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 What constitutes an "interview suit" anymore?
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fiddlerbird555
Permanent Resident

USA
1429 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  10:51:15 AM  Show Profile Send fiddlerbird555 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm job hunting for the first time in nearly 20 years. Last time I mostly wore a cheap female version of a suit -- jacket, feminine blouse, skirt, nylons, low pumps. They guys still wear suits, but I'm not sure about ladies. (I'm an engineer & mostly work with men and besides I'm in California)

I could use some advice and perhaps some cross-culture (US) reference points (i.e. if you tell me I need to do something, let me know your background a bit). My hair is greying, though it's long and thick & looks good, I never did wear makeup so I probably couldn't carry it off convincingly. The types of jobs I am going for are technical or just maybe technical management.

____________________________________________________

I can go loopy, or I can knit. Your choice.

bfaye
Seriously Hooked

USA
721 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  11:01:04 AM  Show Profile  Visit bfaye's Homepage Send bfaye a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Whatever you wear, make sure you are comfortable wearing it. Nothing is more apparent than someone who is uncomfortable with themselves and what they are wearing.

Good luck!

benne
http://feathersong.wordpress.com
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counterculture
Gabber Extraordinaire

453 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  11:19:18 AM  Show Profile Send counterculture a Private Message  Reply with Quote
May I recommend Crest White Strips? Seriously, back to what to wear, there was just an article in the WSJ about this, and one female engineer said a "skirt" to interview and then pants after she got the job.

Unless the interviewer specifically mentions, "business casual" then be conservative. Yes, a suit. Hose and shoes (buy something) varies with the part of the country you are in. I wear boots a lot with a skirt, but I doubt if I would wear them to an interview. I also wear black tights with a black skirt, jacket, and shoes; usually a t-neck or shell underneath. Blouses are dated.

I was in an engineers office on a Friday last fall. Since I was headed to a h.s. football game in the next town, I was dressed casually. But I felt under dressed as all the guys were wearing ties! That's something that you don't see every day any more.

And anything you can do to knock ten years off your face is to your benefit: whiten your teeth (if you are in the U.S.), lots of moisturizer, and great hair. While your clothes should be conservative enough for a funeral, your face should be good enough for the company brochure...
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Bethany
Permanent Resident

USA
1546 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  11:36:19 AM  Show Profile Send Bethany a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I had a job interview last month for an academic position and wore a grey suit (pants and jacket) with a white jewelneck knit cotton top underneath, plus black flats. (I hate heels).

I didn't wear any makeup since I didn't think to bring any, but I did put my hair up.

Dunno how suitable it was, but they did offer me the job. :shrug: However, although suits are still standard for interviews, dress standards in academia are generally looser than in industry.

My dissertation advisor once suggested to me that confident women are better off looking a little more feminine in job interviews, but I'm not sure being overly confident is one of my problems.
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Lindakh
Chatty Knitter

USA
110 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  12:59:08 PM  Show Profile Send Lindakh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The background: I interviewed a bank (my current job!) in the midwest.

The outfit:
I wore a black skirted suit, nude hose, and black pumps. I jazzed it up with a colorful blouse so it would look less funeral-ish. I also pulled back my curly hair into a demure low ponytail. My multiple ear piercings (3 in one ear including cartilage, two in the other) remained. I have my dignity!

The group I interviewed for is business-casual, although I didn't know it at the time. In my opinion, it is much better to be overdressed than underdressed. Maybe in california you could get by with a tan- or grey- suit.

Linda
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Sher
Permanent Resident

1292 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  2:54:37 PM  Show Profile  Send Sher a Yahoo! Message Send Sher a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I highly recommend Tonya Reiman's book The Power of Body Language. Chock full of great advice. I loaned my copy to my DIL who is currently job hunting so I don't have it for reference but the author had an entire section dedicated to the job interview. The two biggies...White Strips and little or no cologne. I think she also said shoes in tip top shape but not so new that you are uncomfortable walking in them. A good hair cut and manicure I believe were also mentioned. She quoted that the person conducting the interview will decide within the first 5 minutes of meeting the potential employee so yes, how you prepare and carry yourself physically make a world of difference. She set up this subscription web page to follow-up the book's content but on it are some free-bees on the front page. http://bodylanguageuniversity.com/
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kdcrowley
Permanent Resident

USA
4773 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  3:29:00 PM  Show Profile  Visit kdcrowley's Homepage Send kdcrowley a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My last job also in financial sector I wore black dress pants, a cashmere sweater in kelly green, inexpensive beaded necklace, a long black wool jacket. I carried a briefcase as a purse, wore my long red hair in a bun and slightly more makeup than usual...like I did my brows and nails in addition to eyes and cheeks.

