Ripping apart one's closet prior to a big interview is probably just as routine as brushing your teeth in the morning. The idea of dressing to impress, while still looking like yourself is no easy feat, so we turned to #girlbosses across diverse industries to find out what to wear to an interview in finance, law, fashion, travel, and tech. Consider their advice your knock-‘em-dead guide.
1. Mary Ann Deignan, Bank of America Co-Head of Global Equity Capital
"Like most banks and big Wall Street institutions, Bank of America has a conservative culture. We are folks who work long hours and we present opinions to corporate clients, investing clients, and individual clients about finance and markets. It's not a place where you want people to talk about what you're wearing. You don't want to sit through a meeting and have a client say, 'Wow, why'd you pick those shoes?' That would be a bad outcome. You want to be remembered in a conversation because of your content, never because you present a flashy image or a dynamic outfit. That's just not consistent with what we're trying to do.
"I wear a suit almost every day because my day is somewhat unpredictable. Just because there isn't a client meeting on my calendar, it doesn't mean someone might not call me during the day and say, 'Can you come and shake hands with the CFO or CEO?' or 'I’m running out to lunch with an investor, can you join me?’ I don't ever want to be in a position where I'd have to say, 'I'd love to, but wish I'd worn a jacket today.'
"In an interview, you have a very short period of time to make a lasting impression. There isn't a category on our interview review form about what they were wearing. We want to see someone who is current, but it's probably bad if someone would say you're fashion forward or trendy. Those things work for some people, but if they don't work, it can be a disaster. If you wear a four-inch heel and you walk as comfortably across the floor as if you were wearing your Nikes, well, that's fantastic. They will think you're stylish, composed, and put together, but if you wear a heel and you twist your ankle out the door, you've got a problem. This is what people will remember about you: You're the young woman who twisted her ankle out the door because she couldn't walk in her own shoes."
2. Lesley Friedman Rosenthal, Lincoln Center Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary
"We are a traditional office environment, but definitely with a creative flair—by that I mean the arts are present in every office, conference room, and throughout the atmosphere. Office attire is the order of the day. The women wear dresses, pantsuits, or slacks and a sweater. I have not seen people wear jeans to work except maybe on a casual Friday in the summer. People still appreciate aesthetics though, so even within that office framework there will be a beautiful print silk scarf, a cool brooch, or a statement necklace.
"For an interview outfit, pick one memorable thing and let that be your statement. You want to be remembered! But I would say, the primary error I see when people come in for an interview is that their clothes don’t fit them right. It might have fit them 10 pounds ago, so the blouse is bursting open at the bra line or the pants are too short. In addition to fit, make sure clothing and accessories are in good condition. If your shoes are scuffed, I'm wondering about your attention to detail. I'm not saying they have to be expensive shoes, maybe invest in one good pair of shoes as opposed to five cheaper shoes that are going to show their age quickly. I like to see people whose clothing is in good condition and is up to date."
3. Whitney Wolfe, Bumble Founder and CEO
"This is kind of maybe embarrassing, but I'm in a Bumble T-shirt, a Patagonia vest, and Nikes. Bumble is super, super casual and this is a busy workday. In these cities like Austin, where you have a surplus of start-ups versus huge financial offices, a lot of people dress casual. We've been doing a lot of interviews recently and we hired two new employees and both of them were in what I call "casual chic." They were both in nice jeans, and I think one of them had a pair of cute flats on. No one showed up in a dress and heels, or a skirt and heels.
"It’s important to know your audience. Recently, a candidate came in who was a bit more dressed up. She had on a blouse, a pencil skirt, and kitten heels. I appreciated that she put in that effort, but she probably won't wear that to our office again because it’s not really our vibe. If I were going to apply at Bumble today, I would show up in a pair of dark jeans, Chanel flats, a nice top, a blazer, and wedges. It would be nice enough that I wasn’t offending anyone, but it wouldn't look like I was applying for a bank job. We're not a bank."
4. Ruzwana Bashir, Peek CEO
"Previously I worked in finance, and in my early career I felt I had to wear boxy trousers to prove that I was serious. At Peek, it’s not about wearing a suit. I enjoy fashion, so as a result, I wear clothes that reflect my own taste. I love bright colors, I love prints, and I like wearing clothes that are a little unusual. For me, I wear a dress or a skirt every single day. I tend to wear heels most days.
"Put together an outfit you enjoy wearing and that also reflects your personal style. Don't wear heels because you think you should. Be the best version of yourself, so it might be your favorite blouse, your favorite pair of jeans, or it could be a suit and tie. I think the biggest turnoff is when somebody comes in and they're wearing clothes that are dirty or if there's a big stain on the front. We would think that they're not putting effort into presentation."
5. Rati Sahi Levesque, The RealReal Chief Merchant
“I hire for merchandising specifically, but I interview for all of our roles at The RealReal. No matter what they're wearing, it comes down to whether they're skilled, experienced, and smart—that's who I’m going to hire. That said, you do have a little more leeway because we are in a creative space. I always look for someone who knows what's going on in the fashion world. Recently, someone came in, and she looked amazing. She was wearing a classic flare pant, Manolos, a beautiful sweater—I couldn't tell if it was from Zara or Céline—a great handbag, and a little dangly pearl earring. It was classic and put together. I could tell she had an attention to detail. That's where my mind went.
"If someone comes in and their style is louder than their voice, you kind of get put off by that. Color is great—it’s a better way to express yourself versus being overly trendy. If you look great in red, then wear red to an interview. You just don’t want to wear a short red dress. Instead, try a red chunky knit sweater or even a classic red wrap dress. If someone’s showing too much cleavage in the workplace or if the skirt is too short, it's hard to take them seriously. We're a fashion company, but we're a tech company too. We have people who work here that don't necessarily care about fashion or understand it, so you have to understand that balance. You’re in meetings all day with an array of personalities, and you don't want someone thinking, 'Wow, her skirt’s really short.'"