Job Interview Dressing 101
svetlana | May 19, 2015 | 9:00AM |

Good morning everyone! What is that you sense in the sticky, humid air of late May? Why, it must be the smell of fresh pour-over/cold-press coffee and ambition as the new graduates emerge on a series of endless job interviews, college students overdress for their internship interviews, and the rest of the population continues to be on the look-out for a-better-opportunity.

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DC is about the job. You need (a good) one to afford to live here, you probably moved to the area from whatever nice liberal arts school your parents re-mortgaged their house for in order to get one, and whether it is arts or politics or NGOs or that prestigious media opportunity, chances are you want to dress to impress.

Here at BYT we’ve seen it all: from kids showing up in suits and ties to be interviewed by us (braless/in jeans) to people dressing down to much (don’t be braless if you can’t pull of braless, you guys (and girls)).

The key is to:

  • do research on the job culture of the places your aiming to land yourselves on a path to success at
  • focus on the few (affordable, but quality) pieces to carry you through this season until the actual job lands and you (sort of) have money to invest in your actual work wordrobe
  • find a way to sleep with Harrison Ford (this is a Working Girl joke reference that is both inappropriate for the way we deal with work life in 2015 AND will go over the head of 99% of college students these days, but if it doesn’t offend or alienate you – apply for our internships. #JoanCusack4Ever-ed)

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But, back to why we were here – getting that job.

We clearly have no actually useful advice to give (though the BYT core staff has, in a previous life, held totally legitimate office positions in places such as law firms, architecture firms, IT firms, and beyond – and we all interviewed for those. And survived) we decided to recruit a tried and true expert to guide you through this trecherous path:

Enter, Amanda Kraemer, Style Director of LOFT, the place that has kept me in work (and life) appropriate deals for the last decade or so. BONUS/LOCAL CRED: LOFT has close ties to the DC area through their involvement with the Georgetown Scholarship Program and Amanda hosts an annual styling event each Fall at LOFT Georgetown, styling recent grads from the program in preparation for the job force. If anyone knows how to dress for a job interview, she does.

image, courtesy of Loft

image, courtesy of Loft

So, lets dive in.

BYT: For 2015, what are the 3 essential items every grad should have when shopping for their first interview outfit?

Amanda Kraemer: A structured jacket, elongated pencil skirt and utility blouse. You can’t go wrong with these pieces- they’re polished enough for your biggest interview but versatile enough to dress down for dates and weekends. They’re the definition of investment pieces.
BYT: What are the absolute Do’s and Don’ts/rules when it comes to leaving a good first impression at a job interview, in terms of your outfit?

AK: Dress to show that you understand the brand you’re interviewing for. #1.) Is the work environment classic, relaxed, artistic? Consider these elements and incorporate them into your outfit. #2) You should absolutely be yourself. If you combine these two, you’ll dress the part!

BYT: What is the perfect outfit for interviewing at a traditional/conservative work environment?

AK: If you can answer ‘yes’ to all the following, you’ll pass the test: 1) Does your look include a jacket/blazer? 2) If you’re wearing a heel, is it less than 3” high? 3) Is your look grounded in a neutral, classic color?

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BYT: What is the perfect outfit for interviewing at a creative work environment? What would stand out to you (Amanda) if someone was interviewing for LOFT?

AK: In a creative work environment you should definitely show your own personal sense of style, but combined with a current trend. A safe, easy option is the LBD paired with a statement accessory

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BYT: When on a budget, what is one item worth investing in? What are some easy ways to spruce up an existing wardrobe?

AK: Jackets in general are investment pieces because they have the ability to dress a look up or down. A denim jacket complements a feminine summer dress while a blazer can add polish to a more casual jumpsuit or skirt.

What are the must-have colors for the season? Anything bright– summer is the time to have fun with color!
I love this dress, for example:

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DC is relatively conservative but not as conservative as people think it is – who do you think some of the best dressed working women in the city are and why?

AK: Dana Bash has a signature style that works for her that she keeps going back to. I love that she isn’t afraid to spruce up her look with color.

BYT: Who do you think some of the best dressed working women in the country are?

AK: The women who wear LOFT of course! No, but really. It makes me so excited to see women in LOFT and to see them wearing it in their own way. They add their own spin. It shows how truly versatile this brand is. I definitely learn something from every woman.

BYT: What are your tips for easily transitioning from work to play?

AK: Accessories are key. I carry a pair of flat sandals in my purse on days where I will be wearing heels for most of the day, so I am ready to be comfortable for wherever I am headed post-work

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And that’s all. Go forth and conquer that job interview.

P.S. BYT Intern Guide – the 2015 edition is coming your way shortly. General 2014 pro tips still apply

P.P.S. We promise to locate someone to do this type of story for dudes too.