Rachel’s Podium: Women Dressing for Job Interviews

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  • Published on February 1

I’ll be straight with you folks – I’m a frummie, an Orthodox Jew, who does my best to use halacha (Jewish law) to define certain standards of how I dress as a woman and present myself in general. This belief system influences how I view the concept of clothing in general, and for women in particular, so I am quite biased. Also, as ALL of you know, two Jews mean minimum of three opinions, and there’s plenty of argument within Orthodoxy alone about what those “objective” standards of halachic requirements are. (Not to mention, of course, the thorny issue of whether or not halacha, should be so intrusive as to address something as personal as clothing. Sorry people, while it is a most worthy question, I’m NOT GOING THERE.)

But I think that the concepts behind the Jewish law regarding clothing for women apply extremely well to women going on job interviews. Now, before you all start spluttering, just hear me out. My starting assumption is that what a woman wears affects her emotional state very powerfully. How we dress, what clothing, accessories, and externals we present to the world, affects how we feel about ourselves. (Vice versa is true as well, of course.) Now, I’m not interested in the details of what women should wear on job interviews – those kinds of issues are very influenced cultural and local standards, what’s in fashion there, what the expectations of the interviewer are. and what field the interview is for. (Things are even more complex if the interviewer is a man.) What I’d like to focus on is how what we wear when we walk into that interview affects our mental state – which, of course, is vital to how successfully we interview.

I’d like to suggest that, just as with Jewish law regarding women’s clothing, we aim to go into interviews feeling like THE BOMB. We should feel confident, capable, dignified – we should be wearing clothes, accessories and have a general look that projects who we are at our best.

I live in a neighborhood in Beit Shemesh that is not far from a Hasidic Belz neighborhood. Some years ago, I became quite friendly with a woman from that community – I gave her rides to dance classes in Jerusalem, and that was a bit of an entree for me into the Belz enclave, and made me start paying attention to the women there. The Belzer women, generally speaking, dress enormously professionally – they always look good, put together, and as part of their Hasidic tradition, wear hats on top of their sheitlach (wigs). Now I know to some, a wig PLUS a hat, as far as the halachic hair covering requirements is excessive, (I wear kerchiefs or hats), but that’s not my point. My point is that these women look GREAT – positively regal, and their head covering is part of how terrific and dignified they look. When we, women, dress in a way that is professional, dignified, and appropriately attractive, it helps us FEEL professional, dignified, and attractive in way that is appropriate to the setting, which then in turn assists us to project those qualities in our interactions with people – and that truth is highly relevant in an interview.

So my fellow sisters who are coping with the all-too often grueling job search – I bless you with strength, stamina, humor, and patience. I hope you are in a position in which you can invest a little money into clothing that makes you feel as awesome as you are, so you can successfully project that in your interviews.