What should you wear if you are going to a job interview with the most fashionable woman in the world–one who not only knows all there is to know about fashion but actually makes the rules? We finally have an answer. Vogue has a video series called “Go Ask Anna,” in which Anna Wintour, the magazine’s notoriously private editor-in-chief, was somehow convinced to make brief videos answering a few questions from random New Yorkers.
In one recent video, she responds to queries about Kardashian style and how Fashion Week has changed over the years (it used to take place in silence, with men wearing black tie and women wearing full-length evening gowns and long gloves). But one question is of particular interest to anyone who’s ever looked or will ever look for a job: What should one wear to a job interview at Vogue?
“It’s so interesting to me how people dress when they come in for interviews,” she begins. “Sometimes you feel they’re wearing clothes that they just bought that morning, or maybe the night before, and not something that in any way suits their personality and who they are.”
(She’s absolutely right about that. A few years ago, New York magazine asked people who’d interviewed with Wintour what they wore for the occasion. Indeed, most said they had run right out and bought an outfit for the interview, sometimes planning to return it the following day.)
“Your wardrobe is not going to be doing the job for you–it’s who you are,” she says. In other words, rather than trying to impress anyone with your great fashion sense or the fact that you can afford designer clothes, let your clothes reflect your personality. “You have to dress for yourself. It’s the same for any job that you might be going for. I think it doesn’t do yourself a service to fake it.”
That’s very smart advice because–especially in the later stages of interviewing–a hiring manager will already know all about your skills and will be more interested in learning about you and how you might fit in to the workplace. You communicate who you are in all sorts of nonverbal ways, including how you dress, how you move, how you wear your hair, and (for women) how much or how little makeup you wear. If you try to deceive an interviewer into thinking you’re a good personality fit when you’re not, it probably won’t work, and if it does, that may not end well. Either you won’t stay in the job for long, or you’ll be miserable if you do. In these times of low unemployment when most companies are eager to hire, there’s no good reason to force yourself into a job that isn’t right for you.
So even if you do buy a new outfit for the interview, try to think about how your clothing and personal style expresses your personality, and what kinds of clothes make you look most like yourself. Some workplaces are more formal than others, and so are some job interviews. Consider the individual circumstances and dress in a way that will be appropriate and still somehow reflect the real you.
Getting hired at Vogue
How well does Wintour’s excellent advice actually work for people interviewing at Vogue? Not that well, it turns out, at least based on the accounts of people New York interviewed. Most reported they had less than 24 hours’ notice before the interview with Wintour. Several who admitted running right out and buying designer clothes reported that they got the job. So did a woman who reluctantly followed a Vogue employee’s advice and had her hair blown out, and another who wore what she called the “Vogue uniform” of the time. On the other hand, two job candidates who loved vintage and pulled together outfits from their existing collections did not get hired.
In one of the video’s more surprising moments, Wintour answers a young man’s question about whether fashion should be broken down by gender. She answers that there should be no boundaries. “If a man chooses to wear a dress, that’s great, and women have certainly been wearing men’s suits for a very long time,” she says. “Of course fashion has to change–it’s about change,” she says. So if someone wants to show a collection that mixes men and women or is “totally gender-fluid,” what difference does it make? “I think everybody has to follow the path that they feel is right for them.”
It seems she’s being sincere. She also recalls a young man who arrived for a job interview wearing a dress and carrying a handbag. “I gave him the job on the spot,” she says.