Ever panicked before your big interview before, wondering what to wear to a job interview as a woman? Don’t worry, if you follow this advice, you can never go wrong with your interview outfit again.
First things first. These are the rules you should follow if you have a job interview at a bank, a fund, a consulting company, a law firm, or any other place where the dress code is business formal or casual.
If you’re interviewing somewhere less strict, you can obviously opt for something else, or just loosen up these interview outfits.
I’ve read a lot of articles claiming to give general tips on what to wear during an interview, where they don’t mention what type of interview it is. Most of the time, they end up giving the wrong advice to almost everyone.
Conservative is your magic keyword
If you’re having your first investment banking or consulting interviews as a student, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time in an office before. Which means you don’t have a lot of examples of what’s normal to wear.
Here’s the secret, and it’s really all you need to know: dress as conservatively and clean as possible.
Nothing good can come from trying a fashion-forward interview outfit. Someone may really love your interview attire, but they won’t push internally to hire you because of that.
You don’t want a hater during the job interview
However, if someone dislikes what you’re wearing to the interview (especially a conservative senior), you’re out of luck.
At the end of the day, your job at the interview is to convince enough people to speak positively about you. But at the same time, avoid any negative comments.
10 “hell yes!” and 1 “no” can still be a “no” if that one person is important enough.
I know I said all you need to know is that you should dress conservatively, but I’ll take you through the details and let you know exactly what to wear to a job interview as a woman.
Make interview day a suit day
Interview outfits for men are easy, they can just wear a suit. But wait, if you wonder what to wear to a job interview as a woman, you can do the same.
Wall Street interview outfits for women are actually easy that way.
Rule one is always to wear a suit. Make it dark blue or dark grey. Dark blue is the most common, but women can usually pull off black as well.
Choose either pants or skirt, that’s up to you. As long as you’re comfortable with it, no one will care if you prefer a skirt or pants.
The suit should be a perfect fit
Make sure the suit fits. Have a tailor change the length of the arms, the back, and the length and width of the pants. Read the guide on how to tailor a woman’s suit here.
Bring the shoes you will wear with you to the tailor if you’re wearing pants. That way, they can adapt the length of the pants to the right height of the heel.
If you’re picking a skirt, make sure it isn’t too short. It should stop right above your knee, and the split on the back must be appropriate as well.
Check that it isn’t too tight, and make sure to test sitting down in front of a mirror. A skirt that is tight with a weird split, may end of riding way up your thighs, and you’ll feel super uncomfortable during the interview.
Which is the last thing you want when you’re choosing what to wear to a job interview.
Choose elegant fabrics for your top
Wear a lighter top or blouse under the suit, but choose a different colour than the suit.
If you go for all black, the interview outfit usually ends up looking too dark. You’re trying to create the same colour patterns as guys with dark suits and light blue or white shirt would have.
Colours can be brighter than men’s shirts if you want, just make sure the fabric looks elegant. I would still stay away from bright red or yellow.
A blue, purple or green silk top may be more appropriate. Safest is white no matter what. And make sure it’s ironed. Only a small part of the top is ever visible, so it isn’t the most important part of the interview outfit.
Cover up your underwear
This should go without saying, but remember to find a bra that doesn’t show when you’re picking out what to wear for an interview.
Wear a tan or white bra if you’re wearing a white shirt, and maybe even have a singlet under to make sure nothing is seethrough. There should be no visible bra straps either.
Your interview outfit shouldn’t be revealing in any way. I wouldn’t worry too much about covering the shoulders for an interview though since you won’t be taking off your jacket anyways.
If you’re trying to get a job in Europe, you can safely throw in a pair of pantyhose for the interview outfit as well.
Do you have to wear a high heel as part of an interview attire?
No, you don’t, but it often looks better. I would always walk to an interview in flats and then change into a classic pair of pumps right before getting there.
Around 2 to 3 inches should be ok. Not higher, and no open toes or sandals. Make the colours black, nude or another neutral colour.
Read the complete guide to office heels here.
No party-makeup at a job interview
Go for neutral makeup. No crazy eyelash extensions or lipstick in bright colours. Remove chipped off nail polish, or make sure it’s in a nude colour that holds.
A beauty guide for corporate makeup can be read here. But the rules are simple. Keep it neat, clean, and bright.
Have your hair up or down, but make sure it looks gathered. A ponytail or knot is perfectly fine, but not for men. Don’t wear a ponytail or a huge beard for an investment bank interview. Cut it off.
Bags and jewellery are easy
Choose delicate jewellery if any. You don’t have to wear anything as part of your interview attire. A silk scarf could also work, although I mostly see older women using this.
You won’t be carrying a lot of things, so bring any bag you’re comfortable with. As I repeat as often as I can, don’t bring anything flashy if you’re interviewing for an entry-level role.
You can read more about bags for the office here (but this is really unnecessary for an interview).
How you dress can affect how people see you
I’ve mentioned it before, and I will again: I’ve seen people who have managed their interviews pretty well, but then completely failed with either a crazy hairstyle or a suit in a weird, flashy colour.
The comments have then literally been:” I would give him another chance if he was brilliant, but he was only ok, and we can’t put someone looking like that in front of a client”
That’s a direct quote from a senior banker. These guys are conservative and expect their juniors to follow their lead.
So if it’s so easy, why do people fail to pick the right interview outfit?
I simply don’t know. Some may fail to read up on dress codes, or they are emotionally attached to a type of makeup or a style, and won’t remove it just for an interview.
Choosing a job interview attire for women isn’t hard, so people expect you to get it right.
Should the outfit really matter?
Basically, what you wear to a job interview shouldn’t have that much to say.
However, an interview isn’t just about testing how hard you work, it’s also testing how well you will fit in and if you can read social signals.
If you fail at dressing appropriately for a job interview, people can easily assume that you will make other social mistakes that can make interacting with clients or other team members awkward.
The mantra is always (even though it’s unfair): “if they couldn’t get their interview outfit right, what else won’t they get?”.
Which is the same logic behind never making spelling mistakes in your CV. Details matter.
Do you have to dress like that every day of the job?
The answer is, of course, no. A lot of banks or law firms do still have super strict dress codes.
But even in a business formal environment, you will still have days where it’s ok to dress less conservatively than this.
The banks and law firms are gradually changing though, and as we move forward, I think we will see a lot more casual trends in the dress codes here as well.
To read up on the general dress code for female investment bankers, click here.
Good luck at your interview! And don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have a question about what to wear to a job interview.
Check out shemoments on insta with the username shemomentssite for more fashion inspiration for conservative workwear.