How to dress for an interview?
What you actually say during your interview is of course key to demonstrating your suitability for the job, but don’t underestimate the impact of the first and potentially lasting impression made by what you have chosen to wear.
In that first moment when you meet and shake hands the interviewer is taking an instant snapshot of you and seeing if they can place you within their team and organisation. Does what they see in terms of clothing, hair, shoes etc. suggest that you will fit in and appropriately reflect their business and brand.
Is it fair to be judged in this way? Well looking like you have taken pride in your appearance says a lot about your attitude. It will communicate to the interviewer that you are taking them and the interview seriously and be taken as an indicator of your confidence and self-worth and how you will behave in their workplace. In a competitive job market it will help you stand out from the competition and show that you are serious about your career.
When you get this right what you wore is unlikely to be remembered or commented on as the interview focused on the substance of your experience, skills and personal qualities. However, the distraction caused by getting it badly wrong can mean that your capabilities never get the chance to shine through.
To suit or not to suit? If the interview is formal and within a more corporate environment then a well cut dark business suit or dress and jacket would be a traditional and safe choice and more likely to echo the internal style. In the creative, media, digital or fashion sectors a more casual approach may be both more appropriate and allow you to reflect more of your personality. Research what’s best by calling ahead and asking HR or the interviewer for the interview dress code, or review their website or corporate literature for clues in the photographs and language. You could even find an excuse to drop into reception a few days beforehand to check what people are wearing.
How casual is casual? Business casual does not mean jeans, trainers and a t-shirt. Whilst this might be the dress code once you work there and a suit, may on this occasion send entirely the wrong message about your cultural fit, you still want to communicate that you are taking the interview process seriously. Leave off the suit and tie and choose smart trousers or skirt and shirt and perhaps have a jacket available to dress it up if you feel you need it. If you go direct to the interview from a much more formal environment or meeting be clear with the interviewer that this isn’t your usual work attire
Time to update your look? If you last attended an interview some time ago and your interview outfit is more than a couple of years old, then invest in a new and high quality one. Also try getting some advice. Take a trusted friend or family member shopping with you or take up the often free personal shopper consultations at department stores.
Interview dress code checklist
· Check your outfit several days before the interview so that you have time to check for stains, visit the dry cleaners, and sew on missing buttons or dropped hems and lose any loose threads. Get your shoes re-heeled or resoled if necessary and ensure they are impeccably polished. Use a lint roller. If it’s a new suit check how it rides when you sit down. New shoes? Break them in. Ensure everything is thoroughly pressed.
- Wear colour but avoid loud complex patterns. This is definitely not the occasion for the gimmicky tie or socks. Tops or dresses shouldn’t be too revealing. Remove and put away any sunglasses.
- Good grooming – Remember the interviewer will be looking at you intently for upwards of an hour or more and they will notice everything. If you need it get your hair cut and coloured. Ensure any facial hair is neatly trimmed, nails are clean and cut and your breath is fresh.
· Accessories – Keep it simple and communicate that you are well organised. Take one smart briefcase or organiser and handbag into the interview room with a good quality pen and smart pad of paper. Keep your make-up subtle and your jewellery unfussy so you don’t distract the interviewer with its size, colour or noise. Don’t overdo the perfume or aftershave as it can be overpowering in an interview room. For women wear tights rather than bare legs.
· How you dress is unlikely to secure you the role but will strongly influence the employer’s perceptions of your approach to work, your self-care and how well you will fit into their organisation
· If you look great chances are you will feel good and will make a confident assured entrance.
· Make the effort to get this right and you will have an interviewer predisposed towards you from the very start of the interview
- Dress to suit the occasion, venue and sector. Research what’s appropriate in advance but err on the side of caution if you are unsure.
· Get a second opinion on your choice of interview attire in plenty of time