While a well-tailored suit and button-down are expected attire when applying for a job at an investment bank, it’s not the norm when applying for a caregiving position. When dressing for an interview, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Nicole Feliciano, editor and founder of MomTrends, a lifestyle blog for fashion-forward moms based in New York City, and Wendy Sachs, president and founder of The Philadelphia Nanny Network, offer their tips for interview attire do’s and don’ts.
Interview Dressing Dos
Keep these tips in mind when picking your outfit. How you look can be just as important as what you say.
1) Dress With the Job in Mind
While you want to look put-together and polished, you also want the parents to imagine you in your future role as a child care provider. Feliciano states, “If there are young, active children in the home, the parents want to feel comfortable with the concept of you getting on the floor playing. Also, if you’ve ever seen a diaper ‘blowout,’ it’s a mess. If you’re wearing a dry clean only dress to the interview the parent may worry that you won’t dig in when things get messy.”
This holds true whether you’re going to be caring for kids, pets or a home. Focus on neat, clean and a step or two up from what you would wear on a normal day.
2) Go Easy on the Makeup
Keep your look light and neutral. Both Sachs and Feliciano caution against overdoing the cosmetics. “Don’t wear too much makeup,” Feliciano says. “This is not a runway competition. Your hair should be pulled back or neatly swept off the face, and makeup should be minimalistic.” You want to enhance your best features, not look like you’re headed to a club.
3) Get Feedback
When you’re interviewing , it’s imperative that you give a good first impression. If you’re not sure about how you look, check with different people or even post a picture of you in your attire on a social media site. Ask for people’s immediate reactions — and try to listen without getting offended. Someone may pick up on something that you didn’t see.
4) Mention Your Schedule
You may end up needing to come to the interview straight from a different job. “If you are coming from another job, alert the parents that you are coming right from work, so you’ll be dressed in your work attire,” Sachs says. You can also pack a change of clothes and change on the way, but store it carefully so it doesn’t wrinkle.
5) Be Comfortable, Yet Tasteful
Nothing is worse than being uncomfortable at an interview. For this reason, choose clothing that is modest, and make sure it fits. Then put yourself in situations you may encounter. What happens when you sit on a chair or on the floor? Or when you crawl around (as if after a baby or a dog). Did anything ride up or down or make you feel self-conscious? Is your dress or skirt OK or should you switch to pants?
6) Make Your Feet Happy
It’s great that you can walk in 4-inch stilettos, but an interview is not the time to show off that talent. Think low, simple and comfy. “Do not wear high heels or platform shoes,” Sachs recommends. If you’re asked to tour the home or do any other activities that will require you to stand or move around, you’ll want to make sure you’ll be comfortable.
Interview Dressing Don’ts
Avoid these no-no’s when you’re attempting to impress a potential employer.
1) Don’t Wear too Much Jewelry
When it comes to jewelry, less is more. Keep in mind Feliciano’s advice, too: “Babies love to grab big earrings.”
This doesn’t mean that you should leave all of your accessories at home. “Definitely wear a watch,” Feliciano says, because employers love punctuality. “Keep the rest of it minimal. That being said I do love fun necklaces and scarves. They are a great way to dress up an outfit.”
2) Don’t Show too Much Skin
The point an interview is to see how you interact with the family. You may be asked to play with the kids to see how your personalities mesh, so “do not come dressed for an evening out on the town,” Sachs says. Do the grandma test: Would you wear this outfit to visit your grandmother?
3) Don’t Dress Sloppily
While you don’t want to dress up too much, you also want to be wary of looking too dressed down. “Wear clothes that are comfortable enough to be able to get on the floor and play with the children, but don’t dress in sweat pants or sweatshirt or T-shirt — that is too casual,” Sachs says.
Avoid jeans too — many people think they’re too informal. Stick to khakis, corduroys or slacks.
Coming in unkempt, wrinkled and disheveled gives the impression you don’t care about your appearance. You still want to make a good impression on your potential employer.
4) Don’t Marinate Yourself in Perfume
Some people are very sensitive to fragrance. Sachs strongly advises against wearing any perfume. You never know if the parents or any of the kids suffer from respiratory illnesses or allergies that your perfume may agitate.
When it comes to interview dressing, above all, keep this advice in mind: “Wear ‘one level up’ of what you might wear on the job,” Sachs says. Make sure your outfit is polished, but not too stuffy.
If you arrive at your interview comfortable and confident, you’ll make just the impression you want and be one step closer to landing the job.
What do you wear for interviews? Share your outfits in the comments section below.
Alaina Brandenburger is a freelance writer living in Denver.