more balanced look. Something seems strange and dishonest about a person with extreme mods if they show up in a normal work "costume" for an interview. 

What do you wear to an interview?


  1. Congratulations, on your new job. I think this is great advice, and I love your outfit selections.

  2. New job! Awesome! I hope you find your groove nice and easy!

    I have actually never applied to a full time position in my life, and certainly never worthy of the term "career position", let alone carry meaningful weight... Most times, I should say all times, I was the best dressed in my work casual all black to interviews at fine dining establishments such as Burger King or clothing retail shops at malls. Then again, it's not hard beating out such classic looks like slightly unwashed looking sweat pants, uggs and an ironic shirt worn un-ironically lol.
    Should I ever encounter myself in the position to actually try to impress an employer, I will most certainly remember your advice! =P

    1. I should note Ugg knock offs in there, because there is am obvious quality discrepancy lol

  3. Opinions are being made of you within the first few seconds of the interview, before you’ve even uttered a word. When in doubt, business professional attire is always a safe choice, but here are some other guidelines to follow if you’re unsure. Read more here: