What to Wear to Summer Job Interviews

Keeping cool on the job hunt


You’re on your way to a job interview. You’re running late; you’re stuck in traffic; and when you finally step out of the car, it’s so hot you can feel the heat radiating off the pavement. You arrive feeling sweaty and unpolished, and you wind up looking sweaty and unpolished.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, even on the hottest summer day. You probably already own everything you need; it’s just a matter of equipping yourself with the right tools and walking into your interview with confidence.

In transit

Take off one article of clothing in transit. It will keep perspiration to a minimum and prevent you from appearing overheated. You’ll also feel more comfortable and confident when you walk into the interview.

For men:

Remove your jacket, but make sure you put it back on when you enter the building where you’re interviewing. You don’t want to risk running into a potential employer nearby looking anything but completely pulled together.

For women:

If you’re wearing heels, replace them with a pair of comfortable flats. Tired feet can lead to poor posture. Find a coffee shop or a park nearby where you can sit down and put on your heels before entering the building.

Take a breather, cool off

When the temperatures are high, allow yourself at least 15 minutes’ cool-down time before every important event. Take a few moments to gather yourself in the lobby bathroom or at a restaurant across the street. You’ve already thought about what you’re going to say, so devote this time to think about how you’re going to look.

For men:

Splash your face with cold water; fix your hair; check your fingernails for dirt; and make sure there’s nothing caught in your teeth (smile).

Always keep a handkerchief in your back pocket so you can wipe your face if it begins to sweat on the elevator ride up to the interview.

For women:

If your hair is pulled back, check for stray pieces; if it’s down, comb it and, if necessary, apply a frizz-control product. Check to make sure your makeup is still intact.

Streamline your undergarments

Choose undergarments that will help you keep cool and not add to the heat.

For men:

Don’t wear an undershirt. It’s an unnecessary layer that will turn up the heat when you need to stay cool. Your jacket will hide sweat stains anyway.

For women:

Look for breathable underwear with a nylon/spandex blend which helps wick away moisture. This isn’t sexy underwear. It’s practical underwear.

Wear lightweight, unlined fabrics.

Choose fabrics that not only keep you cool but keep their shapes and appearances under the heat.

For men:

You should invest in an unlined wool suit for days when you have to dress up. It makes a jacket feel as light as wearing a second dress shirt.

For women:

Moisture and heat are the perfect storm for fabrics like cotton, linen and silk. Look for separates with a touch of Lycra. Even if it’s only 3 percent Lycra, it should keep the wrinkles at bay.

Be careful with scents

You must be conservative with perfume and cologne: Too much and you risk turning off your interviewer or, worse, offending his allergies. Allergic reactions to certain perfumes and colognes are more common than you’d think.

For men:

Replace cologne with after-shave, which has a much milder scent that disappears quickly. Before any big interview, enlist a significant other or friend to do a scent test: You shouldn’t be able to smell product of any kind — from hair gel to after-shave — from more than an arm’s length away. If you can, it’s too strong.

For women:

It’s OK to dab a small amount of perfume on your wrists or neck, but only if it’s hours earlier. A refresher right before you walk in the door may overpower your interviewer’s olfactory senses.

Tame the mane

In the summer, it’s not enough to make sure your hair is neat, clean and professional; make sure your hair isn’t making you melt or highlighting your fevered appearance.

For men:

Shave. And get your hair cut several days before an interview. Any less and you risk looking boyish and unserious.

Unless you work in a laid-back, creative field where personal style is applauded, don’t grow out your hair. To your counterparts and superiors, you risk looking disrespectful and rebellious. At the very least, wait until you land the job before you begin growing it out again.

For women:

Keep your hair off your face, if it’s long. Keep your hair off your face, if it’s short. Generally, keep your hair off your face. A low chignon looks smart and sophisticated.

Brush up and avoid chewing gum

Make sure your breath is fresh.

For men and women:

Brush your teeth. If you don’t have a toothbrush handy, buy a pack of breath strips, which are perfect because they dissolve immediately.

Never chew gum; you risk forgetting to take it out before the interview.

Nina Myers is a New York-based fashion writer. She has worked at Esquire Magazine, where she was a men’s fashion market editor, and at Niche Media, where she was fashion editor for nine regional luxury magazines, including Boston Commons, Gotham, Hamptons and LA Confidential.