Wearing what you like and being comfortable and confident in it, is the biggest boost. This is the advice that former PepsiCo chairman-CEO Indra Nooyi got and it is the advice that she is now sharing with everyone. She shares a story of how her perspective changed on this issue of ‘what to wear’ to a job interview.
She remembers the time when it was summer break and everyone was busy searching for jobs. People rushing to land a good job, the struggle was real. Indra says that she was always a hardworking student. Even the professors saw that. She was preparing for the job interview but there was just one issue, she didn’t have a good business suit.
My only concern was that I didn't have a business suit with me. I went to Kresge's with just fifty dollars in my pocket and selected a dark-blue polyester two-button jacket and matching slacks. I paired it with a turquoise polyester blouse with vertical light-blue and dark-blue stripes. I went to the trial room and was so nervous to change there.
As she was nervous to change in an unknown dressing room, she did not undress but just held the clothes up in front of the mirror. The coat looked oversized but she went with it anyways. After checking everything, she bought it and used all her money on it. She was proud of the costly yet important purchase she had done. Indra was 24 at that time. The suit purchase went fine but she didn’t have any money left for shoes. So she decided to wear her orange loafers.
I dressed up for the interview. The blouse was looked good, but the slacks were much shorter than I had expected. Also, the jacket was the real issue here as it was too large and not my size. But now I had no other option. It was too late to swap the garments for a larger or smaller size. I went to the SOM administration building, where everyone was mingling and gathering in the career office. My classmates were dressed immaculately in Brooks Brothers suits, the women in silk shirts and exquisite wool skirts and blazers.
Everyone was now just staring at me and my clothes. I tried not to look their way. In the end, the interview did not go well as Indra felt embarrassed and awkward. She just left the place. She ran to the director of career development, Jane Morrison and cried in front. “Look at me. Everyone was laughing at me,” she said. Indra explained everything to her.
She then asked as to what I would wear to an interview in India. I told her probably a sari. Back in my room, I had a lot of them. “Next time, wear the sari,” she advised. It's their loss if they don't hire you for who you are. Simply put, be yourself.”
That day, Insilco made an offer to her and it made Indra realize that it wouldn’t matter what you wear. They see how talented you are and what you can offer to the role. Next time she went for an interview and decided she will wear a saree.
Now the next one came with Booz Allen Hamilton. She wore her favorite silk sari when meeting Booz Allen partner from Texas. The interview went with Indra being asked all business questions and seeking an in-depth understanding of the knowledge she has. It didn’t matter what she wore as the answers she gave were confident and showed her intelligence.
Since then, she liked wearing a sari to her workplace, but not when meeting clients. It would have been a bit too much considering those days. All that started with humiliation at the first interview, ended well for me.