No Tight Waistbands: How to Interview Well, Part Two
Updated: Jul 5, 2019
**Over the past decade at Legion, I've interviewed hundreds of people - some great, some....not so great. From that experience, I've learned a great deal about what works - and what doesn't - in an interview, and I've turned that into the curriculum for my interview coaching. In this blog series, we'll explore how to prepare - mentally, physically, emotionally - for an interview.**
The other day, I wore what I like to call a "torture outfit." The skirt was too tight and rode up every time I walked, the shirt gapped when I sat down, and the shoes made my feet feel like they were on fire if I walked more than ten steps. If I stood perfectly still, it was a fantastic outfit, but God forbid I tried to sit down, or stand up, or walk to my car, or get in my car. Then, it all fell apart.
When I wear an outfit like that, I'm reminded of my favorite piece of advice for anyone heading into a job interview (or any stressful situation): Don't wear clothes that make you uncomfortable. Seriously. Don't EVER wear uncomfortable clothes to a job interview.
There is no worse feeling than already being nervous, and sweaty, and a little breathless, and realizing that when you sit down, your pants give you an enormous wedgie, or your bra is showing through the gaps in your blouse. You start to fuss, to try to fix things, and suddenly all the brain power that should be going to coming up with amusing anecdotes about the most stressful deadline you've ever had, or how you dealt with conflict with a manager, or how many lightpoles are between here and Cleveland, is devoted to wondering how you are going to get your skirt to stop its force march toward your armpits without anyone noticing.
Trust me, they notice. One of the most distracting things that can happen as an interviewer is to have to talk to someone who is tugging at their skirt or trying to get their cuffs to come anywhere near their wrists. It's doubly distracting if they are constantly pushing their hair out of their face, or fidgeting with jewelry or glasses.
My advice to everyone is that (unless you are applying for a job in fashion), your clothes should fade into the background in an interview. You want the hiring manager to be able to focus on your skills and abilities, not your killer mood ring or the fact that your shirt doesn't button under your tie. Neutrality is the name of the game here. Good, solid, basic pieces (which can be bought reasonably at Target or even Wal-mart) will get you through any interviewing cycle. You don't need to spend a fortune, and you don't need to make a big fashion statement. You just need to find pieces that fit, and take care of them.
The other important consideration when dressing for an interview is confidence. When I was wearing my torture outfit, I didn't feel confident. I felt like my clothes and I were in a judo match, and they were winning. I often have women ask if they need to wear a dress, or high heels, to an interview, and my answer always is that they should wear what makes them comfortable, and fits within the dress code of the company they are interviewing with. If you can't wear heels confidently, don't. If you feel more powerful in pants, wear pants. Gentlemen, you have it much easier - your shoes aren't a political statement, and you never have to worry how much leg is too much to show.
And as a final note - if you wear an appropriate outfit that makes you feel powerful and confident and comfortable and the company you are interviewing with dings you for that, you didn't want to work there anyhow. If they would have expected you to wear heels and hose every single day, and that sounds like the seventh circle of hell, they just saved you from long months of uncomfortable waistbands and a lifetime of bunions. And bunions are no joke, people.