It’s been a while since I’ve interviewed a summer intern, but last week I experienced a blast from the past while sitting in the reception area of an exclusive fashion company. I was comfortably waiting for my potential new client to come out and greet me when without warning, three elevator doors simultaneously slid open and out scurried about a dozen college-aged, wannabe interns. It’s New York City and the weather couldn’t have been hotter, soupier and humid that day—yet I was wearing a suit. Why did these pre-adolescent looking 20-something-year-olds think they could skimp on the tradition of dressing appropriately for an interview? Why would they rather than look like they were making a pit stop before jumping on the Hampton Jitney for a weekend of nonstop part-AYS?
But it wasn’t just the attire that was inappropriate for the setting (it was a corporate environment even though it was a fashion company) or the occasion, it was also their lack of discretion. I wondered if they were all there for an open house or some type of group informational session. Nope! They were all there for individual “interviews” that had been scheduled within 10 minute intervals. I overheard this from some of the eager junior job seekers who were chit-chatting with one another while waiting to announce their arrival to the all-too patient receptionist. WOW! Ten minutes to impress a recruiter and this is how you show up? Clearly, it was all the more reason to wear attire that articulated intelligence, reliability and yes—a degree of fashion-forward flair.
The anticipation and noise level reached a crescendo before quieting down as the recruiter entered the reception area to greet the first of many internship contenders. At this point, I was hoping my contact would be delayed on a phone call or caffeine run for at least 10 more minutes so I could eavesdrop on the debriefing that was sure to take place upon return of the first fashion victim. I didn’t need the full 10 minutes because within 7 minutes, when I was finally greeted for my meeting, I’d seen two of out of the 12 interns make their way back to the reception area with the identical feedback, “We went over my résumé and he said he’d call back within a week.” Funny, how they both got the identical response in exactly the same amount of time—3 ½ minutes. My guess is that the super speedy meetings were dictated by the identical unsuitable outfits each of the candidates chose to represent them on the interview.
Below are some of the blatant style faux-pas I witnessed from the dozen prospective summer interns I saw last week. Their loss is your gain. Learn from their tragically trendy mistakes:
1. Denim – The use of denim is way too casual for an interview, even when you’re interviewing in a creative, fashion-forward environment. If style and budget are a concern, choose anything cotton over denim.
2. Shorts – Walking shorts, standard shorts, or short shorts are all inappropriate for an initial interview. Choose a knee length skirt instead.
3. Espadrille shoes – Whether you opt for the casual flat version or high heel wedge, these shoes, once considered “peasant shoes” are way too informal to make the cut on a job interview.
4. Wrinkled Clothes – Wrinkled clothes make you come across like someone who is lazy and sloppy—not exactly the message you want to convey to your potential employer. Invest in wrinkle-free fabric apparel or a steamer to keep clothes looking free of unsightly creases.
5. Not-so-white White Shirts – There’s no law that says you should wear a white shirt on an interview. However, if the shirt was meant to be white, make sure that it is in fact still white. White shirts typically stay crisp white when washed by hand rather than dry-cleaned.
6. Spandex – Keep the spandex content in an interview garment to 10% or less. More than 10% can end up looking overly trendy, tight-fitting and unsuitable for a workplace environment.
7. Neon colors – Neon colors on a bikini or a tank top or even on toe nails can be fun for the summer. Be aware of strutting in with a neon tote bag (the same one you use for your beach towel) during an interview or wearing bright neon color that is distracting and out of place during an interview.
8. Piercings – I know it’s just the teensy, weensy, little nose ring that you think anyone with worse than 20/20 vision will never see. You want to call this one “generationally biased.” Well then how do you explain a 3 ½ minute interview? Did I mention the recruiter looked barely 20 years old himself?