The general advice is to dress for the job that you want, not the one your are applying for...so dress for the mgr job not the clerk job.

But also don't wear something that you are uncomfortable in. If you are uncomfortable in your clothes, it will appear that you are nervous possibly lying as opposed to not comfortable in your clothes.

I never wear a skirt to an interview, and don't feel that I need to wear a skirt in one because I am a woman. Pants are fine for boys, and for me too TYVM.

Conservative colors are great, navy, grey or black, but don't wear the one that makes you look ill....wear the color that looks good on you, or use a scarf, shirt/sweater/blouse or other accessory to bring in some of your best colors.

If you don't wear makeup usually, perhaps some mascara and a natural colored lipstick or gloss would provide just that pulled together look that you want. Don't slather it on if you are comfortable, but a little can go a long way.

The first week on the job is also important, so maybe the same dress, but you can take off your jacket if you need. There are usually lots of intros etc, so look your best.

Also do ask about dress code and practice in the interview.

I got a lot of this from Dr. Julie White that did a seminar on Self Image for Women. She is humorous and got a good head on her shoulders. She also talked about dealing with inappropriate comments from men and other co-workers.

Good luck!
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suzannevh
Gabber Extraordinaire

565 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  4:32:10 PM  Show Profile Send suzannevh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I work in an academic setting on the East Coast and have been involved in several interview/hiring decisions lately. I would recommend dressing up for the interview even if you think the work attire will be casual. I would also recommend not dressing too casually during the firsts weeks of the job until you have a real sense of the dress culture.

A pant suit is perfectly appropriate and you shouldn't feel that you have to wear a dress or skirt. A jacket can really add a nice professional touch to many outfit. I wouldn't wear open backed shoes. Don't wear perfume. I don't normally wear make up but I would use just a touch of lipstick/gloss and eyeliner for an interview. If your hair is very long you may want to wear it pulled back.

Best of luck!

Check out my project pics

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Wen
Permanent Resident

Australia
3244 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  4:58:54 PM  Show Profile  Visit Wen's Homepage Send Wen a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm a business analyst, I still wear my suits but not with a feminine blouse, I wear a classic style knit under the suit jacket. I'm in Aus but the business culture seems to be very similar.

Wen

2008 stats: 1 FO, 5 WIP, 0 frogpond.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/kr_members/
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CatherineM
Permanent Resident

USA
3363 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  5:05:01 PM  Show Profile  Visit CatherineM's Homepage Send CatherineM a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Oh, good topic - I've been in a casual work environment for so long I'm out of touch on the downtown office dress code, so I've been trying to research it a bit. I agree with all the advice offered here, pants are fine. If Hillary can run for president in "pantsuits" (and isn't that a dated word?), you certainly would not be out of place applying for an engineering job in slacks and a jacket. Wear a conservative suit, a little touch of color, a little touch of makeup, I'd say mascara and a neutral lip tint, not even lipstick if you aren't comfortable with it. If you have under-eye circles (I do) play with some concealer in your spare time and see if you can blend it to your satisfaction. It's about packaging yourself, and if you're not a kid right out of college looking sharp and energetic matters, and we do have an edge on the guys in that regard, we can use artful makeup to freshen up a bit.

Oh, also carry a nicely organized bag or portfolio, something you can tuck at your feet and reach into without digging.

I'll throw this out for consideration - what about the gray hair? I thought about letting my gray grow in after the brain surgery because I thought it was quite cool looking, but finally opted to color it again. I was already watching the state of the housing market, and suspecting my job was going away on me (and it did) was part of that decision. I am back out there at 6 months from my 50th birthday, and while I'm not trying to look 25, I do intend to make my age as much of a non-issue as I can.

This is an issue that affects men, too. Age-ism is a real problem out there, when we hired a silver-haired male engineer at my last job I heard some snippy crap from one of the other guys about age. (The guy making the comments was not a decision maker and was a jerk, but still.) Yes, it's wrong, but yes, it happens all the time. I'd consider hiding the gray at least for now, and concentrate on looking polished, professional, and ageless.

