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Interview Attire and Advice Sponsored by BeKnown

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.



  1. ADL says:

    Lovely blouse. Would love to have a not quite so expensive version in a 10th Commandment!

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  2. Rose says:

    I like to play job interviews so safe, I don't think I would even wear that shirt, although I'm sure it is perfectly acceptable. I would wear a tailored white button-down shirt. If I wore a pattern at all, I think it would be houndstooth, which has become almost a professional staple.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  3. Tel says:

    Belle, I thought I had finished buying purses until at least the summer, but I may need that purse in my life. I absolutely love the shape and color. Thank you for posting it!

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  4. Belle says:

    Rose: That's funny, because in my opinion, the skirt is the safer choice. But it's a matter of perspective, either is fine. I try to avoid button downs with suits, unless they're silk, because I find it a bit too masculine. But again, perspective, and it depends on where you're looking for work.

    Tel: Good news, it's on back order until March. So at least you are halfway to your goal!

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  5. Kaylee says:

    I have the eternal curly hair dilemma! My hair is wavy/curly (not perfectly formed, tight curls, but curly enough that getting it straight takes a lot of time and effort). On past job interviews, I've typically gotten up early and taken the time to straighten it, but I always hear different opinions on whether curly hair is interview-appropriate. What do you think, Belle?

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  6. KC says:

    I second the dislike of collared button-up shirts under suits. The collars never seem to look right with the lapels of women's suits. Men wear them buttoned all the way up to the neck with a tie, so when women wear them with the top buton or two unbuttoned, I think it looks less polished and doesn't give the same professional vibe.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  7. Belle says:

    Kaylee-Well, what your hair does is what it does, so unless it's naturally purple, I don't think it can be inappropriate. It depends on how your feel most comfortable. Is it better for your mental sense of calm to have straight hair or to sleep that extra 30 minutes. As long as it looks polished and intentional, I think it will be fine either way.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  8. Kaylee says:

    Thanks for your prompt response, Belle! I will most likely end up straightening it on interviews in the future. I agree with your thinking that as long as it looks neat and it's what one's hair does naturally, it should be fine. But, I've read so many comments from others who disagree that it makes me nervous! (I love Corporette, but sometimes the comments there make me feel so nervous, like I'm doing everything wrong. I think it's just that there are a lot of strong personalities there!)

    In the end, you're probably right-curly hair would most likely be fine, but it's not worth me being nervous over it!

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  9. Sarah says:

    Kaylee, for what it's worth — I have the same debate. My hair is wavy-curly — not consistent throughout, not pin-curls, not waves. Sometimes it looks great down, sometimes not so much, and I can't always predict what it'll do. I have pretty, subtle headbands I use sometimes as a fix-it, but I wouldn't do that for a job interview.

    My solution: make sure my hair is dry and curly, then do a medium-low ponytail (wrapping the neutral-colored elastic neatly with a piece of hair, to cover it) with a side part. That way I know it'll stay put, I'm not tempted to play with it, and — at least for me, since I don't have bangs — it's a little less severe than having it all up.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  10. K says:

    I thought this post was excellent! There are so many people who really don't know how to prep for an interview and you provided some great advice. One piece of advice I've used and given others many times is to really scour the job posting and make sure to connect your past skills with tasks and responsibilities of the new job. I think it shows that you are both prepared for the interview and qualified for the job when you are able to connect all the dots (no pun intended!).

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  11. kelly says:

    I'd love to get the opinion of Belle and the group on this interview-related dilemma. A good friend of mine will be done with law school this year and has started doing interviews. She's also recently engaged. She told me she doesn't wear her engagement ring to interviews because she's afraid the company will see a young, about-to-get-married woman as a bad hire (because of time off for the wedding, will she want children soon, etc). She also told me she will never wear her engagement or wedding rings to interviews, ever, because she doesn't want to risk not getting a job because of a misperception. Has anyone else experienced this, worried about it? It honestly never occurred to me until she brought it up, but I work in a completely different field.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  12. Govvie says:

    Not wearing your ring seems a little extreme to me. Why would you try such a fundamental part of who you are? And then show up to work and get to know your co-workers and suddenly you start mentioning a spouse?

