With interview season coming up for grad and professional school applicants, I’ve been getting a few questions about interview attire for women. I personally have a love/hate relationship with suit shopping, which can be almost as frustrating as most people find jean shopping.
BUT if you learn from my expertise (acquired through making many, many mistakes) you’ll hopefully demystify the process for yourself and find that outfit that will make all your professional dreams come true.
In general, medical schools don’t have rules about interview attire. Some admissions staff have even commented on how monotonous interview outfits can be (imagine being greeted by a sea of black day in and day out). Even so, it’s always a good idea to lean towards more conservative: longer hems, higher necklines, etc. Just because it covers up doesn’t mean it has to be frumpy, though!
Pieces: Ladies, your outfit should consist of a jacket/blazer, shell, and either slacks or a skirt. I’ve seen applicants pull off jackets over sheath dresses, but in general a three piece outfit looks much more polished.
Matching: Does your jacket and bottom have to match? No. But matching them helps simplify putting together the rest of your outfit. If you are going to match separates, it’s always a good idea to buy them at the same time. Even when they’re made by the same brand and same material, the color can vary between dye lots. To me, color being only slightly off can be more irritating than just mismatching separates.
Suit Colors: Black, navy, and grey are the standard suit colors, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to them–I once saw a girl rock a brown suit, and heard about another girl wearing a bright red suit. If bold colors scare you, consider simple patterns (pinstripe, subtle plaid) to break up the monotony.
Shell: If the rest of your outfit is a “boring” color, this is where you can add a pop of flair if you’d like. There’s a lot of leeway with colors, patterns and styles here, but do choose a”nicer” material that isn’t see-through (silk and synthetic knits are ideal). Also check that the neckline isn’t too low-cut, even when sitting down. Tie neck and ruffle styles are a good way to add interest while covering up.
Socks: Stockings are a must for women wearing skirts. Women wearing pants can wear no-show socks with lower-cut shoe styles.
Shoes: I’ve seen flats, pumps, wedges, and ankle boots in the interview circuit, and think those are all acceptable as long as they are close-toed and close-heeled, with heels 3″ and under. I’d advise sticking with solid black as you don’t want your shoes to be the focus point of your outfit. Consider patent leather for something different.
Accessories: Keep jewelry simple and at a minimum. I usually wore small stud earrings, a short pendant necklace, and a watch. Most women have a purse with them to carry around water, snacks, and copies of their application.
Makeup: Simple and natural, and fragrance should be kept at a minimum.
Hair: Hair can be worn up or down but it is a good idea to pin back any tresses that could cover your eyes.
Other considerations to keep in mind:
- Climate: Your interviews may take place all over the country during various months of the year, so choose materials accordingly.
- Wrinkling: Choose materials that are wrinkle resistant or easily ironed. Even when I didn’t pack my suits and carried them in a garment bag they needed a little ironing.
- Cleaning: Almost all suiting material needs to be dry cleaned, so be sure to give yourself enough time to get that done between interviews, and also budget in the cost.
- Walking: Interview days may include a walking tour portion, so choose shoes that you’ll be able to walk indoors and outdoors in in a variety of climates. If you opt for heels, consider a chunkier heel, or bring a pair of flats to change into.
If you’re a petite woman, i wrote a separate post with some extra tips about finding that perfect suit!