If you have received an interview invite, then you know you look good on paper. Now you have to look good in person and the first step to accomplishing that is nailing your interview outfit! So let's start with the obvious stuff- you need to be freshly showered, wearing deodorant, clothes need to be ironed and lint rolled, hair needs to be absent of oiliness and dandruff, and fingernails need to be presentable (no claws!). During my interviews, I saw fellow interviewees with wrinkled suits, hair all over their suit jacket, greasy hair, and one person even brought a backpack... please do not make these mistakes and ruin your chances of acceptance over something so silly!
P.S. none of the product suggestions listed below are an ad or sponsorship- these are all items that I just genuinely believe are a great addition to your interview outfit!
Most programs require formal business attire for their interviews, which means suit pants AND jacket! I suggest wearing a well-fitted black, navy, or grey suit. Although you can wear a suit in a different color, I think these colors are the most appropriate for the occasion. Women have the option of wearing either pants or a skirt. If you decide to wear a skirt, then make sure the skirt is appropriate and you keep your legs crossed throughout the interview. Personally, I am not very comfortable wearing skirts, so I opted for pants. I was able to find a beautiful Antonio Melani suit on sale at Dillards for approximately a hundred dollars. I am personally very picky when it comes to suits- I do not like jackets with buttons or large lapels and I do not like wide-legged pants. So if someone as picky as me can find a stunning affordable suit for a hundred dollars, then I promise you, you can too! Considering a lot of people will be wearing suits of similar colors (especially black), I suggest standing out from the crowd with the top underneath your suit jacket
For women, I suggest selecting a pastel colored blouse (nothing too bright) that is either absent of print or contains a subtle print (nothing too crazy). If you choose a blouse that is too bright or busy, then it will distract the committee and take the focus off of you. So try to select a blouse that will subtly show off your personality and fashion sense. I am a bio major and I absolutely love nature, so I wore a tan blouse sprinkled with white and pink lilies (pictured above and below) to two of my interviews. Not only did I feel good, but I also received quite a few compliments from the current students during the interview. To ensure I had other options for my interviews, I purchased a pastel blue and a pastel pink sleeveless blouse as well (pictured below). Most of my formal and casual business attire is purchased from Ann Taylor Factory or Loft Factory for less than fifteen dollars, so... if you have an outlet mall near you, then I highly suggest you check it out! When deciding upon an interview blouse, remember to take into consideration the weather and interview schedule (if you already know it). If you are attending an interview in a location that is warm and/or you know there is a campus tour, then you should consider wearing a sleeveless blouse. The suit alone is quite warm, but add on the stress sweat and long sleeves... and you are in quite an uncomfortable situation!
Men's Tops and Ties
For men, I have two outfit suggestions: a plain button-up with a patterned tie that shows a little personality OR a subtly patterned button-up that shows a little personality with a matching plain tie. Matching the suit, button-up shirt, and tie can be a little bit tricky... so I provided some suggestions below. If you need more ideas or assistance, then I suggest exploring Pinterest and Instagram (@doctajayyy is a great source of inspiration).
Floral dress shirts are currently very fashionable and are a great patterned dress shirt option that will match great with a plain tie. For the shirt on the left, I would suggest wearing it with either a burgundy or light blue tie and a navy suit. For the shirt in the middle, I would suggest wearing it with a purple tie and either a black or navy suit. For the shirt on the right, I would suggest wearing it with either a light blue or salmon tie and either a black or navy suit. Obviously most men are not comfortable wearing a floral dress shirt, so I have more options below.
Now these dress shirts are more common options and are capable of matching either a black or navy suit depending on the tie selection. Since these shirts are more plain, try to select a tie that matches and shows off your personality! One of my friends chose his tie for the interview by basing it off the program's school colors- a nice subtle way to drop the committee a hint. All of these photos are from JcPenney's or Kohl's, which both provide fashionable and affordable options for men's dress wear. Side note: I do not think that a pocket square is necessary for a PA school interview; however, if you are a very fashionable man that wants to wear a pocket square, then do it!
