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Job Interview Attire — for Women

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The rules for proper business attire for men are quite simple. Sure, men get them wrong all the time, but they are simple.

Dr. Lisa Cuddy from House MDFor women, things are more complicated. This is because male hominids are genetically programmed to sexually objectify female hominids, especially the hot ones. It’s in the female hominid’s best interests to dress asexually, so as to be taken seriously as a workmate rather than a sexual conquest. Yet she must dress provocatively enough so as not to invite scorn. It’s a balance between a burka and Dr. Lisa Cuddy.

Here are some quick tips for female job interview attire. One general rule: while it’s generally undesirable to dress as generally undesirable — that is, too much “like a man” — it is better to dress less feminine than to wear an outfit that is too sexy. Yes, dressing provocatively may very well help you get hired — if the boss is a guy. But he’s not the kind of guy for whom you’ll want to work. To put it in terms familiar to D&D players: you want to be charismatic, not comely.

Wear a suit. Make it navy, black or dark gray. Some misguided people will tell you that a red outfit is a “power” outfit. Unfortunately, there are still people in the 21st Century who think a red outfit on a woman means she is a prostitute. Also, avoid lavender, aqua and other ’80s colors. These colors say “I collect unicorns and watch QVC while I cry into my Ben & Jerry’s.”

Wear a skirt or pants. Well, obviously — don’t show up in a thong. If you wear a skirt, keep it below the knee with no provocative slit along the side. If an employer requires its female employees to wear skirts, do not work there. You do not want to associate with those people. Unless you enjoy “Power Prayer Breakfasts,” “No on Prop. 8” rallies, glass ceilings, and anti-Semitism.

Coordinate your blouse. You are safer with a perfectly opaque blouse, but a VERY SLIGHTLY transparent one should be fine. If I can read the label on your bra, it’s no good. Make sure the color coordinates with your suit. Oh, and those blouses with frilly junk along the front? Don’t do that. You’re not a pirate.

Minimal jewelry. Small earrings (non-dangling), a thin necklace and a ring. That’s it. Wear all silver or platinum — gold jewelry is for Jersey mob wives. (Whatever your wedding ring is, even if it’s awful, you can wear it. No one expects you to take off your wedding ring. Although your next husband should have better taste.) Avoid cheap jewelry — better to wear none.

Also, wearing multiple rings implies you lost your virginity in the wheat germ hut at Burning Man. Save that stuff for your off-hours.

Wear pantyhose. For the interview, anyway. Yes, in 20 years this ridiculous clothing item won’t exist anymore. But for right now, wear the damn things. Wear neutral pantyhose — colored hose are for porn stars and Harajuku girls.

Wear sensible shoes. First, keep them dark and coordinate them with your suit. Avoid buckles, frills and bells. “Light-up” clear plastic heels are right out.

Second, wear comfortable shoes. DO NOT WEAR HIGH HEELS. It’s not necessary, and you walk like a hobbled calf. Why spend your interview in severe pain? Men may notice if you wear high heels, but they won’t notice if you don’t. It’s time to end the tyranny of the cruel shoe.

Got any advice about female interview attire? Let us know in the comments!

Job Interview Attire -- for Women by
Authored by: Erik Even

  • Lily Jane

    This was a very entertaining, yet educational post. Thank you! As a staffing specialist, I wish more women would read and take note of the points in this article. Especially, ladies, the pantyhose. No one wants to wear it, but if you come in to an interview in a skirt with bare legs, you look unprofessional. Most of the time, unprofessional=no job offer!
    Lily Jane

  • marsh

    Just want to add that aside from the dont’s listed above, one must find the attire comfortable enough to wear. If you are not comfortable or confident wearing a skirted suit, you might not do well in the interview. One should be true to herself, and her clothing should reflect her self-image which should help her project her most confident self. Some women feel they look better in pantsuits than in skirted suits. So I guess, wear the appropriate attire as elaborated in this article without sacrificing “comfort”.

  • KellyH

    Great advice! I wish that I’d had it years ago. These things really do make a difference. Bosses notice, and they don’t care about your festival souvenirs!

  • haveagoodday

    This is great advice! One of my worst interviews ever was about five years ago, I put on all my make-up and squeezed my feet into some high heels – I teetered about and managed to trip over entering the interview room, I didn’t quite fall to the floor but it was humiliating non-the-less.

  • ButterflyEs

    I would also suggest that ladies go light on make-up – we are not going to a party, neither to a date. I have seen enough women go into interviews looking like they are just coming out of a club; this doesn’t impress the interviewer. On the contrary, it creates more of a doubt as to the personality of the applicant, and in some cases (even though it is unfortunate) even bias.

  • emmalouiselayla

    I agree with everything apart from the short skirt rule. I think you can get away with a 5-inches-above-knee dress as long as it’s a smart colour.

    Saywhat Reply:

    No one wants to see the color of your underwear keep the skirt closer to knee length. Unless of course you are interviewing at a strip club.

  • kmutz22

    Interesting article..I often interview people at work and if someone is dressed inappropriately or doesn’t look as if they have made an effort, they rarely get the job. In particular I agree with the advice about suits, a darker one definitely makes a person seem more serious…wait until you get the job before you turn up in a red one!

    Andrew Fearns,

  • slangton

    It’s very important to consider women in the office too. If you make too much of an effort, it might cause jealousy in female colleagues. It’s a good idea to blend in at work as much as possible, and save the effort for after work.

  • chris1203

    I always wear either a black pants suit or a navy blue one (I read somewhere that navy blue is THE color to wear on an interview. Also, for a woman, I’d advise putting your hair up or wearing a shorter hairstyle. I have a feeling that women that have long flowing hair are not taken as seriously in a job interview–but I have no proof of that.

  • svtpahal

    oh yeah its really a nice article abt women’s attire 4 an interview….one more point should be considered here regarding make-up……its an impressive article n all d points are genuine n important as well…. a woman should really tk care of dese things wen going 4 an interview…..