Forget What You Know About Dressing for Interviews: Pencil Skirts, Black and White, and Ricky Bobby

THE BASICS:


When you’re dressing for your interview, please do not stuff all of your personality, individuality, and confidence into a drab black pant suit. Your clothes serve two purposes in your interview: 1.) to show that you can dress professionally, and are intuitive enough to dress to the occasion, and 2.) to represent you and your personality. We talk a lot about the first one, but the second one is just as, if not more, important! I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve had where a woman comes in wearing a pencil skirt and heels that she is obviously uncomfortable in, struggling to walk in, and she’s so worried about her outfit (and how she feels in it) that her confidence and personality never really make their appearance. I’ve seen men do the same thing in ties that are too tight, and jackets that are entirely too hot for their summer interview. Don’t be the candidate who wears an entire outfit of things they aren’t used to wearing and don’t know how to act in—You will look like Ricky Bobby who doesn’t know what to do with his hands, I promise.


Your clothes, and how you outwardly feel in your clothes, shouldn’t be a distraction from who you are as a candidate. Wear something that is professional and polished, but also something that you are comfortable in. No good interviewer is going to say “well, I would’ve hired her if she wore heels instead of flats.” However, if you’re so worried about your shoes, or how much you’re sweating through your jacket, and that ends up hiding your true personality, there’s a good chance that could inhibit your hiring chances.

THE GOOD STUFF:


Now that we have the basics out of the way, I want to address all of the bad advice we’ve all given and received around dressing for an interview: “Dress for the job you want,” “dress one level above the job you’re interviewing for,” etc. Yet, none of that advice gives you a concrete idea of what you should actually wear to your interview. We have a very stuffy idea of what professionalism looks like, and I’m here to tell you, not only should you not dress like a low-rate public defense attorney for your interview, you should avoid “peak professionalism” all together. Years ago, I remember shopping for interview attire, and upon asking a friend their opinion, she told me “I would stick to black and white; that’s probably too much color.” Now, that’s sage advice based on everything we’ve ever been told about professionalism and interviewing, but, more importantly, it’s bad advice!



Do you want a psychology hack for interviewing? Wear a statement piece—Wear color! According to Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifli and Muhammah Faiz Mustafar in “The Influence of Colour on Memory Performance: A Review,” “Colour helps us in memorizing certain information by increasing our attentional level. The role played by colour in enhancing our attention level is undisputable. The more attention focused on certain stimuli, the more chances of the stimuli to be transferred to a more permanent memory storage….Colours have the potential to attract attention” There you have it, folks. It’s just psychology! Our brains pay attention to color, and when color gets our attention, we’re more able to memorize the information associated with the color. Be colorful, be memorable, and stop wearing only black and white to your interviews.


Adawiah Dzulkifli, M., & Faiz Mustafar, M. (2013). The Influence of Colour on Memory Performance: A Review. The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences, 20(2), 3-9. Retrieved August 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3743993/#:~:text=Colour helps us in memorizing,permanent memory storage (18).



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