Catherine
http://yorkiedog.blogspot.com
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eepster
Seriously Hooked

USA
704 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  02:40:44 AM  Show Profile  Visit eepster's Homepage Send eepster a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I say suit, but not necessarily too conservative or dark. Your in California a young liberal state and engineering is a somewhat creative field. I've gotten plenty of jobs in suits that weren't black or navy. It isn't a funeral. If you look your best in black or navy fine, but it you look great in red go for it. Do avoid pastels though they scream "mother of the bride." Between pants and skirt, choose which ever you are most at ease in. A shell or sweater or nice mock turtle neck is nice under the jacket.


{o,o}
./)_)
.." "
Jen
http://www.buddhabellyart.com/
http://www.cafepress.com/buddhabellyart
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Mocha
Permanent Resident

Singapore
2903 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  07:28:01 AM  Show Profile Send Mocha a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hang around the area of the company and observe how other people dress. Put on sheer make-up if you can. It's good to over-dress than under-dress. What life coaches teaches are 'dress according to the job you want' so if you want to be a manager, dress like one.
Besides, when you look good, you do feel good.

My two cents worth.
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KL
Permanent Resident

6041 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  10:27:06 AM  Show Profile Send KL a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I once interviewed for a Fashion Director's job with a West Coast Company- a Division of a very large Corporation.

It was a Designer suit.

I was interviewed by a Senior Vice President, wearing a food/grease stained, washed out, Black knit dress. With serious dandruff on her shoulders.

I didn't get the job.

Why? Because I wore a Red suit to the interview.

I completely disagree with the poster that says blouses are "Dated". They are a very hot commodity at the moment. If she was talking about the proverbial shirt styling- then yes. But if it is shaped, has sleeve interest, tucking, collar interest- it is right in tune with what is going on in the blouse world. If blouses are not your thing- a simple knit is alright.

No cleavage- EVER.

Pantsuits are fine- Neutral colours only. If you want to add a little colour to your outfit- do it it sparingly.

I have mixed feelings about the hose issue. Bare legs-EVERYWHERE these days. Even for Formal wear. Now if something is dated; it's hose.

But there are still a Company's dress code to deal with. To play it safe- go with the sheerest nude hose you can find- and take a spare pair, and tuck them in your briefcase- in case of a run as you get out of the car! Go bare later.

No 5" heels. Somewhere from flat to mid. And no "cute" detailing.

Big bags -NO! They are out anyhoo. And DEFINATELY not an overly decorated, with the hardware ones! A Clutch, [newest trend] or a conservative neutral, safe bag- Think Coach; is best. You can wig out after you land the job. Briefcase? What for at this point? What do you have in it? Lunch?

Resume in a folder is good enough.

Nix the extra ear piercing for the interview. You can always retrieve your "Dignity" after you get the job.

If you choose a skirt- Colour coordinated tights are acceptable. And make sure it covers more than your "Tootie"- but not the knees. Keep the lines simple.
Spend the time and $$$$ to seek some hair and makeup advice.

Personally, I love greying hair; but there is still an archaic idea with some that it say's "Older". Perhaps a temporary tinting.

No makeup??? It says, you don't care. And maybe you don't- and that's hokay.

But not for an interview. Some mascara and lip gloss- at least. It's a statement that you care about the image you are presenting as a representative of your new Corporation.

And you will be that.

Whether anyone agrees with it, or not- initial first visual image makes a huge impact- before you even open your mouth.

You don't have to spend a ton to achieve the correct image- you can get it at any price point. Just decide what you want.

I wish the best of luck- You go, Girl!

Ex- Fashion Director- signing off now, from her soapbox![:00] KL
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mokey
Permanent Resident

15375 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  1:13:14 PM  Show Profile Send mokey a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think a lot is this is regional. Where I am, bare legs in an office setting are a no no. No way does one go out in the winter without something, even the thinnest nylons covering the leg. Same for boots. If you are being interviewed in the winter, you will be wearing boots. Provided they are clean they are acceptable. I am far less likely to hire a woman who wears heels to an interview during bad weather than one who showed sense and awareness of her surroundings by wearing boots!

From my experience in the work force, blouses have never gone out, but the style has changed from the frilly, flouncy look of the 80s. They are far more tailored and colourful than ever.

