environments. A blazer, sweater, or shirt paired with pants or
a skirt is also another suitable alternative for women.
Personality and Accessorizing
My favorite color is pink (hex code #FF69B4, to be exact). This
color has manifested itself in all areas of my life—from Pow-erPoint presentations, to décor in my apartment, to figures in
my papers. I feel most confident when I am wearing my color.
I am also very particular about it. I don’t do magenta, fuchsia,
or “pale violet red.” While I would never go with a full-on pink
pantsuit (honestly, only Jackie Kennedy could successfully
pull that off), I’ve managed to successfully incorporate the
color into my interview outfit a number of times, be it a pink
sweater, V-neck blouse, or pink nails. When there is a will,
there is a way.
I realize that pink is a bit daring for some, however.
Perhaps you would prefer to reveal just a hint of personality.
Scarves or simple jewelry are a great means to achieve this. A
pearl necklace and stud earrings are both elegant and sophisticated. For men, a nice watch, tie tack or tie bar, lapel pin, or a
combination of them, will do the trick. Experts err on the side
of caution where untraditional piercings—such as those in the
eyebrows, lips, or tongue—are concerned. It may be best to
omit them for an interview. They also suggest covering tattoos.
If you feel naked without polished nails, like I do, I’d stay away
from blues, greens, and yellows. I admire women with red
nails (they exemplify boldness), but for an interview it’s better
to tone down the nail color. Anything from nude to light pink
is perfectly acceptable.
In addition to nail polish colors and jewelry, bags are another important accessory. You should always bring a few copies of your resume to an interview, ideally in a portfolio. This,
along with other essential items, should be placed in a leather
(or vegan leather) tote bag or briefcase. If your budget really
won’t accommodate leather, these items should be placed in
a clean, neutral-colored tote bag or briefcase. If your outfit is
black, a corresponding black bag should accompany it. As you
may be aware, it is a fashion faux pas to mix brown with black
or black with navy in large amounts. Don’t be that person.
First and foremost, please wear antiperspirant. It doesn’t
have to be anything fancy—just something to prevent the
smell of body odor and to avoid sweat stains. Conversely,
avoid cologne, perfume, or other scented products, as they can
go too far in the opposite direction. Some people are highly allergic to certain fragrances and may enter anaphylactic shock
if they inhale even a tiny amount of perfume. Let’s try to avoid
that happening to your interviewer.
Second, make sure your nails are clean. Remove chipped
nail polish, as this can be distracting. Everyone should clip
and file jagged nails. You don’t want them catching on your
clothing or scraping your interviewer when you shake hands.
Third. Try to tame your hair. Trim split ends. Get those eyebrows under control. Men: Whatever your personal preference is
regarding facial hair, make sure it’s well-kept and clean. Also, be
conservative with the hair gel. No need to go overboard.
Putting It All Together
You should assemble your outfit with the same attention to
detail that you would use to assemble your answers to potential interview questions. Try on your clothes a few days before
the interview to make sure they fit. Check the colors in natural and fluorescent light—sometimes brown appears black in
certain settings. Also, inspect your clothes to make sure all
of the tags and size stickers have been removed. And finally,
relax. Many times, something will go wrong. You may find
yourself wearing two different-colored socks, for example.
The best thing to do is simply laugh it off. Employers like people who can laugh at themselves—it shows humility, which is
an admired personality trait. So study up, suit up, and smile.
If you give it your all, you’ll have no regrets.
Marisa Sanders is a fourth-year
Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University, where she formerly served as T.A.
for two semesters of general chemistry.
She is also a member of the Younger
Chemists Committee (YCC) and the
Graduate Education Advisory Board
(GEAB) of ACS.
Both men and women might want to consider
using a “military tuck” for shirts or blouses.
There are tutorials for this online, but basically
you gather excess fabric at waistband level, at
the sides. The front and back of your shirt will
look smooth. Then you fold the excess fabric
flat at the sides, toward the back. Finally you
button your waistband. This technique creates
a neat, “finished” appearance. Remember to
line up your shirt buttons with your zipper or
fly and belt buckle. (If your waistband has belt
loops, you ought to be wearing a belt.)