Dressing for a job interview can be stressful. Suit and tie? Or slacks and a dress shirt? A dress and heels? Or trousers, a blouse and a fitted blazer with wedges?
"Your personal presentation matters and can mean the difference between being hired or not, therefore looking the part and dressing and grooming yourself as you want to be seen by the interviewer is critical," says Annette Harris, a personal brand coach, certified image consultant and founder of ShowUp!
Harris advises interviewees to be "strategic and intentional" in their attire. That means dressing to give the impression that you will "fit in" around the office. Research the company's website, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. You'll get a sense of what employees wear.
She also recommends dressing for the job you want. "Think about what you want the interviewee to say about you once you leave the interview," says Harris, noting managers will remember your look when making hiring decisions. "Your desired message should track closely to the industry and culture of the company."
Even if the workplace seems casual, dress up. "Always dress one level up from the job you are applying for," says Julie Mendez, career coach with JSM Career Coaching, who advises interviewees to "never wear a hoodie!"
The classics work. "Suits are always acceptable for professional interviews," says Mendez, who suggests dress slacks and a nice shirt for men applying to a more laid back office.
Be careful with your overall style. "Accessories and jewelry should be minimal, with small and conservative pieces," says Mendez. "You want them to remember you, not your earrings. Hair and makeup should be the same -- conservative and flattering, and not distracting from you or your experience."
*Love Your Look
"You want to feel confident in what you're wearing," says Jay Hallstein, co-founder of Brass, a women's apparel company. "Make sure you like your outfit. If you aren't worrying about what you look like, you'll be able to focus more on answering the questions and making a good impression."
Hallstein suggests women wear a "basic, timeless dress without a lot of pattern" that can be worn to multiple interviews and paired with a tailored blazer for more professional jobs, such as management or sales positions.
Fashion blogger Heidi Nazarudin of TheAmbitionista.com, a blog focused on working-women's fashion and beauty, suggests scoping out the workplace. "Maybe have lunch outside or at the company cafeteria and look at what the staff/employees are wearing."
If you see a wide variety of styles, she advises following the best-dressed person. "That is your benchmark," says Nazarudin, whose motto is, "Style, success and stilettos."
*Dress for Success
Don't worry about overdressing. If you get to the interview and your look is too fancy, you can make your style more casual.
"Worst case scenario, you can unbutton a stuffy shirt, ditch your blazer and roll up your sleeves and muss up your hair, but it's harder to go the other way," says Nazarudin.
*Get the Look:
For jobs in law, banking, finance, consulting or high-level corporations, you want to convey authority, conservatism and competency. Harris recommends suits; classic, subdued, modest dresses made of high-quality materials; and darker power colors such as navy, red and black. Keep hair, facial hair, makeup and accessories simple and understated.
For jobs in social work, insurance, teaching, real estate, sales and IT, your look needs to show you're trustworthy, approachable and knowledgeable. Opt for suits, suit separates, sport coats or blazers, and trousers or skirts, says Harris, who notes "combining lighter colors like beige or gray or earth tones like brown or olive with darker colors will make you appear more approachable." Hair, grooming and accessories need to be polished and professional.
For jobs in journalism, advertising, art, fashion and entertainment, your style should exude creativity, individuality and a contemporary vibe. Choose suit separates, sport coats or blazers, advises Harris. Creative jobs allow you to wear trendy styles, bold colors and unique accessories. "A fun necklace or scarf can be enough to show off a bit of style without going overboard," says Hallstein.