Interview Attire and Advice Sponsored by BeKnown
Jan 9, 2012
Last month, the folks from Monster.com asked me if I’d like to participate in a contest introducing their new Facebook and iPhone job search app, BeKnown. At first, I was hesitant. As my readers know, I don’t usually like to have outsiders dictating the content of this blog. But then, I played around with the BeKnown app a bit, and thought that some of my readers might benefit from a job search engine that takes advantage of your existing social networks.
Like LinkedIn, BeKnown uses your e-mail and existing social networks to build your list of contacts, and allows you to endorse users or to receive endorsements. It connects directly with Monster.com to help you search their job listings, and will even suggest jobs that you might interest you. But the best thing that BeKnown does is that it allows you to connect with alumni from your undergraduate and graduate universities through the college pages. This is especially helpful for jobseekers who live in a city other than the one where they attended college.
And did I mention that you can do all of this without ever leaving the comfort of your Facebook page? So BeKnown is great for young professionals who need to network because it taps into the networks of Facebook friends and allows you to connect, send messages, and use your existing contacts to locate job opportunities and get your name and resume out there. This is great for college students and recent grads, but it’s also great for those of you who are looking to make a job change and are looking for a place to start.
To learn more about the BeKnown Facebook and iPhone app, click here.
Now that we’re already on the subject of job hunting, let’s talk about how to ace your job interview. And since this a fashion blog, let’s start with what to wear.
Clothing. A job interview is not the venue to showcase the latest trends. It is not the place for neon, lace or sparkle. A job interview is the time to play it safe with professional basics that are clean, pressed and tailored. This will minimize any possible distractions and allow you and your skills to shine through.
This set is an accurate representation of what I wore to my interview for my current job (a.k.a. The Dream Job). You can never go wrong with a basic neutral-colored skirt suit. If you prefer pants, wear pants, but I like a skirt. So whether you choose navy, grey, tan or black, a neutral-colored suit is the way to go. This set features the J.Crew Super 120s suit skirt and blazer ($230 and $118).
The blouse has a simple print and a conservative cut. The fabric is a touch sheer, so I’d wear a nude cami underneath just to be safe. The dot print is as adventurous as I want to be in an interview, but a little color won’t hurt you. By little, I mean a dark teal, cranberry or like jewel tone, I do not mean bright pink. This set features a Marc Jacobs Dot-Print Blouse ($230).
Accessories. The Del pump from Corso Como ($130) is as basic a shoe as you could ever hope to own. It is padded for comfort, but I wouldn’t try to trudge a mile in them. If you have a long walk to your job interview, I would splurge and take a cab. Why? One, to arrive on time, and two, to prevent you from arriving out of breath, sweating, with sore feet.
The red purse is a bit daring, but since it’s a purse it will spend most of it’s time on the floor. It’s unlikely that you would be holding it during the interview, so it won’t be a distraction. If you want to play it even safer, feel free to bring a black bag. This is the J.Crew Edie Tote in Flame ($348).
Now, on the subject of legwear, let me just say that even I, nylon hater that I am, wear either tights or sheer hose to job interviews. Why? Because there are still some people (esp. women over the age of 35) who think that nylons are essential, and I don’t want my lack of Lycra to keep me from being hired. Though, unless it’s explicitly stated in the dress code, you will never see me in nylons post interview. If you need sheer nylons, try DKNY Ultra Sheers ($18).
On the subject of jewelry, you’ll notice that this set is void of baubles sans one pair of delicate pearl studs. Again, jewelry can be a distraction, bracelets jangle, rings draw attention to your hands instead of what you are saying, and a necklace isn’t needed with a tie neck blouse. If you want to wear more jewelry, feel free to mix in some tasteful pieces but don’t wear jewelry for jewelry’s sake.
Now, all of this advice is meant for job seekers in very professional fields like law, government and business. If you are looking for work in PR, fashion or advertising, you might want to funk things up a bit with a yellow blouse or lots of bracelets and a rolled sleeve. If you’re looking for work at Google or some similarly casual place, you could add a printed t-shirt and nice jeans or ankle length trousers. But this is the basic template, and it is your best bet for 90% of your interviews.