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  13. Ellie says:

    Kellie– extensive discussion on Corporette here: https://corporette.com/2011/03/17/diamond-rings-and-the-working-girl/comment-page-2/

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  14. Belle says:

    Govvie: I should have had a caveat for married people and engaged people. Your wedding ring or engagement ring is fine, I just meant no cocktail rings or right hand rings, etc.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  15. Belle says:

    Kelly: I can see where she's coming from. There are certainly people who would see a young, engaged woman as a risk. You do have to take into account that most people doing the hiring are older, and from a different time.

    The corporette discussion was a good one, I remember it well.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  16. Jill says:

    Kelly–On the flip side, your friend might consider this. Some interviewers might consider a married person to be more settled, more responsible, and take their job more seriously. Just a thought.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  17. Julia says:

    I don't know about engagement rings, but I did have one mentor tell me never to mention a boyfriend in an interview, especially because I was moving from my college to a new city (Columbia SC to Atlanta) to be with said boyfriend and it was imperative that I give interviewers reasons I wanted to be in their city that were more “substantial” than I was in love and moving. For the record, I was never asked in depth about any man in my life nor did I volunteer such information, I was asked by one company what I ddi in my free/personal time that made me me but that was it.
    I've never thought about it in terms of wedding rings or engagement rings, I mean it's not like you flail your left hand around in a meeting discussing your first date, it's just a part of who you are. Do questions about time off for weddings and children get brought up in interviews? It seems inappropriate to me.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  18. EAC says:

    Belle, how old are you? You seem to think that anyone over the age of 35 is an ancient old crone who has not progressed with the times. I am over 40-I interview candidates and make hiring decisions. I don't even wear nylons, so I don't require my female subordinates to wear them. If it is warm enough and your legs do not need the “cosmetic benefits” that hosiery offers, then don't wear hosiery. If your hair is naturally curly, then wear it that way. If you are engaged or married, wear your ring(s).

    But I will say, nothing makes me cringe more than meeting a candidate who is carrying their paperwork in a manilla folder. Please, purchase a leather portfolio in which to place extra copies of your resume. It looks so much more professional.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  19. Belle says:

    EAC: I'm 29, but while many people over 35 have progressed with the times not all have. My first job in DC, I had a boss who was 33 (would now be 38) who insisted that nylons needed to be worn every day. I'm part of a mentoring association where I am the youngest member, and I am constantly told that I shouldn't wear such bright colors or shoes with detail because they're not mature by women in their late 30s. I don't think all people over 35 are sticks in the mud, but you never know what the generation behind you might think is essential. So play it safe, and wear the nylons.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  20. KC says:

    Re rings: I had a friend in law school who was asked by the State Attorney General himself if she was just going to quit and have babies after she got married because he didn't want to waste the taxpayers' money. But that's the worst I've heard.

    I was engaged when I was interviewing at law firms in a new city (where my fiance lived). I had a extremely brief prepared spiel about how I had always planned to moved here (true), and reconnected with my fiance who lived here a couple of years before. I felt like having a statement ready to go answered some of those questions (1) there were several good reasons I was moving to a new city, (2) I was moving here prior to the relationship so there was no breakup-and-move risk, and (3) my fiance was already established in the city, so we were stable and staying put. When I was offered the job I told them up front that I would need a week and a half off for my wedding a couple weeks after I started and they had absolutely no problem with it.

    I think most places understand that most people get married and that it only happens once. Unless you're Elizabeth Taylor, just because you take off a week or so for a wedding doesn't mean it will be an ongoing problem.

    I would absolutely wear an engagement or wedding ring and I would not mention a boyfriend.

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  21. Mel says:

    EAC/Belle – Can you suggest a good leather portfolio for this purpose? Would one fit in this JCrew bag?

    January 9, 2012/Reply
  22. EAC says:

    Gosh Mel, I've been carrying the same portfolio for at least four years now and I haven't had to search for a new one. My portfolio is by Baekgaard-bright orange pebbled leather with purple piping (since I'm “seasoned”,I can pull off “wild” business accessories). Baekgaard is sadly out of production because the widow of the founder of the company decided to shut it down because (and Belle will love this) she didn't have time to run it, as she is the co-founder of Vera Bradley. She wanted to focus all of her attention on VB.

    I have a friend who has a beautiful portfolio that she bought from an Etsy seller. I think that Jack Georges or Lodis might have portfolios. You don't have to spend a mint to get one of decent quality.

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  23. Belle says:

    EAC: I actually gasped when I read that. The source of the scourge has been located!

