The Hunt: Interview Totes

stylish interview totes 175Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

A stylish interview tote is something that every woman needs — yet it can often be a hassle to find the perfect thing (at a price you like).  For my money, a good interview tote:

  • is black (and can be worn with any color, including navy)
  • has structure to it and will stand up by itself if you set it down
  • is big enough to hold at least a folder with your resume, as well as a small bag of makeup and a bottle of water
  • has interior organization (pockets and the like) so you can find what you need, quickly and easily, without digging

In an ideal world, a good interview top would also zipper on top (so it’s secure and won’t accidentally spill out), and would be able to be carried by a shoulder strap so your hands can be free.  We’ve gone on the hunt for these before (see our 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 roundups here); also, guest poster Jean from Extra Petite recently shared her favorite tote bags with us.  Some of the classics that we’ve included in previous roundups (and are still available) are Rebecca Minkoff MAB totes, the Kate Spade Maryanne line, most MZ Wallace bags, nylon Tory Burch totes, and Lo & Sons totesReaders, what qualities do you look for in an interview tote bag?  Are there any classics that we’re forgetting?  Have you made any recent purchases of a great tote bag?

 

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The Hunt: Interview Suits

Stylish Interview SuitsSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

It’s almost time for thousands of law students and MBA students around the planet: interview week! We of course have the Guide to Women’s Suits for general advice, and we pick an interesting women’s suit once a week — but we haven’t rounded up interview suits in a while (charcoal suits in 2013, navy suits in 2012). There are, of course, a few Hall of Famers to note in this category:  Banana Republic’s lightweight wool suiting, Ann Taylor’s triacetate suiting, J.Crew’s Super 120s suiting,  Theory’s stretch wool suiting — in addition to those classics, below are the first six suits I’d try if I were looking to buy a classic, basic interview suit in today’s market.

Readers, do you have any favorite suits that are classic enough for interviewing? What’s your favorite budget suiting line — and your favorite splurge suiting line?

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What to Wear for a Polygraph Test

polygraph testWhat do you wear for a polygraph test, particularly if it’s in the same building as HR?  Reader L wonders:

Help! I applied for a position that requires a polygraph. Mine is scheduled for next week and I am concerned about what to wear. It is in the same building as HR and I do not know if I will have an interview then. I would normally wear a business suit but my suits are all paired with camisoles (due to style, 3/4 sleeves, etc.) I am concerned about this because isn’t there a chest strap you are hooked up to? This is a professional position and I am thinking of wearing a blazer and dress slacks and dark cashmere shell that hopefully I will not sweat into from nerves. This is my go-to outfit I wear to work when I do not have court because it is most comfortable and still looks nice. Have you had to think about a physical comfort issue when interviewing and choosing your outfit? For what it is worth I was informed the polygraph will be 90minutes long.

Interesting question!  We’ve talked about how to stay professional at the metal detectors, and how to wear an ID badge with style, but we’ve never addressed polygraph tests for job interviews.  My gut instinct here tells me, “call and ask” (always an option, ladies!) but in case anyone in the readership has experience with this, I’ll open it up to the readers. Poking around online I did find a number of similar questions, primarily from men about to take police exams — the serious answer seemed to be “business casual,” with the less serious answers ranging from “chicken suit” to “For your polygraph wear a tuxedo. Then go naked to your psyc eval.” Ha! Ha. Ok. [Read more...]

Can You Interview in 4″ Heels?

Can You Interview in 4" Heels? | CorporetteAre 4″ heels too high for job interviews?  Is a red sole inappropriate for interviewing and networking?  Reader A wonders…

Hi I was wondering if I could get some advice on shoes. I will be starting law school in the fall and I’m wondering what heels would be appropriate. I currently own a black leather pair of Louboutins that are 4 inches. Do you feel it’s appropriate to wear them with the red bottom showing? Also is 4 inches considered too high? Thank you!

We’ve talked about Louboutins at work here, as well as which heels are too high, but we haven’t talked about either issue in a while. (Pictured: Christian Louboutin Simple 100 Leather Pumps, available in store only at Saks.)  Here are some general tips:

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Gray Suits for Interviews?

When Is a Gray Suit WRONG For an Interview? | CorporetteWhen is it NOT acceptable interview in a gray suit? Reader L, a med student, wonders…

I am in medical school, and will be applying for residency next year. Seeing applicants this year, I notice that it is a sea of black suits (women in pantsuits). I have a gray skirt suit from Banana Republic in 2004 that still fits perfectly and is unembellished. Should I be on the look out for black pantsuit like everyone else, or a grey skirt suit still in the realm of acceptable interview wear?

Wow. I often feel like I take the fuddy duddy line when it comes to interview advicewear a skirt suit (at least for traditionally conservative job interviews, which may not include medicine), wear pantyhose, wear walkable shoes — but here I’m going to be a little loosey goosey: wear whatever muted color of suit you like best.  Gray, black, navy — knock yourself out. If you’re feeling crazy, wear a beige suit, or a pinstriped suit.  Honestly, I think that as long as you’re dressed in muted colors, interviewers aren’t going to notice your suit, at least in a negative way.  (Pictured: Halogen® ‘Ela’ Suit Jacket (Regular & Petite), available in four colors at Nordstrom for $98.)

Readers, do you think a gray suit would ever NOT be acceptable for an interview?  Have you ever thought less of a job candidate for wearing a conservative suit choice?

Feeling Too Fat to Interview

Feeling Too Fat to Interview? | CorporetteHow can you feel confident during an interview when you don’t feel the best in your clothes? A petite and plus-sized reader wonders how she can look her best, short of losing 40 pounds in a week:

Interview suits for the short and round. Please help!

I admit it. At 5’2″ and a size 14/16 I am both short and fat (sigh! it kind of got away from me). For everyday work wear this isn’t really an issue, but what on earth do I wear for a job interview?

Suits typically come to mind for interviews, but with my lack of height and overall ROUNDness, typical business suits (pant or skirt) really aren’t all that flattering on me. They tend to make me look even shorter and well, dumpy.

Short of losing 40 pounds in a week, what job interview looks would you suggest?

Note: I’m not in an ultra-conservative industry, but this would be for management level positions.

Thanks for any guidance!

We’ve recently rounded up the best stores for plus-sized workwear (including for petites and sizes 16-18), we’ve talked in the past about how to buy (or tailor) a great plus-sized blazer, and of course we have our Guide to Interview Suits, but nothing quite addresses this. And I can suggest a few suits for Reader M (such as the pictured Talbots suit or this Pendleton suit available up to 18P), but that doesn’t totally address the situation here (at least the one that I’m seeing when I read between the lines):  your confidence is taking a hit because of how you look. [Read more...]