In this economy, any job interview is a reason to celebrate—but to wow your potential employer and land that job, you’ll need more than an impressive resume. You’ll also need a professional suit. Wearing a professional suit to an interview shows that you are serious about the position and about your career. But if you walk into Ann Taylor or Banana Republic, the range of suits might be intimidating. What color professional suit should you wear to an interview? What style of cut? What fabric? Pant suit or skirt suit?
Professional Suit Colors
A basic black suit is the most appropriate suit for an interview, and really the only suit you should wear to an initial interview if you are trying to find a job in the law or financial markets. The initial interview in these sectors of the job market is not a place to show your style or your love of chunky jewelry—law and finance are two sectors where your employer expects you to be serious and conservative.
A navy or a navy pin stripe suit or dark brown suit is appropriate for a follow-up interview or the initial interview in less conservative markets. Tan suits or white suits are not appropriate for job interviews, and it goes without saying that an interviewee should avoid suits in colors such as red or pink.
Pant Suit or Skirt Suit
Whether you choose a pant suit or skirt suit is really your personal preference; both are appropriate for interviews and for any job. For a skirt suit, make sure that you wear nude, sheer hose and that the skirt hits no more than one inch above your knee. Any higher is unprofessional and will become inappropriate upon sitting down—not the kind of impression you want to leave behind after an interview with a potential employer.
Style of Suit
Professional suits come in a myriad of cuts and style. Busty women will maximize their professional suit by choosing a three-button jacket, which will contain curves. Smaller-chested women can choose either a one or two-button suit for their interviews. Double breasted suit jackets are appropriate, as well, though that style is harder to find.
The best lapels for interview suits are notched or peaked lapels. Peter pan collars or shawl lapels are much less professional and will not look good with a button-down shirt.
Also make sure that your interview suit is modern—no 1980s shoulder pads or huge lapels, please.
Fabric of Suit
A wool or wool-blend suit wears well and is appropriate for interviews. The heavier weight of these fabrics mean that the suit is hard to wrinkle, ensuring that your interview look remains chic and polished.
Cotton suits are prone to wrinkling, and only ironing will remove the wrinkles—and a wrinkled suit will not impress your prospective boss in an interview. A linen or seersucker is too casual and is never appropriate for interviews.
Tailoring Your Interview Suit
A good suit costs between $150 and $400, and if you’re already making that investment you should make your look as polished as possible by having the suit tailored. Depending on how much the suit needs to be fitted to your body, this cost can run from $10 to $30 dollars (more in more expensive urban areas). A tailor can ensure that your suit is the right length and is neither too big or too small in the waist or bust. A poorly-fitted suit will negatively contribute to the impression you make on your interviewer, leading them focus on your appearance rather than your qualifications, so get your suit tailored—keep your potential employer’s focus on your resume.
If you are interviewing for a job in a more laid-back environment, a suit is still best for an interview even if no one else in the office is wearing one. Your extra effort will show that you truly care about landing the job and will be serious about your responsibilities once you receive them. However, you can have more fun with a suit in these types of interviews—try a nubby tweed jacket with a basic black pencil skirt, or a patterned or ruffled shell under your normal suit jacket.
Complete your professional look with a pair of closed-toed shoes and neutral make-up—your look is interview-ready. Once you have a job, you can be a bit more casual in regard to suit styles and can also try out a fitted sheath or wrap dress.