Makeup. I’ve written about choosing makeup for a job interview before, but let me hit the highlights again. Nude and neutral eyecolors, a little bit of eyeliner and two coats of mascara on the eyes. A sheer lip color in a shade close to your natural color. Pink blush to wake up your face applied with a delicate hand. Good quality undereye concealer.
Clean hair styled in either a sleek updo or in your natural style. Manicured nails with pale pink polish. If you wear acrylics, have them shortened to a more conservative length. No fake tanner. No perfume, or if you must wear a scent, something very light applied very lightly. And heavy duty deodorant to fight against an attack of the anxiety driven, cold sweats.
Now that we’ve talked about interview attire, let’s briefly mention Belle’s Top Seven Job Interview Tips.
Be On Time. If your interview is at 9:00AM, be there at 8:45. Job seekers need to be on military time. So don’t roll out of bed and stumble into your interview. Instead, get up early, eat breakfast, allow for plenty of transit time and show up like you’re prepared to be punctual every day for the rest of your career.
Be Nice To Everyone. From the second you enter the building, be friendly and polite. Say hello to the receptionist. Greet the interviewer, compliment his tie or her shoes in a natural and cordial way. Smile at people both going in and coming out of the interview. You never know who will have a say in whether you get the job, so just be as nice as you can to everyone.
Cell Phone Free Zone. Before you exit the cab to go into your interview, silence your cell phone and then, put it away. Don’t talk on it while you’re waiting to go in, I don’t care if it’s 10 minutes or 10 hours. And don’t make any post-interview calls until you are safely away from the building. You never know what people might overhear or how they might judge you based on your call.
Bring Copies of Everything. In a plain manila folder, you should have five copies of your resume, writing samples, references and other needed documents. The interviewer might forget to print off a copy or other people might join the interview and need a copy. Bringing extras shows that you’re a person who likes to be prepared.
Practice Your Answers. Job interviewers usually ask the same basic questions: Tell me about yourself? Tell me about your last job? How did your degree prepare you for this position? What skills or experiences do you possess that are applicable to this job? So before you ever step foot into a job interview you should briefly rehearse giving honest, succinct answers to these questions.
More often than not, job seekers spend hours perfecting their resume but they spend no time preparing to answer questions in a live interview. So make sure you know your resume by heart, and are prepared to discuss your qualifications with the interviewer. Because a perfectly put together resume means nothing if you can’t make it come to life in the interview.
Prepare Questions. While you should be prepared to answer questions about your own resume, it’s also important to prepare questions to ask your interviewer beyond salary and benefits. Ask about the work environment, is it driven by individuals or team based? How will you be evaluated and held accountable by your supervisors?
Ask the interviewer what a typical day in the office looks like. Ask if there will be a training process or if you’ll be allowed to talk to the person who is vacating the position before he or she leaves. If the company or organization has a board of directors, ask how often they meet and how involved they are in day-to-day operations.
Preparing three or four detailed questions will not only show the interviewer that you are serious about this position, it will help you decide if this is a place you want to work and determine what kind of work you will be doing. You don’t want to slide through the interview and then discover that the job is not at all what you thought it would be.
Send Thank Yous. When you get home from the interview, email the interviewer and thank him for his time. Tell him what a pleasure it was to meet him, thank him for answering your questions and provide him, again, with your contact information in case he has questions. Then, write a paper thank you, and drop it in that day’s mail. If you’re applying for work somewhere (like the Hill) where the mail has two or three day lag time, bring a thank you card with you, go to a coffee shop, fill it out, bring it back to the receptionist. Even if snail mail is problematic, make sure you send an email thank you, immediately after the meeting.
Looking for work can be difficult and stressful, but the interview is one of the few parts of the process that you can take an active role in, so be prepared. “Dress the part, act the part, get the part,” as my former professor used to say. If you have any questions or tips that you would like to offer those looking for work in the New Year, leave them in the comments. And for more information on this topic, particularly how to find jobs on Capitol Hill, read these Hill Life features.
This post is sponsored by BeKnown, a new Facebook and iPhone App from Monster.com. I was not paid for the post, though I was given a small beauty gift for participating. I am also entered in a contest to win an AmEx gift card based on the quality of the post. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, however, you know that all of my opinions are my own.