Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

What Not to Wear, Interview Edition: Book-Job Boot Camp, Week 4 Day 2

The night before an interview, you can usually find me in my closet, mixing and matching every professional piece of clothing in my repertoire, only emerging once in a while to get feedback from my roommate. Perhaps it sounds superficial, but there’s a set philosophy behind it: having already done my research and run through my answers to any hypothetical questions in my head, the only thing that helps calm the nerves is organizing the only thing I can control – my appearance.

Think of the interview outfit as your uniform. Not only should it signify that you belong in the industry, but it should also help you get psyched up to play the part. The right interview outfit should make you feel confident and well put together. Ideally, it would show a little of your personality, but at the very least, it should be simple and clean enough to show you off as a person.

You would think that putting together a good interview outfit would be a fairly simple task, but when I conduct intern interviews, one of my biggest frustrations is how unprofessionally candidates dress for the occasion. Guys in jeans. Girls in T-shirts or a low-cut dress with bra straps showing. One time I saw a girl in the conference room in shorts and a halter top and assumed someone’s relative had stopped by to visit…only to realize she was there for an interview.

Even some of my friends have needed help putting together the right interview ensemble. A friend and I once had a standoff in an H&M when I suggested that she get a blue cardigan to wear to her first interview out of college (she was in an all-black phase back then).

As an employer, I am especially cognizant of what someone wears to an interview because of what it says about the candidate from the get-go. It’s not about how fashionable they are, but rather how much thought they put into trying to make a cohesive, professional first impression.

For men, the interview outfit’s simple: you can almost never go wrong with a suit, or at least nice slacks and a jacket. Solids are always a safe bet. No bling (unless it’s something understated that you wear daily – like a wedding ring). The overall appearance should be well-groomed and clean.

For women, there are certainly more possibilities, but many of the rules remain the same. You don’t want to wear anything too trendy or too flashy. Keep jewelry to a minimum. Try to have clean lines and clothes that fit you well – a.k.a. flattering to your figure and not oversized or too tight. Wear makeup that will keep you looking natural, and wear your hair either down or in a simple bun/ponytail with minimal accessories (a friend of mine swears by only hiring girls who have their hair up in interviews because it’s more professional; many people aren’t this strict, but it’s worth considering that sometimes simple and muss-free is better than having the perfect face-framing curls).

It’s always good to be dressed a little too professionally than not professionally enough. I’m a huge advocate for always wearing a jacket/blazer of some sort to any interview. It easily can take almost any ensemble and help put it more in the context of the workplace. If it’s summertime, just wait until you get to the office to put it on.

In publishing and publishing-related jobs, you may find that the dress code isn’t as strict as other industries. You probably won’t be required to wear a suit everyday, and you’re not working in an industry where you’ll be required to come in dressed to the nines in off-the-runway fashion. Still, even knowing this, remember the age-old adage: “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Or in this case, don’t even have—yet.

While no book should be judged by its cover, in book business and beyond, making a first impression goes a long way. Dressing appropriately is a sign of respect and serves as another tiny thing you can do to even the playing field with other candidates, if not set you ahead of the group. Besides, wearing something that you know looks good can help you feel good—and who couldn’t use that little extra boost of confidence before an interview?

One Comment

  1. Great post! How we show up on our interview really matters. It’s like telling the interviewer that “Hey, I have something to say that makes me qualified for this job”. When we appear shabby, we are already giving the interviewer an impression that we are not qualified for the job even before he/she hears what we are to say.

  2. […] Black Blazer, Black Slacks, and a White Shirt. If so what should I wear? Powered by Yahoo! AnswersI'm interviewing for a clerical postion at a hospital. Would it be a bad idea to wear Business Casua… WordPress › […]

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  1. […] Black Blazer, Black Slacks, and a White Shirt. If so what should I wear? Powered by Yahoo! AnswersI'm interviewing for a clerical postion at a hospital. Would it be a bad idea to wear Business Casua… WordPress › […]

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