do I still need to wear a suit to a job interview? — Ask a Manager
A reader writes:
I read your blog religiously and am excited to have some interviews coming up! Looking back through your archives, like these posts in 2015, 2012, and 2008, you have me convinced that my best option is to wear a suit for these interviews. But when it comes to actually shopping for a suit, I am at a loss! At my go-to workwear stores (Ann Taylor, Banana Republic), blazers/jackets are sold separately from pants, whereas I thought I needed to buy them as a set to ensure the color/fabric are an exact match. Plus, when you buy these pieces separately, I’m looking at something like $300 – $400. I’m also not sure what to do in a situation where I’m called back for multiple interviews — surely, people don’t have three suits that they plan to wear pretty much one time only?
So, my questions are practical ones:
• Where should I be shopping for a women’s suit?
• Am I correct that what I’m looking for is a suit set, meaning a blazer and pants that are sold together?
• A sheath dress would likely be cheaper. Can I wear a sweater with a sheath dress, or must it be a blazer?
• Any recommendations for those of us who want to impress, but don’t have $300+ to spare?
I am so excited to say this: This convention has changed!
In all but a handful of conservative fields (think: parts of law and finance), it’s become normal to interview in something a step down from a formal suit. You still need to dress up for most job interviews (not all — some fields, like IT, can be an exception), but for women that no longer needs to mean a traditional suit where everything is made of the same fabric in the same color.
Things you can wear now wear as alternatives to suits:
* a jacket and pants that aren’t made of identical suiting fabric
* a reasonably businessy dress on its own, no blazer
* a dress and a cardigan (the dress should still at least somewhat businessy; not a casual sundress)
You also don’t need to buy three separate outfits. You wouldn’t want to re-wear the same highly memorable outfit (like a bright dress in a bold pattern) to multiple interviews with the same people (no, I can’t defend this but it’s the convention nonetheless) but you could re-wear a basic black blazer and pants but change up the shirt and accessories, for example. In addition to your go-to workwear stores, you can try department stores (which, depending on the store, could be less) or consignment/thrift stores (although some sizes can be easier to find there than others).
As always, this is general advice. Some fields have their own conventions (either more or less formal), as do some geographic regions. So adapt for your field and location.