Brave the heat and still dress for success.
The day has come. You’ve finally landed an interview for your dream job, but to get to your prospective employer’s office, you have to survive the summer weather. After the muggy heat of the subway platform or the blazing hot sun on the sidewalk, you’re feeling sweaty and looking disheveled.
Dressing appropriately for a formal interview during the summer months can be a real challenge, but have no fear. You can still dress professionally without risking dehydration or showing up for the interview looking like you’re ready for the beach. Here are some tips on what to wear for a summertime interview.
Summertime suggestions for women.
Outfit Overview. Stick with something simple and classic. Pair a lightweight blazer with a pencil skirt or slacks. When pairing a blazer and bottoms, make sure they are either an identical match, or clearly from two different sets. With skirts, aim for something that is an appropriate, professional length — no shorter than just above your knee.
A pantsuit is a very professional option. Make sure it has a modern, tailored cut and is in a simple, neutral color. Avoid bold patterns or loud colors, like “Hillary Clinton Red,” for your first interview. All-white is an appropriate choice for a summertime pantsuit. While white or cream suits might be too casual for men on an interview, on women, it’s a color that will look sharp and is ideal for staying cool.
Top or Blouse. When selecting a blouse, make sure the material isn’t too stifling for the summer heat but also isn’t translucent. It’s also important that the neckline isn’t too low. A simple crewneck top or button-up shirt can work for a breezy but professional outfit.
Accessories. As far as what to carry, bring only one bag to the interview — ideally something that is streamlined and professional, like a briefcase or a practical handbag. Keep your other accessories simple and professional — nothing too eye catching. Even if you use your phone to check the time, a watch makes for a very smart and always classic accessory.
Shoes. Avoid casual shoes like sneakers and stick with professional shoes like flats or wedges. You have some freedom to wear open-toed shoes, like a sensible mule, but sandals or espadrilles will be too casual for the occasion. Shoes with heels, like pumps, are a good option just as long as the heel isn’t too tall and they’re comfortable to walk around in.
This is an all around strong summertime interview outfit. The boxy top from COS pairs nicely with the pencil skirt from Uniqlo because the top is more structured and the skirt is made from a breathable, stretchy material. The 12-hour pumps from Banana Republic are a good example of sensible and elegant footwear. You don’t need to splurge on a Tumi bag, but it’s a practical purse that you can carry confidently into the interview.
This look is a little bit trendier, a little bit more casual, but still a sharp and put together outfit. The blazer from Banana Republic is a lightweight satin jacket that won't feel too hot for the heat. The Ann Taylor slacks are cropped at the ankle and come in a slim (not skinny) fit. The tailored cut gives them a more “buttoned-up” look. The mules by Aldo are a little trendy, but they still look smart and go well with the cropped slacks. Top this look off with a simple T-shirt by Uniqlo. Nothing with graphics, holes, or a super low neckline.
Summertime suggestions for men.
Outfit Overview. Even though the temperature is high, you want to wear a shirt and jacket to a formal interview. That doesn’t mean wear the black suit you have for weddings or the three-piece wool number you have in the back of your closet. Aim for blazers and jackets made specifically for the summer months, generally with two buttons in a modern cut. These come in materials like linen, synthetic “dry” fabrics, and seersucker. Look for unlined jackets, made with little padding and a natural shoulder. Lighter colors are appropriate, such as a light gray or a subdued blue. Navy is an excellent color all year round and it’s probably the darkest shade you want to wear on a hot, sunny day.
A word of warning: if you do find a lightweight suit in seersucker, avoid classic colorings like light blue or red stripes. Seersucker suits can conjure images of the Kentucky Derby or "The Great Gatsby" if you’re not careful.
With suits and blazers that are lighter and unlined, the cut is even more important. A contemporary suit jacket fits close to your body and doesn’t go past your butt. The break of your pants should be right at your ankles so that when you’re standing, the slacks are not touching your shoes.
Shirt. Wear a lightweight button-up shirt in linen or a cotton oxford that’s not too heavy. If you don’t know which color to wear, stick with something classic like light blue or white. A tie is a very smart choice, but depending on the work environment, a suit and no tie might be appropriate. With your tie, make sure its width is proportional to the lapels of your suit.
Shoes. Wear laced dress shoes in a color that complements the rest of your outfit. White derbies were a traditional summertime suit choice back in the days when suits were worn regularly, but they might not be the most appropriate choice for your interview. Shoes that you can slip on, like loafers, are technically not formal. In some parts of the world, such as the U.K., even brown shoes could be considered too casual for an interview — better to go with traditional black. Ideally, you want to wear something like a black cap-toe oxford, or a five-eyelet wing-tip.
For men, khakis and a navy blazer is a timeless look, but for this summertime outfit, it all comes down to the fabrics. The shirt is a linen button-up from J.Crew. Linen is a notoriously breathable material, but be warned — linen shirts can wrinkle easily tucked away in your closet. Make sure to have your shirt crisp and ready-to-go the day before the interview.
The blazer from Uniqlo is made from a synthetic material that is designed to wick away moisture. Its breathable material makes it perfect for jet-setters who need a blazer that won't wrinkle after several hours sitting in economy class, as well as anyone who needs a sensible jacket that's appropriate for the summer heat.
The khakis are Dockers — an American classic — but are updated for your modern summer interview. The slim fit will make them look more tailored than the classic cut, and their “stretch twill” material will not only make them more comfortable but also more breathable and wrinkle-resistant than their full-cotton counterparts.
The jacket and pants from Zara are made from a technical fabric. Like the clothes you wear to the gym, they’re designed to wick away sweat and keep you cool. The shirt is from Uniqlo’s Easy Care collection, meaning it will be less likely to wrinkle as you wear it. The tie is from The Tie Bar, an online retailer that is a go-to for menswear enthusiasts. The company’s “skinny” ties look modern and are the right size to match the suit’s lapels.
Where can I find these items?
A lot of fast fashion retailers provide seasonal items that are priced affordably. Uniqlo is a great place to look for rayon blouses and suiting made for the summer heat. Check out its online store — the website features a “wear to work” section for both men and women. H&M also has affordable and formal options. Zara is another popular professional retailer, but the styles can be a little too trendy, so be careful. Mall brands like Express provide a lot of business-ready clothing at reasonable prices but make sure you stick with simple colors and shirts and skirts that fit close to your body (but nothing that is skin-tight).
If you don’t live near a mall and you don’t want to order online, Target is a smart move for affordable white-collar styles. The difference between Target’s clothing selection and, say, Walmart’s, is that Target’s in-house labels, like Merona, have a contemporary fit and typically won’t look oversized or outdated.
If you’re looking for formal shoes, men can turn to brands like Florsheim for reasonably priced dress shoes that aren’t outrageously expensive. If you want to spend a little more for nice dress shoes that will last long after your interview (with the right care) consider Allen Edmonds.
Women can look to mall staples like Aldo and Steve Madden for reasonably priced professional styles, but make sure the shoes you pick aren’t too trendy. The most stylish garments may be inappropriate for formal settings.
You might find that you’re dressed a little formally for the office. If you come into your interview wearing a suit, but you see none of the other employees are, that’s alright! It’s much better to show up overdressed for the first than to show up in a t-shirt and never land the job.
You’ve already won the company over with your resume and cover letter, and now they want to see if the professionalism translates face-to-face. As long as you are respectful, prepared to answer questions, and look and feel comfortable in your clothes, then you’ve already taken the first step to nailing your interview.
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