How to Dress for a Media Interview

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According to the Protocol School of Washington, 80 percent of communication is non-verbal, including what kind of message your attire telegraphs. That old cliché, about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression, is especially true when it comes to job interviews. Before you get a chance to say hello, what you wear on an interview speaks volumes about your personality and level of professionalism.

Do I Need to Wear a Suit?

In the old days, job applicants had to wear a suit, but today that's not the case. In the world of media, unlike other fields such as finance, people tend to dress down. In other words, people who work in media tend not to wear suits to work every day because the jobs skew more toward creative attire, especially if you work for a fashion magazine, ad agency, or TV network. Although you can forego the suit, you still need to dress professionally in an up-to-date outfit that is clean and fits well.

Women’s Interview Attire

Women, especially, have more freedom to veer away from a traditional suit. Skirt suits for women are an appropriate option, as are variations on the skirt suit. A pencil skirt (that hits below the knee and is not too tight) and a tailored blouse work well without a jacket. Pants, paired with a business-like blouse, also works well, in lieu of a traditional pantsuit.

Dresses, if they are professional-looking, are another good option as long as their not too dressy. Obviously, cocktail dresses are out of the question. All outfits should be paired with a clean pair of shoes that matches (or compliments) the outfit. A basic pump often works best. A casual shoe or boot with a large, clunky heel should be avoided and of course, sandals and sneakers aren't appropriate.

Men’s Interview Attire

Men have it a lot easier because they have very few options. Men interviewing for media jobs don’t need to wear traditional black, gray, or pinstripe suits, but an on-trend casual wool suit in winter and cotton suit in summer is always acceptable. Trousers and a complimentary jacket works well and, depending on how casual the office environment, a tie is optional. However, there's a saying that you can judge a man by his shoes and this couldn't be more important when it comes to the job interview. Shoes must always be in good condition and well-polished. 

Other Issues to Keep in Mind

More than anything else you want to look professional and presentable. You don’t want to look sloppy. 

Visible tattoos should be covered, earrings that aren't in your ears should be removed, and your hair should be neat. Women may want to think about pinning back long hair. You should also make sure you have an appropriate bag for the interview that matches your outfit.

Ultimately, think about clean lines. If you look sharp, you’ll give off an air of confidence. You want to look like someone who’s responsible and has their act together. Looking disheveled gives the opposite impression.

Do Your Research

Your interview attire should match the corporate culture of the company where you’re interviewing. This means you should research the company’s corporate culture. While you might not have been to the company, you can glean a lot from the company website. Ask yourself basic questions about the company including what the company does, where they're located, and whether or not they're a corporate entity or small start-up. A small design firm in Soho is going to have a different feel than a stodgy consumer product conglomerate.

Get a Second Opinion

It always helps to show friends and family some of the outfits you’re considering for your interview, especially someone who works in that industry.