After all the preparation you've put in (hunting for open positions, researching companies, and updating your résumé), the last step is figuring out the best way to present yourself to a potential employer. Your outfit should reflect just how qualified you are for the job. Brooke Jaffe, a senior vice president at personal styling and closet organizing company Fitz, says the key is to "dress for the job you want." Jaffe, who served 10 years as the women's fashion director of Bloomingdale's, advises wearing something that emphasizes a clean and professional look.
Here are some tips on choosing an interview outfit that will land you an offer:
Research the industry
An interview outfit should vary depending on the position you're applying for. "If the company has a quirky and eccentric culture, consider wearing a vintage T-shirt over a dress or with a skirt--paired with clean sneakers," says Whitney Casey, founder and CEO of Finery, a wardrobe operating system that helps women find their perfect outfit.
For more conservative jobs, try a below-the-knee work dress in a solid color. If you prefer pants, opt for a clean and crisp white blouse, jazzed up with a subtle scarf.
You can't go wrong with a blazer
When all else fails, a blazer will never let you down. It's also a great investment that will come in handy even after landing the job. "It makes you look far more professional, even in jeans," says Jaffe. Black is a classic choice, but a light, pastel blush color will add a chic pop.
The same goes for men, says Dwight Fenton, chief creative officer of Bonobos. His idea of the perfect interview outfit is a mix of comfort, professionalism, and a good suit. "A suit is something you should own, even if your office dress code is a hoodie and jeans," says Fenton, who previously worked at J. Crew.
For a more casual look, pair the suit with a crew neck tee or, alternatively, dress it up with a button-down. The best suit to invest in is one that's made with a bit of stretch, in a three-season wool fabric that can work year-round.
The button-up is classic for a reason
Button-ups combined with sharp trousers create a chic and professional ensemble that allows for some playful personal touches. Jaffe also suggests a three-quarter sleeve top paired with a skinny silk scarf (or neck bandana) for an added burst of color.
Here's another helpful tip: "Never let 'em see you sweat," says Casey. Button-ups can be problematic if you're prone to sweating, and if that's the case, avoid colored silk or light blue. "Sweat will show right through, so opt for a knit sweater or a jacket over your blouse," she adds.
An easy go-to: Chinos and the 9-to-5 pants
Pairing some wide-legged pants (black is always safe) with a fitted blouse and low heels will give women a very polished look. It's a relaxed option that will relieve you from the worries of hemline lengths.
Fenton recommends that men choose pants made with 2 percent stretch. The easy fabric allows you to "sprint between meetings." Chinos will work well for the more casual, entry-level job. Just avoid pairing them with a navy blazer, or "you might be mistaken for your local golf pro," warns Fenton.
Pick a dress that says you're qualified
It's all about the fit. Jaffe's first rule is finding a dress with an appropriate length that doesn't require tugging or adjusting if you're sitting in a meeting. She recommends the "fit and flare" look, like Theory's drop waist dress.
Jaffe likes the white sneaker trend that's been in fashion for several years, especially for those who will be hustling at their workplace. She also recommends the loafer, which, Jaffe says, has been trending on the runway and can make anyone look like a million bucks.
Don't forget to bring a bag to hold your interview materials (cover letters, résumés, work samples, etc.). It's better to come prepared than empty-handed. Make sure the bag is a solid and neutral color (nothing too eccentric or crazy). It should be simple and big enough to carry your folders--and maybe a pair of comfortable shoes, if you're sporting heels to the interview.