Dressing for the interview

So, you’ve done it! You made it into the design office of your dreams for a face-to-face interview! Congratulations! Or perhaps you are dressing to survive one of my infamous portfolio reviews.

A few words about this day: A large part of your evaluation may be on the nonverbal part of your presentation: dress, mannerisms, etc. Don’t panic; this part of the interview has been survived by many a student, yours truly included. We’ve all walked this path and there are many pieces of advice we have to pass onto you, the uninitiated. Ask for interview and resume advice from as many people as you can. Most colleges have a career center with extremely helpful individuals ready to proof your resume and help in any way they can. Below is what I have to offer for dressing and acting the part of the professional.


In Jackson, Mississippi, Fondren has a shop called Silly Billy’s, which carries both men and women’s fashions. I just can’t stop visiting this place. Just today, I bought four blouses and two dresses (Banana Republic and J. Crew) for under $30. They carry shoes and jewelry and change out fashions for the appropriate season. The store is beautiful and organized. They make thrift fun!

In Nashville, the Goodwill stores (especially the superstore on Gallatin Pike, close to Rivergate) and Southern Thrift on Nolensville have a good selection of items. If you are a lady looking for a more organized experience, Designer Renaissance is a good option, but the prices are a bit higher. Designer Finds in Green Hills is where I’ve had the most luck. The Plato’s Closet stores have good options for men.

I’ve also had great luck at Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx clearance racks. Set a budget and stick to it. You can find good clothes on the cheap!


Ladies and gentlemen need to concentrate on what fits well, wrinkles the least (wool and some rayon), and is timeless and business-like (keep the trends at home). There are a lot of wrinkle-free shirt options for both sexes. I personally splurge on the Land’s End wrinkle-free shirts (shop the online outlet). They are pricey, but worth the money and, if reserved for business occasions, they last forever. Just wash, dry, and hang, no ironing!

For ladies, the power suit works best. I read a recent article that said the skirt suit was replacing the pants suit in this category. I personally prefer a pants suit with a lined pant, because I can move more freely. Skirts should almost touch the knees; nothing too short.

For guys, a tie may be overkill, depending on the environment, but no effort goes unnoticed. An interviewer notices the effort you put into getting ready. A matching suit isn’t necessary, just wear your best pants and jacket, and use your shirt and tie to bridge the gap in coordination. Make sure and see the color guideline below about matching according to hair and eye color, and you’ll look great!


The best piece of advice I ever received about color came from a beauty magazine many years ago: Dress according to your hair color and eye color. If you are a blue-eyed brunette, a nice brown suit with a stunning blue-patterned blouse will do it. If you are a blonde, layer light chestnut and almond colors together to create a beautiful effect. This works for men and women. Not everyone should wear a black suit to an interview.


I know (and love) the current trend in sky-high heels for women, but unless you can walk gracefully and confidently in them (and bless you if you can!), I recommend a lower heeled shoe. Guys, opt for a nice dress shoe with a slim profile. Match your belt to your shoes.

Tattoos should be covered as well as possible. You’ll have plenty of time to show your uniqueness after you are hired and complete your first successful project.

Nose rings and studs should be removed if at all possible, or, if not possible, buy a flesh-colored stud or keep it very, very small. As far as ear gages, I’m not sure about removal, but my personal opinion is if you’ve gone that far with body modification, opt for the least flashy jewelry option you have available.


Go conservative. For the ladies, this means either a stunning necklace, earrings, or bracelet, but not all at once. Guys have it much easier, like above, match your shoes and belt. Keep rings on the hands conservative and not too flashy.

Makeups for the ladies should be kept clean, fresh, and natural, but use enough to play up your best features without using too much.

For guys, if you have a beard, make sure it is clean and trimmed. Do keep in mind that some corporations have dress codes about hair touching collars and facial hair, so research these in advance if you will be interviewing at such a place (be sneaky and call a department assistant or someone in Human Resources to ask these questions!).


If you are in a cold climate, the best investment you can make is a good, dressy coat that matches your business look. Most places place these on sale in February or so. Watch the racks for a steal and buy out of season. The same goes for suits!


I just got a very nice one that holds my laptop, cords, and other items for $35 at T.J. Maxx. You can use folders to keep your documents, like a resume, nice and crisp. Ladies, if you can find one that you can tuck your billfold into, that’s best. The fewer items you carry in, the less of a chance there is you will get nervous and leave something behind.


Invest in shoe polish or at least a shine sponge for your shoes, both easy to find at Target or Wal-Mart. Condition and take care of leather items. Buy a Dryel kit for your dry clean only items, and had wash what you can in cold water to make it last longer.


–      Smile! A lot! It makes everyone less nervous.

–      Breathe! If you take a breath, it will alleviate that nervous chatterbox thing that happens to all of us. Usually an interviewer is waiting for your signal to stop so they can ask the next question.

–       Maintain enough eye contact, but not too much.

–      Have questions ready to ask about the company, about the job description, anything. Have a question or two prepared for them to show your interest in the company. Research them in advance and find out more. What do they do in the community? How many employees to they have? In what industry do most of their clients work? Show you have done your homework.

–      Remember that you are both getting to know one another and see if the relationship can be mutually beneficial.

–      Don’t discuss money, benefits or vacation until you have been offered the job.

Good luck and I hope you get that paycheck, but most of all, I hope you find a fulfilling place to work with cool people.