Choosing what to wear to an interview should be given thought, and planned well ahead of time. Like it or not, people judge you by the clothes you wear and first appearances make lasting impressions.
You should be memorable, but your clothes should be pleasantly forgettable. Your clothes should not distract the interviewer from you in any way.
Distracting clothes include those that do not fit well. A poorly fitted item of clothing will leave a bad impression. Check for potential wardrobe malfunctions and test for wearability. Especially check for gaps in button-down blouses and short skirts that ride up when seated. Put your outfit on and test walk, sit and stand in front of a mirror.
Clothes should be clean and well pressed. Examine your clothing in good light for stains, and have your outfit dry cleaned to look polished.
Level of formality
On the west coast, a tie may be a bit too formal for a man in a nursing interview, but an open-necked dress shirt, business sports jacket, and crisp dress pants with a crease project a professional image.
For women, adding a jacket or structured sweater to a simple two-piece outfit takes it up a level. Three pieces can say put-together, sophisticated, and coordinated.
As a rule, bright colors are less formal than dark colors, but a bright color can make a nice accent. Accent colors can be used in a scarf, or in a sleeveless tank layered under a nicely fitted dark jacket.
Simple and classic is better than trendy. Classic fashion is wearing pieces that never go out of style. A well-cut skirt and jacket is timeless. Simple is smart and says you know to present yourself without appearing to try too hard.
Avoid anything that says evening wear, such as dangling earrings or low cut tops. Do not wear luxury items, such as a Louis Vitton handbag. Luxury items accord you higher social status, but less warmth. Nursing is a profession that values empathy, kindness and trustworthiness.
Hair and makeup
If possible, get your hair professionally blown out the day of the interview. Your confidence level will shoot up.
Go for a polished, lightly made-up face. Don’t forget your nails. Your nails should be neat and clean with a natural polish or no polish.
Cover any visible tattoos. They may be permitted in the workplace, but err on the safe side and cover them during an interview. The healthcare industry is conservative.
There’s no acceptable reason for wearing scrubs to a professional interview. It is respectful to dress for events that are important, such as weddings and church and funerals. Your job interview is highly important.
Do not listen to nurses who scoff, “I wore scrubs and I got the job” in defense of wearing scrubs to an interview. They got the job despite wearing scrubs.
What if you are working on the day of your interview? Bring a change of clothing if you must interview on a day you are working, but better yet, schedule your interview for a day you are off.
Here’s a tip that contradicts the first tip. Wear one item that is memorable. It could be a unique pin or brooch (in and of itself, a brooch is unusual).
Why? At the end of a long day of panel interviews, the interviewers go over their notes and compare the candidates. It can be hard to recall each individual person.
But if someone says “the girl with the hummingbird pin, you know, Jena ”, everyone’s memory is refreshed. Not only is the pin remembered, what Jena said is retrieved from memory.
One last tip- read my book below for tons of practical, effective job search tips. Did you know that if you attach a business card of yourself with your picture to your portfolio (never as part of your resume), the hiring manager will remember you more frequently than the other applicants?
About Nurse Beth
Beth Hawkes (Nurse Beth) is an accomplished nurse working in Acute Care as a Staff Development Professional Specialist. She is also an accomplished author, blogger, speaker, and columnist. As Nurse Beth, she regularly answers career-related questions at allnurses.com. Check out her book, “Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Job”.