Readers often find The Proactive Professional by doing internet searches regarding questions they have about the job interview process. I have compiled a list of these Frequently Asked (and Searched) Questions and answered them here:
- Can you wear heels higher than two inches for a job interview?
- You *can* but that probably doesn’t mean you should. I suggest wearing 2-21/2 inch heels—three inches at the most—for job interviews. I’ve participated in plenty of interviews where the candidate didn’t realize how much walking would be involved and was practically tripping in her shoes.
- Are capri pants professional enough for a job interview?
- It depends. If you’re applying for a job in the service industry or an artistic field, capris should be fine—provided you wear them with a nice blouse and dress shoes. If you’re applying for a position in business or a more conservative office, wear a pencil skirt or lightweight dress pants.
- Is it okay to wear a sleeveless dress to an interview?
- I suggest pairing a sleeveless dress with a nice cardigan or blazer for a job interview. I suggest this for a couple of reasons—one, offices are often unreasonably air conditioned during the summer and you don’t want to be uncomfortable, and two, as with capri pants, more conservative/traditional fields may not approve of sleeveless clothing. (My job interview motto is always “Better safe than sorry!”)
- What do I do if the interviewer says dress “comfortably, but professionally”?
- I suggest wearing clothing that allows you to move freely—i.e., clothing that allows you to comfortably sit, stand, bend, climb stairs, etc.—but isn’t casual. A sleeveless dress that comes to the knees with a nice cardigan, a pencil skirt with a long sleeve blouse, dress pants with a short sleeve blouse, etc.
- What is the worst thing to wear to a job interview?
- Anything that calls attention to you in a negative way. I am a major proponent of being who you are and celebrating yourself, but the job interview is a time to showcase your skills and experiences as a professional. It is not the right time to highlight your clubbing make up or your fashionista wardrobe. These are a few things I would make “non grata” for a job interview:
Halter tops, strappy sandals, heels above three inches, see through clothing, leggings worn as pants, visible bra straps, major smokey eye, bright red lipstick, more than a very light spraying of perfume, patterned tights, more than 2-3 pieces of jewelry—especially long, dangly jewelry, shorts, skirts more than an inch above the knee, blue jeans.
Let me make this clear: these rules do NOT apply to every job. When I was 20, I applied for a position at a convenience store in a nice pair of dark blue jeans and a dressy top. As a candidate for a graduate assistant position at a university LGBT center, I wore gray slacks and a short sleeve blouse. For my first professional position after graduate school, I wore a navy blue Anne Klein skirt suit with nude pumps and a cream colored camisole. These aren’t hard and fast rules for every position at every stage of your life, but they are a good foundation for dressing for job interview success.