Whether you are viewing this post in preparation of an interview for residency, fellowship, new job, school, etc., congratulations on getting to this point! I know interviews can be intimidating and with so much preparation needed for the actual interview (getting asked questions and asking questions yourself), I want to make what you should wear the easiest part with this post. I wish it weren’t true myself but appearance and first impressions can play a role in how you are judged in an interview. I also know that I talk about self expression and not being afraid to bring your personality and style with you to work but I will contradict these normal sentiments for my view on interview style. The key here is clean cut and professional, plane Jane, blend in with the crowd…you get the idea. Now, similar with other aspects of residency applications or other application processes, some institutions/programs/people will judge more harshly on this than others. You can could try guess which place will or will not care as much about how professional you look but I’d personally rather not take that gamble, so my advice would be to look as professional as possible and “fit the model” if you will so that your experiences and thoughts can do the talking and make the impression instead.
Below you can dive into each aspect of what I call interview style. I am linking some great staple pieces for easy shopping if you need to snag something quickly before an upcoming interview. As always please don’t hesitate to ask any follow up questions you have after reading this post, you can comment on this post, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a DM on Instagram @theluxepharmacist!
A pant suit, meaning matching dress pants and blazer, is my number one go to interview outfit myself and what I always recommend to others for many reasons.
- Most comfortable/similar to typical business casual dress
- No fidgeting with skirt/dress or worrying about length
- No need to worry about tights vs no tights
- Most likely already own at least pants that would work = less money spent on interviews
For the most part this option is pretty flawless. See below for blouse recommendations.
A skirt suit, meaning a dress skirt and matching blazer + a professional blouse, is a great option for interviews when done correctly. Keep in mind these very important tips:
- Make sure the color and fabric of the skirt and blazer match, especially if they aren’t from the same company
- Make sure the skirt isn’t skin skin tight (unprofessionally tight if you will)
- LENGTH! Length is probably the biggest thing here, the finger tip rule does not apply here, ideally you want about a knee length skirt for interviews
- Tights may not be “required” at every institution but they are the safest bet for interviews. They don’t have to be dark, nude tights are absolutely fine, but better be safe and wear a pair if your legs are showing.
A dress suit, meaning a professional dress with a professional blazer over top, again is a great option is done right. Similarly to the skirt considerations, keep in mind:
- Your dress doesn’t have to match your blazer in color but I do stay in the deeper color pallet. Darker blues, Burgundy, green, grey, purple are all great options. If you opt for a lighter color just make sure it’s a professional cut and fabric style. Often many websites (Ex. Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, etc.) have a “suit” option under women’s clothing and dresses can be found under that section that should be perfect!
- Not too tight, same as above for skirt
- Knee length, same as above for skirt
- Tights, same as above for skirt
A good blouse is such a necessary staple item. I have a couple that I have worn for multiple interviews throughout the year and other professional occasions. I personally like to find nice blouse tank tops so I don’t get too hot with the blazer overtop and I’m not trying to fit a long sleeve nicely underneath the blazer fabric. When picking a blouse for an interview, I personally like:
- A lighter neutral color pallet is super safe. I love whites and creams. Some of the blouses I’ve worn for interviews have strips or a very simple classic pattern to them. A subtle pattern should be fine but extremely busy or bold patters I’d stay away from.
- High neck > low neck, doesn’t mean it has to be a turtle neck or extremely high but if you’re worried about cleavage etc., definitely go with another top.
- Try your blouses on with the exact blazer you want to wear ahead of time to make sure they look nice together and that the neckline looks good. I love collard blouses or ones with ties in the front but make sure it fits well with the blazer before hand.
- Tucked in > not tucked, I always tuck my blouse into my pants or skirt, I personally think it looks much more polished and professional.
I like to keep two things in mind when I pick out shoes for an interview: polished AND comfortable. A lot of the time we gravitate towards heels which are a great professional option but make sure you can actually walk well in them for possibly a long time. The last thing you want to do is go on a tour of the hospital and be struggling to keep up with the rest of the pack because you can barely walk in your shoes (I’ve seen it happen lol). Some great options I love are:
- Lower heels with a block style heel and closed toe. I can’t find the exact ones I own online because they are many years old but I’ll link similar ones. These give me the style and sophistication of a heel but the lower/block style makes them so comfortable and easy to walk in. I wore this type to all my residency interviews and had no problem.
- Flats, I would keep them neutral like a black or cognac brown. I love Rothy’s, Tory Burch, Birdies, etc.
- Loafers, again I would keep these neutral and I’d probably stray away from the super high block platform that a lot of the newer styles are rocking.
Like with most things in life, when it comes to interview style, men have it a bit easier (ONLY KIDDING). But truly for the most part I have less recommendations here because generally men’s style for interviews is very straightforward. My overall advice is:
- Pant suits – Make sure your blazer and pants match! This is generally not an issue for black items but when it comes to blue or grey I’ve found it harder to match, so getting items from the same designer in the same specified color or getting a “set” is easiest for colors other than black.
