How to dress for your first interview after college
Congratulations! You’ve survived years of rigorous academia complete with 8 am classes and 5 hour finals. The senioritis has kicked in and you’re officially on your last lap of your undergraduate career…when it hits you. You might need a job. Or an interview outfit. Or maybe just some clue as to what you’re expected to look like at your upcoming interview (you know, at that hipster startup that haaates suits). Here are solutions to three of the biggest issues you’ll probably encounter.
Problem #1: You graduate in a few months and you kind of need a job.
Solution: Hopefully this isn’t new news to you, but you are actually paying for a lot more than just the classes you take while at college. Every college and university has a career center of professionals who want to help you get a job- use it to your advantage (you are paying for it, afterall). The earlier you start the better you’ll be. Go to every possible workshop and event that fits into your schedule. Ask questions. Get your resumed revised (again and again). Practice interviews. If you are an undergrad and your school permits you, start going to career fairs just to get a feeling for what they are like. Watch people. See who is ‘doing it well’ and who isn’t. Write down the qualities you see in students that seem to be getting lots of positive feedback from employers and file it away. When you go to the career fair to actually look for a job you will be more laid back and experienced than anyone else there.
Problem #2: You just landed your first interview! However, you’ve been so busy working on your resume and writing cover letters that you realize you have nothing to wear. Cue: panic mode.
Solution: Take three deep breaths (a glass of wine may also be necessary) and go to your closet. You may not have a suit, but you might have some appropriate separates that look like a suit. Think of everything in your closet as individual pieces. Do you have a great pair of black slacks, or neutral pencil skirt? What about a white button down shirt? Maybe you have a fitted blazer. Identify the pieces that you already have. Now figure out what you still need. For example, let’s say you have a black pair of dress pants, nice shoes, and a blouse. In this case, all you really need to pull the look together is a blazer. Ask friends your size if they have something appropriate. If all cases fail, go buy the piece you need. Buying an entire suit is also a good idea, but it’s often not in the short term budget of many college students. When you do have the finances to buy a nice suit, be sure to go shopping when you aren’t under pressure (as in…the interview is tomorrow and I need something to wear now!) I’ve seen so many wardrobe mistakes (and financial mistakes) happen this way.
Problem #3: You have an interview, but you’re not sure what to wear.
Solution: Get your creep on. If anyone knows how to creep, it’s your generation. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just ask yourself these questions: When was the last time you looked up a high school classmate on Facebook to see what they’re doing now. Or how about the last time you hunted down a possible connection (via 3 other connections) on linkedin? When did you last Google someone who works at a company that you’re eyeing? See where I’m going with this? Our generation creeps so much (although, ‘researching’ sounds much nicer) that it’s practically second nature. So, put those skills to work and do a little creeping in person. Sometime before the interview go stake out a spot at the local coffee shop across the street from your future place of employment. Then, just watch people as they come to or from work. Notice what they are wearing, how they are acting. Notice their body language and how conservative their dress is. You will need to remember that companies have all sorts of employees from janitors to upper management, but observing the general workforce will give you a great indicator of how to look. Side note: Always dress a notch more formal than whatever you observe.
Now, put away the xanax and put on your big kid pants and go conquer the world (of work)!