7 steps to picking the perfect outfit for an investment banking job interview as a woman

Investment bankers treat their interviews as a big deal, and how you look and come across can affect whether you get hired or not. This can seem daunting if you're going for your first investment banking interview. But there are a few easy steps every woman can follow to get the interview outfit right for the day.

Step 1: pick the colour of your suit

Interview outfits for men are easy; they can just wear a suit. And at investment banks, this is just as easy for women because they'll wear a suit too.

The biggest decision when it comes to picking a suit is the colour. Suits in bright colours might be on trend right now, but they're too casual for this type of job.

Depending on how strict the dress code at your specific firm is, you might be able to wear it later on but skip bright colours on interview day.

Choose a dark colour like black, blue or grey to be safe. You can wear suits with slight pinstripes, but if you want to err on the side of caution for interview day, wear a suit in just one colour with no patterns.

Step 2: decide on the shape and type of suit to wear

The most obvious choice is between a skirt and trousers for your suit. This really depends on what you feel comfortable with, and you can wear both types.

The most important bit is to make sure the shape is right. If you wear a skirt, make sure it goes to your knees or just above. And if you wear trousers, find a shape that isn't too tight-fitting. There's no need for slim legs tightly gripping your calves as we're going for a classic and timeless look.

Which brand you wear doesn't matter one bit. While you might think you need a suit from Saint Laurent because Vogue said it was stylish, you don't have to think about that for a job interview at a bank.

Step 3: bring the suit to a tailor

No matter where you buy a suit, it will almost always need tailoring to fit you perfectly. In a lot of higher-end shops that sell suits, you can expect to get the suit fitted in the store. But if you shop online, or somewhere that doesn't have a tailor on hand, you bring it to one.

These are the main parts of a suit you want to get tailored to your body-shape:

  • Take in trousers the waist, so you don't need a belt
  • Adjust the length of each leg so they fit with the shoes you're wearing
  • A skirt normally only has to be adapted in the waist, but you can also take it up if it's too long
  • The jacked will often need to be taken in at the back to fit your waist
  • The arms will need to be taken in, so they're not too long

A good tailor should be able to guide you, but make sure you try on the suit both while standing up and sitting down, so you know you're comfortable in each position.

Step 4: pick a top in a contrasting colour

Woman in a blue suit and white top

It can be tempting to wear a monochrome outfit for your interview to make it easy, but the most common look is finding a contrasting colour top.

You can wear most kinds of tops as long as they look conservative. A shirt shouldn't have any gaping buttons, and tops shouldn't have a plunging neckline.

You usually won't take your jacket off during a job interview, so it doesn't matter if your top covers the shoulders or not, but if you know you'll get warm and need to take it off, choose a top that covers the shoulders. It sounds conservative, and it is changing with several firms, but you won't know that during your interview, so it's better to play it safe.

Step 5: find shoes you can comfortably walk in

During a long interview day, you might end up walking between rooms for interviews with different people. So it's important to pick shoes you can walk comfortably in.

No one is expecting you to wear heels, but if that's what you're most comfortable wearing, make sure they're good to walk in.

The colour scheme can be kept pretty simple here, and if you wear a pair of nude or black shoes, you're 100% safe. Just make sure the shoes look polished and don't have any open toes.

You never wear sandals or sneakers, but shoes like loafers, ballerina flats or a low pump all work well as long as they're relatively neutral.

Step 6: pick a sleek bag

Woman holding a black laptop bag and wearing white and black pumps

You don't have to buy a flashy, new designer bag to bring to a job interview in finance. In fact, it's better to make sure your bag goes with your outfit and doesn't come with any flashy logos.

Pick a neutral colour like black or taupe or something that matches the colour of your top.

Get a bag that has a shoulder strap so you can swing it across your shoulder when you greet the interviewer and don't have to struggle moving it from hand to hand.

An organised interior is important so you can grab the things you need easily, and you should also make sure any papers you bring don't end up curled or torn, so it's good to pick a bag with structure.

To read more about how to pick the right handbag for work, click here.

Step 7: choose makeup and accessories

If you're wearing a skirt suit, it's common to wear pantyhose because this is a more conservative look.

Go for neutral makeup. No crazy eyelash extensions or lipstick in bright colours. Remove chipped-off nail polish, and generally make sure you look fresh and clean.

It doesn't matter if you wear your hair up or down, as long as it looks nice.

Step 7: pack your bag and set your alarm

You probably won't need to bring much to a job interview, but it's always good to bring a notebook and a pen. In addition, it can help to bring printouts of your resume to show that you're organised and prepared.

If you're doing a modelling test, a laptop will be provided for you, so you don't have to bring one. Just know you will be expected to bring a laptop with you almost everywhere you go once you land the job.

Set the alarm and plan the route to get there. You never want to be late for a job interview at an investment bank, so it's better to plan to hang out at a nearby coffee shop for an hour before than to time the train or tube perfectly and risk being five minutes late.

Why should what you wear matter at a job interview?

If you're interviewing for a tech role, what you wear matters a lot less. And while this is admirable and something we hope investment bankers will change in the future, it just isn't how this conservative industry works right now.

The seniors that interview you will look at how easy it is to put you in front of a client right away, and if you got your outfit wrong, they'll often just assume that you won't ever get it right.

The mantra is always (even though it's unfair): "if they couldn't get their interview outfit right, what else won't they get?". This is the same logic behind never making spelling mistakes in your CV. Details matter.

What matters the most

At the end of the day, your job at the interview is to convince enough people to speak positively about you. But at the same time, avoid any negative comments.
10 "hell yes!" and 1 "no" can still be a "no" if that one person is important enough.

Focus on preparing for the interview itself, and don't let yourself get stressed about the outfit. Think of the outfit as a very basic thing to get right just so you can tick a box. After that, everything else is up to you, and you can focus on showing them that you're a hard worker and a knowledgeable candidate.

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