Jane, thank you for reaching out about the position. We'd like to schedule an interview with you on October 4th. Please let us know your availability on that day. Looking forward to meeting. Regards, Christine."
A particularly gratifying feeling comes from finally hearing back from prospective employers after days or weeks, and sometimes months, pass since submitting an application. Congrats! After scanning your calendar and locking in a time with the hiring manager, all seems sorted. Then the looming question dawns: how the heck should I dress?
Dressing for interviews tends to be an under-reported and under-appreciated element to the success of your candidacy. In fact, Brian Tracy, a leading self-development author, writes: "People judge you in the first four seconds. They will then grant you approximately thirty seconds more before they make a final decision and store this judgment away in their subconscious mind. After that it is very hard for a person to change his or her first impression of you. And you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
When you work in creative fields like advertising or public relations, there's even less information available on how to dress for interviews. The traditional, skirt-suit and heels or jacket-and-tie might be best suited to conservative settings like a bank or Congress (although even these places seem to favor business casual dress lately), but what about an art gallery like Carter Burden or a media company like Havas? At the extreme end, how would you dress for an interview with a Conde Nast editor? We all remember how Andy Sachs showed up to Miranda Priestly's office.
Taking that sense of predictability out of the equation might seem daunting when in fact it's the perfect opportunity for you to express your intuition and who you are while making a killer impression!
HOW TO GATHER EVIDENCE ON WHAT'S APPROPRIATE AND WHAT'S NOT
How you dress should reflect how you interpret the company. One of the tricks here is to familiarize yourself with the image the company projects: Check out their site, their products, social media, and their tone. Another huge help is to open Instagram and type the company name into 'search' and select the Places tab rather than the Accounts tab. You'll generally find at least a dozen photos of people who work at the company or are affiliated with it in some way. Some harmless scoping (not stalking) is vital recon.
With this in mind, Nicki Krawcyzk cautions that wearing jeans on the first meet might be best left for when you actually start working there. And this is despite the fact that she's seen a colleague "show up to work in a giant velour onesie". Be sure to avoid shorts, sandals, t-shirts (to be safe), and ripped-style clothing. Something else to avoid is wearing noticeably expensive clothing to an interview. Flashiness, while appreciated by some, can be abrasive to others. If you happen to be interviewing at a fashion magazine or a luxury retail chain, this rule can be a bit more flexible. But, Alessandra Codinha, Vogue.com Fashion News Editor, still says "nothing too flashy or obviously expensive....subtlety is always a good bet." (See below for some of our recommended vintage and consignment stores in New York City.)
GENERAL RULES OF DRESSING FOR CREATIVE INTERVIEWS
Now that we've established outfit choices to save for another day, let's focus on what's in. When dressing for an interview, dress comfortably, "but also so that you'd feel at home at the hottest, new, somewhat expensive restaurant in town." Color-wise, blue is the safest option - although navy blue tends to project a more conservative tone that may not match the company's tone (unless it's a print), purple projects artistry, yellow projects optimism, white projects clean, organized thinking, gray projects logic and "analytical thinking", and black shows strength.
Do avoid orange, as a general rule of thumb.
At your discretion and comfort are skirts, pants, blouses, workwear and day dresses, blazers, sweaters and cardigans, boots (including Doc Martens), clean sneakers, flats, and mid and low-heels. When it comes to jewelry, less is usually more, but that is entirely up to you. When in doubt, remember Nicki and Alessandra's emphasis on subtlety.
For gents, think collared shirts, pants, sweaters and cardigans, clean sneakers, casual loafers and brogues, and boots. Prints are fair game, too. However, if edginess is your speed, then it might be best to wait until you've begun working at an agency before you roll out the neo dadaist gear.
SPRUCING UP YOUR WARDROBE, SUSTAINABLE (AND INEXPENSIVE) STYLE
So Jane's got to figure out what to wear to her interview with Christine. And she realizes that she doesn't have anything that expresses her spirit and way of being. This is the beauty of New York City.
The $2.5 trillion fashion industry produces 20% of the world's waste water each year. To make one pair of denim jeans requires 10,000 liters of water, or as much water as the average person drinks in 10 years. Further, "85% of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated when most of [the] materials could be reused." This is why consignment stores like The RealReal (located in Soho and on the Upper East Side) are wonderful avenues for attempting to reduce the footprint of our consumption.
To help you develop your wardrobe, check out these inexpensive vintage, thrift, and consignment stores in the city:
• AuH20: 84 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003 (women's)
• Tokio 7: 83 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003 (women's, men's) [Lesser-known: A$AP Rocky used to come here all of the time. You can find everything from Lanvin bags and Acne Studios jackets to $60 Christian LaCroix and Christian Dior blouses.]
• Beacon's Closet: 10 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011 (women's, men's)
• Mirth Vintage: 606 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222 (women's)
• Buffalo Exchange: 114 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10001 (women's, men's)
• 1stDibs.com (women's, men's)
• Unique Boutique Third Avenue: 1674 Third Ave (94th Street), New York, NY 10128 (women's, men's, children's)
WEAR WHAT MAKES YOU COMFORTABLE
"Isn't elegance forgetting what one is wearing?" Yves Saint-Laurent asked. When you select an outfit, be sure that it is one that is presentable and appropriate, but also one that you feel like yourself in. When we're uncomfortable in some way, our ability to be present in the moment during an interview is hindered. Additionally, honesty, in the form of expressing who you are or who you'd like to be rather than what someone else wants you to be (including potential employers), is the key to demonstrating your passion and fit. Fix up your outfit, look sharp, and have a wonderful autumn!
With warm regards