- Dress shirts – Light colors with simple patters (like a light plaid or pin stripe) are very safe options. Chances are you already have a dress shirt in your wardrobe that meets this criteria. Personally, I would avoid very bold patters and colors but that doesn’t mean it has to be white.
- Ties – depending on your shirt I’d recommend a solid tie or a professional minimal pattern. If your shirt has no pattern you could pair it with a tie that does or if you shirt is pin stripe or another pattern pair it with a solid tie.
- Shoes – Any professional work shoe you’d typically wear on rotations or for other professional occasions should work perfect.
- Hair – Clean and neat again generally applies. If you typically have a beard or facial hair, I don’t think you need to get rid of it, just make sure it’s freshly trimmed/groomed.
Since I’m obviously not a man and can’t speak from personal experience, I’m linking some articles that should be helpful as well: “What Men Should Wear For the Job Interview” & “What Suit To Wear To A Job Interview: Men’s Guide On Dressing For A Job Interview”
I used the same black shoulder hand bag for all my residency interviews. It was plain, sleek and large enough to hold my padfolio, water bottle, etc. Of course as with all handbags, you could spend less than $50 or $400 plus on a bag that would meet this description. If you want to invest in a professional bag, by all means go for it, you are sure to get a lot of use out of it throughout the years. BUT, if you don’t want to or don’t have the money to spend, I’ve tried to link some more affordable options. Also chances are someone in your life has a bag that could work so don’t forget to ask you mom, friends, etc. You don’t have to have a black bag, or one that looks exactly like the ones I’m linking but neutral and classic are great general principles.
A padfolio is a great item to bring with you on interviews for many reasons! I love bringing one with me because:
- You can carry copies of your CV to give interviewers if needed
- Write down questions you had while there, questions you want to ask in the interview
- Write down how you felt or your first impressions of the program to help with ranking later on
Unfortunately, given the current circumstances of the pandemic and rise in cases lately, many of you may have to interview remotely. I personally believe you should still be dressed as professionally as possible and prepare the same way you would for an in person interview. Unlike an in person interview however, there are some key environmental aspects you have to take into account.
- Internet – Make sure the location you plan on doing your interview from has strong internet access and connection. For example, your house may have better internet access and dependability than a public wifi that is stretched over more devices. I know my work wifi is very spotty and sometimes doesn’t work on my personal devices. If you cannot interview from home, I’d advised testing out the public wifi on whichever type of call you’ll be doing before hand, meaning if you are going to be on a zoom call, try out a zoom call with a friend or family member before to make sure sound and picture come across clearly.
- Background – Your background should be as clean and neutral as possible. Some candidates use a blank wall in there home which is perfect but if this isn’t an option don’t worry. Try to find an area that is low clutter and as “professional” as possible. For example, your bedroom wall photo collages may not be the best option!
- Lighting – Depending on where you are doing your interview from lighting may be an issue. You want to make sure you have direct light on your face so interviews can see you clearly. Facing a window can be a great way to accomplish good lighting but if this isn’t an option due to the above background considerations, a ring light or other lighting device is a great resource. I have used ring lights for many different things in the past and recently just bought a new one at a great price so I’ll link it for you down below, it is super light weight but sturdy and is ~$36.
- Black and blue are personally the safest options
- Grey should be safe
- Lighter colors (like light blue, purple, etc.) I would avoid for interviews but that doesn’t mean they are inappropriate for other professional occasions
- Clean and neat is a must
- Pony tail or half up is a great option if you tend to fidget with your hair
- I’ve always just straightened it and left it down sleek for my interviews
- Fresh minimal make up is my go to
- Mascara and eyeliner are fine, I normally don’t do eyeshadow or anything additional
- Clean fresh skin –> I wear foundation, light blush, not crazy on highlighter, etc (as much as I love a glam look it is not needed here)
- Lips I generally leave alone other than chapstick or gloss. If you love lipstick I think a more neutral shade would be the best option
- Generally speaking natural or a neutral manicure is best
- Don’t have peeling nail polish or broken nails
- As much as I love a good bold manicure, if you have for example hot pink acrylics it is probably best to change them prior to your interview
- I know this all may sound picky but I would personally rather be safe than sorry and not give anyone the opportunity to judge anything in a negative light
- Let me start by saying I have a tattoo and I have no issues with those who do, so please do not be offended by this recommendation. Some of my close friends are tatted up (full sleeves, etc.) but they wouldn’t let anyone know that in an interview and I agree with that.
- Again everyone has different views and I of course believe you can have them and be a great pharmacist, doctor, etc., BUT if we are speaking in terms of what is best to do for an interview, try to cover them up.
- IMO almost any tattoo you have could be covered up by a pant suit, so let this be your go to and show your program or new job your bad ass tats once you’re hired 😉
For more interview advice don’t to check out “Nailing the Interview” podcast episode & stay tuned for a new interview podcast episode coming out before the end of January!
Good luck to each and every one of you! Remember how far you have come up to this point and keep on succeeding!