Dressing for an Interview

Mostly how I am not sure how to do it.  The world of job searching is full of all sorts of random, seemingly magical, and often contradictory advice, leaving a poor random recent graduate like me with no idea what is true.  It is also largely geared towards the business world, which is not really my field.  I've recently been able to cut out a lot of the noise with the site Hiring Librarians, which is fantastic and simply a series of interviewers with the actual people who make hiring decisions at libraries.  I know since I started reading it regularly my cover letters and resume have dramatically improved, but the question of how to dress for an interview hass, if anything, gotten more confusing.  A huge number of the interviewees list dressing "too casually" as a common mistake, but what does that mean? Should I wear a suit?  Crap, I don't actually own a suit.  Then I will read someone saying a common mistake is "dressing too casually, like some people show up in flip-flops".  Right, I wasn't really ever considering showing up to an interview in flip-flops. The most formal library staff I have ever seen still only dress in "business casual" wear, so I figure, slightly nicer/more conservative than that should be fine.  I do however, have a pretty weak grasp on what normal people consider normal clothes.  So, here are the outfits I am most strongly considering, your feedback and general comments are very much appreciated.

This is my personal top pick.  It is dressy, but interesting and not at all revealing.  On the left I wear it with a sweater since I may soon be interviewing in Maine where it is usually in the 50's this time of year. I'm wearing it with some earrings that have a bit of vellum from a medieval copy of the Justitnian Code.  I don't know if the print is a bit too funky or the whole thing is too casual.

This is a generally safe outfit.  I wear it to work pretty regularly, but it is one of the nicer outfits I would ever wear to my job.  I think it might qualify as "too" casual, but the skirt is fancy and I just really don't know.
This one may be a little too odd, as a coat-dress it risks looking like I am just not taking off my coat, but in other respects it's very much the most conservative piece I own (I mean, it's even navy).

And shoes!  I mean, obviously no flip-flops, but as someone who is nearly six feet tall, are high heels off the table?  Here are my options:
I think the heels are the best option, otherwise maybe the boots?  I suspect the glitter flats are not a good idea.  My shoe collection seems to be failing me now.
Category: 10 comments


Trystan L. Bass said...

I like the print dress with the sweater -- it's polished & put-together, very smart. The second outfit is just ok, it's simple & doesn't stand out, & the third is a smidge too fancy for an interview & the resemblance to 'not taking off your coat' is distracting. Any of the shoes will do, tho' I slightly prefer the non-boot-looking ones, but really, the ones that are most comfortable on your feet since the last thing you'll need are pinched toes that day ;-)

Interview dressing *is* tricky! Ideally, you'd know how ppl dress at the place you're interviewing, & aim for an ever-so-slightly more formal version of that. But it's not always possible to case the joint in advance. I'd avoid suits unless you are positive it's a suit kind of place, like law or banking or you're interviewing for an extremely senior management position. Matchy suits seem like overkill, whereas a coordinated jacket & skirt/pants/dress looks more modern & approachable, while still professional in most any industry.

sokeripupu said...

i'd wear the print dress with the sweater to an interview too - the second one is a little too everyday business casual and the third one does just look like a coat to me. my current set of interview clothes are kind of insane though (it's like... they're all fancy enough but they don't really go together), so maybe you shouldn't listen to me.

sokeripupu said...

oh and the heels are v. librarianish.

KID, MD said...

Another vote for the dress and cardi combo. The green top is pretty, but a knit top is always going to read as a tee shirt. The skirt is pretty and might be OK with a very tailored button down. You'll be sitting in the interview itself, so I wouldn't worry about the height issue. Of those three options, the buttoned bootie is definitely the most professional. Glitter flats are a definite no.

MissGracie said...

I like the booties with buttons ^_^ And I also like the first outfit, and the skirt-with-fancier-top idea.

Good luck in your interviews!

VictorianKitty (Sophistique Noir) said...

I vote for the print dress, with the sweater. The sweater tones down the print just enough, and the whole thing is very classy. I agree with Trystan - suits can seem strange if it's not a suit environment. I usually wear a not-too-fancy blazer over a classy dress for interviews. It's a look that is professional but not rigid.

For shoes, I vote for the button heels. The pointy boots have what I call "too much personality for an interview." Personality is a GOOD thing, but can be distracting in an interview scenario.

Bane said...

I'd go with the dress and sweater combo. I think professional wear often involves layers - such as a jacket with skirt as Trystan mentioned or a blazer over a dress as VictorianKitty described. As an alternative to a jacket (in which I feel confined), I typically opt for a simple cardigan over a button-front shirt with a plain black skirt. I try to keep the overall look fairly simple - more "polished" than "dressy."

I feel awkward if my interviewer is a 5'7" man and I'm towering 5" over him. Nonetheless, I prefer a low to moderate heel (usually 2") because flats can look too casual. I like your heels with buttons. They're interesting but not distracting.

Hope that helps, and good luck! :)

Sabayon said...

Woo-Hoo! Thanks to everyone for the incredibly helpful and detailed feedback. I feel much more confident in dressing for interviews now.

Sarahbelle said...

Definitely the print dress and cardi combo is my favorite!! As are the button shoes - love them!!!
I agree with Katie, that the knit top could be construed as a T -- it might be fine to wear once you get the job, but I wouldn't wear it to an interview.
I like the coat dress a lot!!! Perhaps you could off-set the "she hasn't taken off her coat" problem, by wearing something over it (a pashmina, maybe??) that you take off in front of the interviewer.

Vulcan_Butterfly said...

Cute outfits!

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