Friday, July 15, 2011

Reader Question: Job interview attire?

Hi all! Check out our recent interview on Closet Coach! Woo. Pretty nice.  

And now, a reader question! We got the following email from our reader Melinda:
I'm a thirty-something soon-to-be Ph.D. graduate who has lived most of her adult life in jeans, solid color t-shirts, tank tops, and sweaters and Converse sneakers. I have a respectable array of teaching and conference-appropriate clothing, but dissertation defenses and job interviews are something else entirely.  I am hoping hoping hoping to get an interview for an 80% administrative, 20% teaching job in a few weeks, and my inclination is to do crisp white shirt and trousers or pencil skirt, but I'm lost on shoes and jewelry, and I fear ending up looking like a waiter.
Some parameters: If I have a personal style, it's a hipster-y version of classic. Shoes must not be too high, nor too "comfortable."  I don't have anything against comfort or clogs per se, but it's not exactly the kick-ass young academic vibe I'm going for, at least in an interview.

Also, I'm poor. If I could get away with the whole package for $100 or less, I would die of happiness.  If not, I'm basically looking for ideas. I've been holed up in my office writing for far too long and I literally have no idea how to evaluate clothes or "looks" anymore.



My first advice: Go somewhere they sell adult clothes (my example here is Ann Taylor) and look for dressy tops and a statement necklace. If you have a basic skirt, this is all you need. This is the kind of thing you want:

Plus Tops by Ann Taylor at ShopStyle

Tees by Ann Taylor at ShopStyle

Shortsleeve Tops by Ann Taylor at ShopStyle

You can wear a top like that will a pencil skirt or nice trousers and throw a dressy cardigan or suit jacket over it and call it an interview outfit. If you go with a solid top you need an interesting (but still dressy) necklace, something like this one, from Banana Republic:

Necklaces by Banana Republic at ShopStyle

These are just examples. I know I wear a lot of Ann Taylor lately and start to sound like a commercial for them, but the quality is great and when stuff is an extra 40% off, it's even better.

Another great option would be to avoid the whole skirt/top thing and  buy a dress. Something like this:

Plus Dresses by Ann Taylor at ShopStyle

or this:

Cocktail Dresses by Ann Taylor at ShopStyle

Something simple with some interest that can be worn for an interview, and with a few accessory changes also be appropriate for an event. 

A less expensive option would be something like this:

Which I just found and now I want it for myself. 

As for shoes, Melinda emailed us and asked what we though about these:

Pumps by Indigo by Clarks at ShopStyle

They are, first of all, super freaking cute. Not what I'd recommend for a corporate job interview, but absolutely fine for the academic field. They are dressy and comfortable, which is an almost impossible combination. If you want to go a little funkier but still want something classic, something like this might also be fun:

Pumps by JS by Jessica at ShopStyle

So that's a start! Hopefully this will give her some ideas, anyway. What do you guys think?


  1. Great advice, all of it! I love those black shoes and may have to have a pair for my very own.

    FWIW, yesterday I wore one of the statement necklaces that y'all recommended for me and got TONS of compliments on it. so, lo these many months later -- THANKS!

  2. I think the black shoes are fine for corporate. They're adorable, unique but have a closed toe which makes them fine for even conservative environments.

  3. Hi ladies! Thanks for the shout out :)

    Awesome tips. I am a total Ann Taylor fan as well, although my office is more casual so I lean more toward their LOFT line.

    WANT those first shoes.

    (P.S. I wrote about job interview outfits recently, too. Maybe it's helpful?

  4. Surprisingly, most of my suit-appropriate silk tops were purchased from the sale section of Urban Outfitters. For real, and for less than $10! Anthro is obviously more expensive, but I did just pick up the "Sequin Epaulette" top to pair with pencil skirts and slacks. It's $29.95 in their sale section (the link was too long to share). As far as shoes go, I just bought some Miz Mooz "Expo" pumps from Nordstrom (cheaper at NR), and I've been wearing 'em like crazy.

  5. I suggest for academic environment after job is acquired, you can go with colored or patterned shoes too. Jewelry is whatever you are comfortable with! I used to only wear small chains with charms, but as I've gotten older, I've "sized-up" with the necklaces. I love bracelets too, because they are fun and you get to enjoy them yourself! (As opposed to necklaces, which seem to be for other people!) And FWIW I'm an early 40's PhD, who works at a research lab but does people management and strategic planning for the institution rather than research. :-)

  6. Yea, thank you to all of the above! I think y'all have convinced me about the Clarks pumps.
    I tried on the gray tweed-y Ann Taylor dress and it did a whole lotta nothing for me, maybe because I didn't take the time to dude it up with accessories and re-assess. I'm so flat-chested, too, that the LE Canvas dress would probably look like an apron on me, but I love love love that color. I am so glad I now have a few options to choose from, and if I knock the phone interview out of the park tomorrow, I can continue to obsess!


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