I got a snap (follow me on Snapchat @rosemarymaccabe) from a follower yesterday asking what she should wear to an interview for a corporate office job that isn’t (a) totally predictable and (b) black. It may seem straightforward, but actually, those two stipulations make things a little bit tricky. The corporate environment isn’t the place for fashion-forward prints and statement neckpieces, but nor do you want to dress like you’re an assistant manager in Penneys in 1995 (that is, dressed in an ill-fitting black skirt suit with a severe bun in your hair).
It’s all so easy for men; in a corporate environment, you wear a suit, right? If you’re lucky, you wear a nice one from Louis Copeland (I’d recommend navy blue or charcoal grey). But for women, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. A skirt suit looks dated (see above); a dark, tailored trouser suit is a little too ball-busting; too casual (anything denim) is a no-no.
Here are some dos and don’ts for a job interview in, granted, a field I haven’t worked in for over a decade – so I’ll be the first to admit that I could be totally wrong.
Do… think outside the box
Yes, a trouser suit can look incredibly dated and a little too stuffy – so why not try an updated version?
Culottes are everywhere at the moment, and these babies from Zara are a bargaintastic €15.95. Wear with a simple pair of court shoes like these from Buffalo, on sale at the moment in Arnotts for €38, and a simple T-shirt. I find Cos great for T-shirts; they wash really well and are great quality. This one looks lovely. This tweed blazer from Asos adds a corporate feel (hallo, Chanel-inspired) but the scalloped edge keeps it pretty and modern.
A trouser suit channels a more traditional vibe – but I wouldn’t necessarily say to go down the red route. What Irish corporate interviewer is going to see this and think, cool, that’s calm and put together. No; they’re going to think, this woman is insane. And probably has a temper. (What?! They totally are.) What about this powder-blue version from Asos, instead? Team with the same Cos tee as in option #1 and, again, a pair of simple courts. (But for the love of God, avoid nude.) I love & Other Stories for shoes, and these sculpted heel courts are amazing, but I won’t deny that they’d be a car-to-bar job. Still, gorge.
Don’t… wear black
My snapfan (can I call you that?) was right in wanting to stay away from black – it may be the “safe” option, but it’s also totally dull, utterly predictable and, y’know, slightly morbid. Quite aside from the fact that we’re now veering dangerously close to summer – time to get out the shorts yet? – wearing bright colours both improves the mood of those gazing at you, and makes you more memorable. Nobody is forgetting the girl in the pink jumper.
Marks & Spencer has a deadly range of cashmere jumpers in a whole load of different colours. The good news is, it’ll stay soft and look good almost forever. The bad news is, you’ll have to hand wash it. I’m sorry. If you’re into pencil skirts, veer away from dead boring corporate shades and go for something a little bit different that’ll (a) make you stand out from the crowd and (b) fill you with joy. Like this one, from Topshop. These herringbone trousers from J.Crew, on the other hand, would be perfect interview garb, and then work really well once you actually get the job (positive thinking), which is how I’d justify the €175.75 price. If you need a terrestrial option, try these in River Island. I would, however, ditch: statement necklaces, gloves (like, what?!) and sunglasses. Pare it all back.
Shoes? Anything but nude. Dune, in my humble opinion, does the most comfortable basic bitch shoes around; at Brown Thomas, these Carvela courts get away with being white by virtue of being faux croc (plain white leather = too Essex for life).
Do… go for tone-on-tone
So, ignore the fact that Extra Petite on the left is wearing sandals (an interview no-no, unless your interview date happens to fall during a particularly violent heatwave) and denims (swap these for trousers), and picking neutral shades to go more or less tone-on-tone is a very smart move. This way, you can wear a lot of the items you probably already have in your wardrobe – neutral trousers, simple jumper – and top them off with a smart blazer or set of pearls (don’t go OTT on the pearl strands, though, it’s too “fashion”).
This short-sleeved jumper from Warehouse is cute but conservative enough for the corporate world, and has a simple enough design – but it’s also something you won’t hate, immediately afterwards. These chino trousers from Zara are cute, and will do the trick well enough; if you hate the idea of white trousers (honestly, who doesn’t?) they have a few different colour options. This white textured blazer from Oasis is fine, too – and though I used to hate white blazers, now they remind me a bit of Olivia Palermo, which is no bad thing.
A few final dos and don’ts…
- Do dress comfortably – if you’re wearing something that you have to pull up or down, or readjust every five seconds, you’ll look nervous. You want to be giving calm, cool vibes.
- Don’t show too much – or, really, any – flesh. Cropped trousers are about as risqué as you can get in this environment, so check yourself for cleavage, too much décolletage or even the slightest hint of exposed midriff. Just, no.
- Do iron everything. And do the car test – iron it, sit in the car for 15 minutes and get out. If it’s totally creased, wear something else; there’s just no way around it, but the corporate world is old school, and they believe in ironing.
- Don’t wear shitty flat pumps. Somehow we got it into our heads that flat ballet pumps that cost you €12 are suitable for a corporate environment. They’re not. If you can’t walk in heels, wear flats and change around the corner – do not wear those unsupportive shoes that make you look 13 years old to an interview.
- Do no-makeup makeup. That’s simple, but perfect, foundation; a little colour (blush, maybe some bronzer); filled-in brows; maybe a neutral eyeshadow and a nude lip. Do not – I repeat, do not – show up to an interview with YouTube makeup on. In fact, never wear YouTube makeup in the real world. (You’re welcome.) If you are totally rubbish at makeup, enlist the help of a friend or pay €30-odd to get it done. Money well spent if you impress, right?
If in doubt? Head high, shoulders back – your breasts are the headlights of the body, remember – and a firm handshake. Be confident, and good luck! (My American self would say: “You got this.”)