    On the subject of portfolios, Lodis makes a nice one. I just carry everything in a large leather envelope that I found at a bookstore a few years back.

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  24. BTC says:

    I'm 26, and during cold weather I think nylons are totally necessary. I ask this question completely sincerely – do you go outside when it's 15, 20 degrees with bare legs? It just seems like it would be so cold. I know that nylons are thin and don't offer much protection from the cold, but it gives me enough so that I'm not freezing when i walk to work in a skirt and nylons. I almost never wear pants, because I think they don't look as nice as dresses and skirts on me. So I always just opt for nylon thigh highs. In the summer months, I go with bare legs (but I definitely get some sideways glances from my sixty-something female boss). I'm curious – when do you wear nylons, and when don't you?

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  25. BTC says:

    I'm 26, and during cold weather I think nylons are totally necessary. I ask this question completely sincerely – do you go outside when it's 15, 20 degrees with bare legs? It just seems like it would be so cold. I know that nylons are thin and don't offer much protection from the cold, but it gives me enough so that I'm not freezing when i walk to work in a skirt and nylons. I almost never wear pants, because I think they don't look as nice as dresses and skirts on me. So I always just opt for nylon thigh highs. In the summer months, I go with bare legs (but I definitely get some sideways glances from my sixty-something female boss). I'm curious – when do you wear nylons, and when don't you?

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  26. Rina says:

    I was disappointed with this post because it was pretty much just a repeat of three previous posts you did this year about job interviews. I liked those old posts and I agree with your advice, but it seems like you just reposted your old stuff for a sponsor.

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  27. Ellie says:

    Another option for a portfolio is to buy one from your alma mater. I have one from my law school. You never know when it will be noticed by another alum! I once brought to an interview a US Congress portfolio, and my interviewer, who had previously worked on the Hill, noticed. It gave us something quick to make small talk about. Work those connections!

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  28. s says:

    curly hair – Don't over think it. There was a good thread on Corporette about it, particularly in the context of “ethnic” hair a while back. I think the gist was and what I go by is that it should look clean. Clean as in not oily. Other than that, you should try not to fiddle with it or wear it in a way that it would be a distraction to you.

    The “be nice to everyone” – I do hire people from time to time. If i interview you, and considering asking you back for a second interview, I will seek out the receptionist or anyoen else you may have interacted with longer than shaking hands to ask what kind of an impression you made with them.

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  29. Belle says:

    BTC: I only wear nylons to job interviews. I don't get any colder with bare legs than without. But I wear tights when it's cold, but that's mostly because I don't want to shave or tan.

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  30. Belle says:

    Rina-Yes, I've posted about interviews before. And yes, a lot of this is the same advice, though some of it was culled from comments on those posts that I thought were helpful suggestions.

    I thought it might be nice–since this blog is constantly growing and I know that a lot of people think about changing jobs in the New Year–to do a refresher. It seemed a lot easier than forcing people to try to search this blog since Squarespace's search function is not awesome. And I had already planned to do this post as part of New Year's Resolution week, when Monster sent me the invite to the contest, so it just worked out. It's not like I participate in a lot of these things, but this one just seemed like kismet.

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  31. R says:

    I don't understand the big deal about sponsorships. Belle updates this blog several times every day just for entertainment and enjoyment. Why is it so offensive if every once in a while there's a sponsored post? So what? Belle deserves to get something back and have neat opportunities because of her successful blogging hobby.

    I think it's pretty silly to be offended at having to re-read information every once in a while. If you visit any website multiple times a day, you're bound to eventually see something you've seen before. It’s not like she misrepresented herself – the complaint was that she was repetitive of her own views and opinions. Really??

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  32. r says:

    Just want to reiterate R's comment on the sponsored post. I thought it was a helpful post, and didn't mind that some of the tips mentioned had been repeated before. If every post becomes a sponsored post, I'll probably stop reading this blog (like I have with other style bogs). But a sponsored post here and there doesn't bother me, especially since she disclosed the information. I'm also fairly confident that this blog won't become littered with paid promotions– which is part of the reason why I come back every day.

    January 10, 2012/Reply
  33. Belle says:

    r: I don't think you need to worry about every post being sponsored. If this post hand't fit into what I was already planning, it wouldn't have happened. You wouldn't believe the number of PR emails I get every week that go into the trash.

    January 10, 2012/Reply