When it comes to dressing for a job interview there are a few rules that can make your choices easier.
As with everything you do it does depend a little on the context of the job. If you’re going for a position as a lawyer, or banker or other highly regulated and traditional industry then you’re not going to want to turn up with pink hair. If, however, you’re in a more creative field like fashion, graphic design or going for a marketing position for a creative company then you might just be able to get away with a couple of pink streaks in your hair.
So, taking all this into account, here are 3 basic ways to dress for a job interview …
1. THE SUIT
Suits seem very straitlaced, especially for Singapore’s warmer weather and more generally casual workwear trends, but the idea is that you “should be aspiring to dress one notch above what you would normally consider suitable for work” according to Chris Smith, the CEO of MyJobMatcher.com. Which is why it’s something to consider for your formal job interview situation.
The fabric and colour of the suit should be relatively muted; black or navy are traditional but a neutral beige or grey would also be good. A bit of texture in the fabric, like a subtle tweed or self-check would also be fine. Just stay away from anything too shiny or brightly coloured.
You can choose between trousers or a skirt; it’s really up to you as to how comfortable you feel. If you choose a skirt, make sure it’s not too short – apparently on the knee is best ‒ and not too tight either. Think 50s secretary rather than body-con. For trousers the same goes when it comes to fit ‒ not too tight (you don’t want to be fiddling around during your interview!).
Wear a neat blouse under the jacket, white is an obvious choice but another matching or neutral colour would be fine, so would a small print, but nothing transparent or lacey (ie. nothing that will show your underwear); you can also wear a loose cotton knit top in similar colours.
The best shoes for a suit are ones that match, aren’t too high, and don’t hurt. A covered court pump is probably better than a strappy sandal; and stay away from something that’s too sporty or completely flat (otherwise you might look a bit too young and inexperienced).
Classic suit options include these from Asos: Blazer In Crepe with Skinny Lapel, SG$101.88; Dot Texture Blazer with Slim Lapel, SG$109.16; swap in a nice skirt like this one with one of the black blazers, Linen Split Front Pencil Skirt, SG$36.39.
If your job is in a more creative industry you can go for a suit that’s on-trend and more fashion-forward like this slouchy boyfriend style from Asos; Paul by Paul Smith Boucle Blazer, SG$536.10, and Paul by Paul Smith Boucle Trousers, SG$342.04.
2. THE DRESS
As with the suit, a neat dress with, or without a blazer, can also work for a job interview. Again, don’t go crazy with colours or prints, stick with black or navy (also very flattering) and lighter neutrals, although stay away from white as it will look too casual. Likewise plain is best; a lightly textured fabric would be fine (the tweed look) but no lace (it’s too suggestive) and nothing shiny.
As with your suit skirt, don’t wear a short, tight dress even if you do have a banging body – fitted is fine but not tight. As with the suit, stick to simple clean shoes that match; no bright colours, no super-high heels and a closed toe is best.
Stick to simple shapes when it comes to dresses for job interviews: Burgundy Colour-block Shift Dress with Tweed Collar Detailing, S$289; Pauline Ning Cut Collar Shirt Dress, US$170; Womb Knife Pleat Dress, S$185.93.
3. SEPARATES OR ‘BUSINESS CASUAL’
This can sometimes be a bit tricky. Although the tradition states “No jeans. No trainers. No T-shirts”, this is a little outdated for more creative industries.
Still, probably best to stay away from the more “casual” end of this spectrum. You can wear a statement skirt with strong colour or print, for example, with a nice white button-down shirt or knit top and a plain coloured blazer. Or wear perfectly tailored trousers with a coloured fitted tee and cropped jacket. For creatives it’s often about showing how well you can put together a look. You can try a touch more colour with your bag or jewellery or even in your shoes but don’t go overboard quite yet … For that, wait until you get the job.
In Singapore it’s more common for people to wear separates or ‘business casual’ for job interviews, here are some options you can try :(from right) Raoul Myra Draped Skirt, US$400; Womb Knee Length Knife Pleat Skirt, US$130, Box Pleat Knee Length Skirt, US$115 or Volume Skirt with Gathered Waist Band, US$120; (far left) wear this Paula Ryan Stretch Pencil Skirt, US$250, and matching Slim Fit Half Sleeve Crew Neck tee, US$205, for a streamlined look that’s almost a suit especially if you add a blazer. Add a neat shirt to your existing pencil skirts for a smart look, try one of these: N.Tyler Tux Shirt, US$63, or Flare Sleeve Shirt, US$95; Karen Walker Yoke Shirt, US$248; Blake & Co Horizontal Panel Shirt, US$40; Daydream Nation Don’t Look Back Cropped Reversible Shirt US$56.
By adding a neat blazer or short jacket to your separates you immediately look smarter: Lion Earl Circular Asymmetrical Peplum Outerwear, US$120; Twisted Sisters Greata Velvet Blazer with Tulle Black, US$42, and Riley Tweed Long Jacket, US$54, or Neveah Multi Colored Tweed Jacket, US$60.
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