Whenever possible, I would schedule a wash/dry at a hairdresser within walking distance of my interview. If the interview was at 2PM, I had my hair done at 1PM.

I don't get the white teeth. If that were the case most people would be unemployed!

Brought to you by the tongue in cheek-y monkey
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KL
Permanent Resident

6041 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  2:31:57 PM  Show Profile Send KL a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree with Mokey's boot issue. Those that wear heels in freezing weather; just don't show much sense.

Regional, IS an issue.

A Gal in heels, in a Winter Climate- 20 Degrees below F- comes off as a bimbo. KL
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maribelaprn
Permanent Resident

USA
2033 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  3:10:56 PM  Show Profile Send maribelaprn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KL

A Gal in heels, in a Winter Climate- 20 Degrees below F- comes off as a bimbo. KL

Who you calling a bimbo? A woman who has the forethought to carry along a nice pair of heels to change into after removing her boots in the lobby? If someone can take off a heavy overcoat and be wearing a lovely suit, that same person can take off a clunky pair of boots and change into nice shoes.
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mokey
Permanent Resident

15375 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  3:24:55 PM  Show Profile Send mokey a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It is a matter of practicality. Where does one put the boots? Into another clunky bag? When interviewing I don't want to see someone changing footwear, and boots haven't been clunky for ages! There are so many that combine form and function.

Brought to you by the tongue in cheek-y monkey
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Wen
Permanent Resident

Australia
3244 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  3:47:03 PM  Show Profile  Visit Wen's Homepage Send Wen a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KL

Nix the extra ear piercing for the interview. You can always retrieve your "Dignity" after you get the job.

![:00] KL



I agree with this you don't know who will be interviewing you so conservative is always best.

I remove mine a few days before so I don't have unsightly holes.

Wen

2008 stats: 1 FO, 5 WIP, 0 frogpond.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/kr_members/
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maribelaprn
Permanent Resident

USA
2033 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  4:30:20 PM  Show Profile Send maribelaprn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mokey

It is a matter of practicality. Where does one put the boots? Into another clunky bag? When interviewing I don't want to see someone changing footwear, and boots haven't been clunky for ages! There are so many that combine form and function.

I was addressing the automatic labeling of a "gal" who shows up for an interview wearing heels during winter as a bimbo.
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Punctuatedknitter
Seriously Hooked

819 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  4:47:13 PM  Show Profile Send Punctuatedknitter a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm a 30-year-old academic scientist in the US.
I think a pants suit in a neutral color is a good idea. Pick a shirt/blouse that looks good with the trousers by itself, and then if the jacket is too dressy or if you get too warm, you can take the jacket off. Trousers are also nice because the height of your heels is less of an issue, as long as the trousers are hemmed for the shoes you pick.
If engineering is a heavily geeky-male-dominated field (like my field), I would say a little, very natural makeup, and clear nail polish. Giving the impression of perfect skin and nails rather than anything trendy, because they won't know anyway! :) If you don't wear any usually, maybe just some concealer and foundation to even out your skin.
As a side note about shoes, if you're going to be hustled all over the building meeting people, you need shoes you can move quickly in. An engineer is unlikely to take a glance at your shoes before running you up a flight of stairs.
I also think women look more professional with their long hair pulled back.
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Bethany
Permanent Resident

USA
1546 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2008 :  7:14:47 PM  Show Profile Send Bethany a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by maribelaprn

quote:
Originally posted by mokey

It is a matter of practicality. Where does one put the boots? Into another clunky bag? When interviewing I don't want to see someone changing footwear, and boots haven't been clunky for ages! There are so many that combine form and function.

I was addressing the automatic labeling of a "gal" who shows up for an interview wearing heels during winter as a bimbo.



Agreed. I hate heels myself, but since when does wearing heels to a job interview make one a "bimbo?"

I wore flats to a job interview in the winter snow. Not heels, but only because I hate heels -- I would certainly have worn heels, not snow boots, if I ever wore heels at all. I guess that either makes me completely senseless (possibly a borderline bimbo), or it makes me someone who lives someplace who rarely snows and drew the line at buying snow boots just to wear to a job interview. Though, presumably, if I had worn boots I could have abandoned them along with my coat, my scarf, and my laptop without anyone batting an eye.

For what it's worth, the people interviewing me weren't wearing snow boots, either.

Also for what it's worth, I doubt the OP is going to have a big issue with whether or not to wear snow boots in California.
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