Considering that most interviews are long and include a campus tour, I highly suggest wearing flats or kitten heels! Flats that are formal enough for the interview would be oxfords, loafers (what I wore to my interview), or D'Orsay flats. All three of the shoes shown below are excellent examples and are currently on sale at J. Crew. Make sure that your shoes are close-toed, have a back (you don't need them falling off), comfortable, and appear clean (no holes, dirt, etc).
The best men's shoe option for an interview, or any other formal event really, is oxfords. Not only are oxfords insanely stylish, but they are a formal and comfortable option that is perfect for an interview. Kohl's has an excellent selection of affordable oxfords (some options shown below), if you don't already own a pair. Personally, I think that tan/brown oxfords look amazing with navy suits and black oxfords match well with black suits. Although I am not a PA program committee member and my fashion opinion does not really matter, I think men look more attractive in navy suits and brown oxfords.
For women, I would suggest wearing your hair either half up or fully up. By having your hair even half up, you are pulling the hair out of your face and appearing more professional. For my first interview, I wore my hair in a sock bun. Although the sock bun was a formal and stylish option, I found it very difficult to get this style perfect early in the morning and ended up leaving for my interview later than expected. So for my next two interviews, I curled my hair and pulled back a large piece on each side of my face. Whether you should wear your hair fully up or half up depends on your hair styling skills (mine are like only a 2 out of 10) and the likelihood of your hair falling out all over the back of your suit throughout the interview (which is a no-no).
For men, I would suggest trimming or clean-shaving your facial hair the night before or morning of the interview. In terms of your hair... just make sure it has been cut recently and is not a ball of crazy!
When preparing for my interview, I wanted to find something that would hold my publication, a legal pad, a pen, and any papers that the program would give me during the interview. I also really need to find an appropriate way to store my phone because I usually needed it to get an Uber back to my hotel or the airport. Personally, I do not think that purses or bags of any kind (especially not backpacks!) are formal enough for such an important interview. While browsing amazon, I found an amazing padfolio that includes a phone/card holder (both shown in outfit layout above). Not only did this padfolio hold absolutely everything that I needed, but it also made me appear much more professional and prepared.
I also suggest wearing a nice formal watch to the interview. Personally, I think that a classic analog watch is the best option and I would suggest against a smartwatch... you don't want the committee to think that you are still checking on your texts and calls during a very important interview. During my interview, I wore a blush pink and rose gold The Fifth watch that I received as a gift previously and it matched my flower blouse perfectly.
Other than my watch and piercings, I did not wear any other jewelry to my interview. As long as your necklace or other jewelry is not too flashy and distracting, I think it is a personal decision whether you would like to wear it or not.
Piercings and Tattoos
Considering we are talking about accessories, I think this is an excellent time to address piercings and tattoos. Now most tattoos will be covered up by the suit, but... if you have tattoos that are visible and PG-friendly, then I think it is a personal decision whether you should cover them up or not. If you would like to increase your chances of acceptance, then a more conservative tattoo-less look will do the trick. If you want the committee to really know who you are and accept you for it, then leave your tattoos uncovered. Same general concept with piercings! I have six ear piercings in one ear, four on the other, and a nose piercing... eleven in total. For my job, I am required to wear a minimally visible nose stud, so that is what I wore to my interviews. As for my ear piercings, I kept all 10 of my studs in for the interviews and they are not very conservative earrings. Summary, I kept all eleven piercings in for all three of my interviews and I was accepted by all three programs! Honestly, it felt good being open with my piercings (refusing to be conservative) and still getting those acceptances.
Hopefully you pre-PA peeps found this post helpful and informative! If you have any other questions about interview attire or the interview process, then please feel free to message me on Instagram @alexisleigh.pa_s, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below.