Chic defined: "a manner of dress which conveys smart elegance and sophistication". An operational definition: Antonio Berardi peplum-flare jacket:
|C'est chic, pas typique|
The key consideration here is, Is chic relevant in this particular competition? Is it a value or expectation held by the interviewer and his or her organization? As a rule of thumb, if the product or offering of the organization is dependent on design, its employees look commeasurately glossier.
Some hiring managers value the attractiveness of those in highly visible roles and so, in an interview, will give points for chic (or just good looks) even if the criterion is not openly acknowledged. Others have few requirements other than neat grooming and attire.
If your role requires meeting your prospective company's clients or customers, the interviewer will note whether you would represent the company appropriately.
Helene, a women executive whose personal style was instinctively glamorous, was being considered by a global mining company for a senior position which required her to visit countries where their associates had only occasionally met women at that level.
For that reason, the executive recruiter advised her to dress conservatively for her interview with the company's directors.
She swapped the fitted, sleeveless, above-knee pistachio sheath she planned to wear for a fawn pant suit, appropriate for business travel to the Emirates. (She added her black, yellow and ecru Chanel scarf.) Helene tweaked her hair colour from platinum blonde to a subtler honey, and wore discreet makeup. She was hired; her appearance supported her impressive work history and stellar reputation.
|Not feelin' it|
Rachel, 62, was recently interviewed for a HR job in the healthcare sector by a panel of three persons under thirty. In a rarely-worn gray jacket she'd pulled from the back of her closet, she had a crisis of confidence. "I tried to buy something that would never go out of style, and instead I felt frumpy", she said.
She did not get that job, but within a month was in the running for a contract with a cultural institution she revered. She decided to do everything in her power image-wise, because this was her dream job.
|Rachel's updated pick|
She had been asked to prepare a PowerPoint analysis of an assigned business case for the interview. Along with her resumé, she had the deck professionally styled by a graphic designer because she wanted every visual she put in front of the interviewers to be crisply modern and coherent.
She won the contract. Once on the job, Rachel wore chinos and crisp oxford button-front shirts, but that grey jacket? Fired.
So relax about chic (for most jobs), but muster, if you can, another quality: The Gleam.
Jean-Claude, a shrewd manager who hired tech professionals, said, "I care somewhat about how they're dressed, because they'll be with our A clients. I care about skills, but the environment changes so quickly, we keep training everyone. What I really look for is what I call "the technological gleam in the eye".
J-C wanted to see a passion for the work, one of the most impressive qualities anyone, regardless of age or occupation, can bring to an interview.
However, if chic is your standard, an image consultant or skilled personal shopper might help you with your existing or new wardrobe—but C. hired a consultant and was disappointed, saying "...she age-pegged me; the outcomes were a bit dowdy, sort of complicated...and I just don't like the 'political power-dresser' vibe."
And don't forget your beloved friends. Jennifer loaned two suits, a dress and accessories to Anita, a project manager who'd spent four years at home in jeans and yoga pants, nursing her ailing mother-in-law.
There is usually a round of interviews, which can tax the returning woman's wardrobe. Anita truly had nothing to wear, and was reluctant to spend on clothes she would not need if she stayed unemployed.
Of course there's a happy ending: After four interviews, Anita was hired, and Jennifer gave her the "Lucky Red" dress to celebrate! (Similar dress shown: Boden "Paternoster" shift.)