Keep it MBAchic: What to Wear to the Interview (Finance, Accounting)

Well this is MBAchic… let’s talk some savvy professional wear. If you’re interviewing for a position at a financial services firm, investment bank, accounting firm or someplace similar that requires formal business wear everyday, you want to keep it conservative. Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way – please comment below with your suggestions and opinions:

Invest in a good suit.

You’ve heard this before, I’m sure, but have you actually gone out and bought one? Make sure it looks great on you, and make sure it fits at this very moment. A little tailoring is worth it: I cannot think of one man I know who purchased a suit off the rack and had nothing done to it. Invest in this for your professional future; a good suit can last you years if you take good care of it!

Regardless of your price range, be sure to purchase a suit made out of a good material; you do not necessarily need to buy a suit made of the finest wool, but make sure that the fabric feels “high-quality” in your hands. Your interview suit should make you look like a million bucks, and you should feel comfortable in it! You can opt for a simple, sleek skirt suit like this one from Theory (Rory Tailor Blazer and Golda Tailor Skirt found here).

Suits can be expensive, yes. You can find more reasonable suits at Macy’s – the T Tahari line is great, and the quality is fantastic. I would just be sure to choose a youthful style (this applies to all suits, actually). As a young chic MBA woman, you want to make sure that your jacket is not too long or oversized (the matronly look is never a good look), and that your skirt hits just at the knee. I tend to wear skirts because I am too tall to find pants off-the-rack that work with heels (without giving that oh-so-professional high-water look). If you wear pants, make sure they are pressed (creased) and crisp for the big day.

Random: I tweeted this question the other day, and Joe Zee, Creative Director of ELLE Magazine (@mrjoezee) suggested a dark skirt suit as one of the things to wear to an interview like this. Thanks for the tip!

Wear a crisp button-down.

We have already established the fact that these types of interviews will call for more conservative clothing. A button-down with a collar is a good idea as long as you remember to iron it (or, purchase a non-iron shirt – amazing invention). This is a nice button-down by Banana Republic (Non-Iron Fitted Sateen Shirt can be found here). I actually own this top in a different color. The fact that it does not require ironing is amazing. The shirt is fitted, and looks great on many different body types. Some button-downs can be a little too mature, and these proportions really keep this look young and fresh. Check out the different color options online – I would stick to either white or light blue for an interview.

Keep accessories simple.

Now is not the time to show off your new hoop earrings or stack of bangles. Keeping your accessories simple will show your polished, professional side. There’s nothing wrong with some jewelry, but try to limit it to one or two rings (one on each hand), a watch, and some small earrings (studs are great). Some women opt for pearls – personally it’s not my style, but they do work if you make sure the strand is not too long.

Make sure your shoes and purse are simple, sleek and clean/polished. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details,” and showing up with scuffed shoes may give the impression that you do not care or take this as seriously as you should. Also, no stripper heels. Easy on the platforms, too. In a conservative setting, two inches or so is a pretty good height.

This pair of Calvin Klein Dolly shoes (can be found on Zappos.com here) is a great option for an interview. The heel is not too high, the shape is classic, and the black leather goes with almost anything.

You probably want to carry a purse or briefcase – just make sure it is not too big or too small. This Michael Kors bag is still pretty popular and comes in a variety of colors and fabrics. It’s a great option and easily can hold a folder or padfolio. I’ve got one in silver/pewter, and it’s the best for work, class, you name it.

Wear pantyhose!

I sound so old-fashioned right now, but I need to make this point. I know you probably only see your mom, aunts or old ladies wear them, but for these interviews, you want to wear them. Think: they may not be for you, but not too long ago, it was completely unheard of for women to leave the house without this undergarment. The majority of your potential employers are probably not your age, and for them, pantyhose is just a part of life. You do not want to give a senior partner in the accounting firm any reason to judge (or misjudge) you. Just stick to tights that match your skintone, and stay away from the overly “suntanned” pantyhose to avoid Snooki legs.

Be so fresh and so clean.

Again, you want to convey a clean, professional look, so wear your hair down or pulled back into a clip or ponytail. Make sure your hair is clean and try to tame any frizz using products like Paul Mitchell SuperSkinny or Garnier Fructis Anti-Humidity Smoothing Milk.

Also, try not to use perfume. I once heard a story about a woman who wore perfume to her interview – it turned out that her interviewer was allergic to the scent and was sneezing away the entire time. Just be safe – don’t spritz that morning.

Nails should be short and cleanly manicured in a neutral color. Also, get your eyebrows (and lip) waxed/threaded to ensure you’re not growing a distracting unibrow or mustache as you try to explain that you are attentive to detail.

Keep the makeup basic. If you need eyeshadow, stick to neutral tones and stay. away. from. shimmer. Seriously. Keep the eyeliner light if necessary, and use a bit of blush to give your face some depth. You might want to wear lip balm to avoid any potential lipstick-on-teeth issues. Also, avoid lip gloss that is too shiny – your interviewer should not be able to see his reflection in your lips.

The goal here is to provide some tips and suggestions for nailing that interview; the overall idea is that you want to put your best food forward. If you’ve submitted your resume and maybe passed a first round of phone interviews, so far they like what you’re doing. Keep your look fresh and clean and do not give them any reason (based on your appearance) to misjudge your abilities and potential.

These suggestions are good for an interview, but when you finally land that job, feel free to spice up your wardrobe. You can play with your accessories and the blouse you wear under your jacket. Look at the other women in the office. Take a cue from them but remember that it is better to look at superiors and how they dress (you want to dress up – thinking about your next step). Let’s be real: your skills are not all that will be evaluated in the workplace. Make sure your image is consistent with your “brand” that you want.

Do you have any suggestions for a finance or accounting interview? What would you recommend? Also, if you happen to find stylish, long slacks for us tall ladies, your suggestions would be very much appreciated!

Please comment below, Tweet us @MBAchic, or post to our Facebook wall. Looking forward to seeing what you have to share!

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7 Responses

  1. sarahshah says:

    Snookie legs! Hilarious! Thanks for expanding my fashion vocabulary!

    You are so right, updated styles that fit the old basic rules apply to formal business attire in conservative workplaces. If the dress code is business casual or the workplace is a creative environment, you have much more flexibility and room for personal expression.

    This link might be useful in the pantyhose conversation. http://sarahshaharticles.blogspot.com/2008/04/image-dynamite.html

    • MBAchic says:

      Thanks for your comment! I read you article and laughed out loud. The believers vs. the unwrapped battle is fantastic.

      I think for this kind of interview, it might be a good idea. 🙂 I am excited for the other blogs coming up in the “Keep it Chic” series I have going on here. They definitely will be more fun!

  2. sarahshah says:

    Looking forward to more in the series!

  1. 24 June 2011

    […] Snooki legs during your job interview — Welcome to our newest Business School Buzz blogger, MBAChic! In this post, she briefs us on the appropriate attire when you’re interviewing for a position at […]

  2. 5 October 2011

    […] to the second installment of Keep It Chic! Hope you found the first Keep It Chic article helpful – this article is about what you can wear to an interview in marketing, advertising […]

  3. 7 October 2011

    […] to the second installment of Keep It Chic! Hope you found the first Keep It Chic article helpful – this article is about what you can wear to an interview in marketing, advertising or […]

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