Interview with Style
Updated: Mar 4, 2021
Tips from stylist Elizabeth Cramer to find the interview dress style that suits you best
By Kristin Schuchman
Err on the side of conservatism, but not too far. It is possible to dress too primly for an interview. Find out as much about the aesthetic values of a place by perusing the website, absorbing the copy for cues about the overall tone and personality of the place and, if possible, ask someone you know who has worked there recently for tips to strike the right note. Banks, insurance offices and law firms typically prefer more conservatism, while advertising and PR agencies inhabit the other end of the casualness continuum. There’s always that one law firm, however, that bucks the system by encouraging quirky attire and frowning on neck ties. Their website will most likely clue you into their fashion MO.
Dress for one step above the job you’re applying for. You might have heard the advice that once you are in a position, you should dress for the job you want. You want those in charge to notice your professionalism and, if they don’t know who you are, to assume that you’re in a more advanced position. The same principle applies in an interview. Dress like you plan on moving up (and you will more than likely project confidence and dispel interview anxiety).
Women should adhere to the 2-to-4 Feminine Mystique Ratio. (Gentlemen, this one’s for the women. I’ll get to you in a minute.) Ladies, don’t be afraid to be feminine. Long gone are the days when women were advised to dress like men in the workplace, and I, for one, am thankful I don’t have to look like Lilith Sternin Crane to be taken seriously. Image stylist Elizabeth Cramer advises women to embrace their femininity by wearing what makes you feel attractive but to adhere to what she calls the 2-to-4 Feminine Mystique Ratio -- out of the 4 elements of femininity you can don (short skirt, bare legs, cleavage, high heels), you can get away with wearing two of the four, but no more. For instance, you can wear a short skirt with high heels, but not bare legs and no cleavage. You can have cleavage and high heels, but keep your legs covered and wear a longer skirt.
Men should adhere to the 4 Rules of Being Well-Suited. For men, Elizabeth recommends paying attention to the four ways to make sure you show a sense of style and pride in your appearance. Wear a splash of color in the form of a tie and/or handkerchief; sport a well-tailored suit with a slimmer, European cut; pay attention to your shoes, giving them a good polish and keeping them free of scuff marks; and wear socks that coordinate with your tie and handkerchief.
Elizabeth Cramer, owner of Every Day Best Style, is as an image stylist who helps professionals find their Signature Style so they can maximize every opportunity and feel incredibly confident.
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, interview prep, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. Find out more at www.sparkacareer.com.