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What to Wear to a Job Interview

8 style tips that will help you project confidence

spinner image Annika Falkengren, Kate Flannery and Joni Bovill in various interview clothes
Getty Images (3); Casper Hedberg; Rachel Luna; Paul Archuleta

A job interview is basically a blind date. While your amazing qualifications and résumé matter — what you wear and how you look do, too. That first face-to-face meeting tells recruiters, managers, HR personnel and small-business owners whether your 50-plus self is a good fit for their work "culture." (They don’t say that, of course, but let's not be so PC to ignore the age elephant in the room.) Whether you're switching jobs, starting over after a job loss or rebooting after "retirement," step up your style. Let these photos of movers and shakers inspire you. Here's how to nail the job with spirit.

1. These 3 things can make or break you from "hello"

spinner image Various ways to dress and sit for an interview
International Monetary Fund chairwoman Christine Lagarde sports a pale knit skirt suit with nude pumps, cropped gray hair and crossed legs in the slant position; various women demonstrate good posture and body language; choose a stylish bag and shoes.
Getty Images (3); Mikhail Metzel/TASS; ANGELA WEISS/AFP (2); Marc Piasecki/GC Images

Yes, your shoes, bag and posture are noticed. 

Get new pumps. Yeah, they do check your shoes first — it's not a myth. You can't go wrong with chic closed-toe heels. Strut your stuff in low-block or kitten heel styles, or (if you can do it) wear two to three-inch heels with a tapered toe. No wedges, platforms or round-toe "mumsy” (sorry, I'm a mom, too!) comfort styles ... not today.

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Sit up straight, but elegantly. Whether you're in a skirt, dress or pants, cross your legs at the knees and angle them together to one side. Keep hands loosely clasped at the knees so you don't wave them around, grip chair arms or fold your arms across your chest. Lean slightly in and speak with a smile and authority. You might have a killer résumé, but if you slump, mumble or fidget, forget about it.

Splurge on a quality satchel bag or flap tote. A stylish upscale-looking bag with a flat bottom that won't fall over when placed on the floor is essential. Browse designer versions online, and find similar styles or shop consignment. Be sure your résumé and all essentials fit without looking stuffed. And turn off your phone on arrival.

2. Give your hair a contemporary attitude

spinner image Various hairstyles include sleek bob and natural look
Facebook-Instagram exec Marne Levine has a modern sleek bob; Hollywood costume designer Ruth E. Carter blondes up her natural textured curly hair; Sharon Stone stuns with a short, sleek crop.
Getty Images (3); JB Lacroix/WireImage; Jesse Grant/Hollywood Reporter; Marco Ravagli/Barcroft Images

Don't over-style your hairstyle or go to extremes. A cool, short crop, a slightly tousled bob or lob, or a textured curly look sends a modern message that says "I'm relevant."  

3. Wear a little makeup

spinner image From bright lips to neutral shades, various ways to wear makeup
Emma Thompson beams with bold red lips; Cicely Tyson's makeup is soft and defined, giving her glowing skin; Brandless cofounder Tina Sharkey chooses neutral, defined makeup.
Getty Images (3); Raymond Hall/GC Images; Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic; Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

If you usually don't ... do! It helps you project a healthy, vibrant look, with the appearance of luminous, dewy skin, as well as restores definition to your features. All you really need is a tinted moisturizer or radiance-boosting foundation,  a rosy  or tawny cream blush for warmth, waterproof gel eyeliner pencil, and mascara to power up eye shape and a lip color you love — from a nude neutral to glossy pink or matte red. Short nails and a manicure are musts — opt for a light, natural, classic red or a dark, edgy shade (depending on the work environment).

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4. Statement jewelry makes you unforgettable

spinner image Women wearing bold jewelry
Matarin Capital Management exec Nili Gilbert with a blue stone necklace and drop earrings; actress Uschi Glas with a tassel pendant necklace; CNN's Christiane Amanpour with gold statement earrings.
Getty Images (3); Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg; Tristar Media; Jim Spellman

What used to be a no-no is now a yes-yes! There's nothing wrong with studs and a strand of pearls, but knockout necklaces and big earrings offer a look-at-me twist we can't resist — and shouldn't. They show out-of-the-box thinking and self-worth. And guess what? You can match now (it’s back) or not ... it's all fabulous. 

5. When in doubt, wear a dress

spinner image Women wearing multicolor and solid dresses
Journalist-author Cynthia Leive in a colorful but professional tweed sheath; British TV newswomen Kay Burley, in an orange fit-and-flare dress, and Sarah Hewson, in a navy long-sleeve sheath; actress Kate Flannery in a red dress with narrow belt, blazer and red kitten heels.
Getty Images (3); John Sciulli; John Phillips; Rachel Luna

All work cultures are different, but if you are on the fence about an appropriate outfit, stick to a basic dress with a high no-cleavage-please neckline. Choose a sheath, shift or fit-and-flare silhouette with a sleeve that makes your arms comfy and revs up the color and print. This is work, not play. So it is not the moment for off-the-shoulder, cold shoulder, wraps or slits that might show too much leg when you cross yours.

6. A tailored pantsuit will save you

spinner image Women wearing pantsuits
Catalan chef Carme Ruscalleda wears a black-and-white bow blouse with a black pantsuit; Swedish banker Annika Falkengren dons a classic pantsuit.
Europa Press/Getty Images; Casper Hedberg/Getty Images

It's the default outfit with sensibility and sizzle, especially in fields such as law and finance. Choose a suit with updated features like slim, tapered legs and a sleek, well-fitting blazer. But whether you're going for an administrative assistant or management spot, spice up the structured uniform with statement jewelry, a colorful or bow blouse and stylish shoes. Something else to love about pantsuits: You can skip the pantyhose and not worry one second about veiny or spotty legs. 

7. If they dress down, you dress up

spinner image Women dressed up
Makeup entrepreneur and artist Bobbi Brown in black slim pants and heels with tonal navies and scarf; "Bosch" actress Joni Bovill in a mint-green tunic overblouse with slim black ankle pants; Patrica Heaton in a green, floral-print bow blouse and navy flares.
Getty Images (3); Michael Loccisano; Paul Archuleta; Gary Gershoff

There's a difference between “dress casual” at 25 and at 50. If your interviewers are in distressed jeans, T-shirts  and  sweatshirts, you should wear pants or a leather skirt with a blouse or a blazer over black jeans. Err on the side of looking more polished or creative — not enough to look ridiculously conspicuous, but to take it up a notch.

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8. If you're going for a creative job, show some flare

spinner image Women wearing various styles of clothes
Humanitarian and author Zainab Salbi in a warm brown jersey, draped top and long skirt, with a statement necklace and short gray hair; fashion designer, stylist and author Rachel Zoe in a silk blouse, black velvet flares and a zebra-print tailored coat; Italian singer Petra Magoni in a black leather biker jacket, long leopard scarf and pencil skirt.
Getty Images (3); Astrid Stawiarz/Urban Zen; Stefanie Keenan/Baby2Baby; Ernesto S. Ruscio

If your interview is for a job in fashion, public relations, entertainment, art or music, show off your originality and imagination with an outfit that stands out. However, you don't want your clothes to steal the show or distract from your conversation, so stick to neutral pieces that are unexpected — a draped top, an asymmetrical neckline, a suede skirt, a dramatic animal-print scarf, coat or jacket.

My last words on interviews: Do not fall into the trap of trying to look like younger colleagues. Don't wear a strong perfume — if any. And resist cookie-cutter dress codes. Just respect the workplace and be your best self. 

For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50 by Lois Joy Johnson and AARP's Beauty & Style issue.

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