We've all heard that first impressions count and never is it more true than for an interview. If 70% of a first impression is based on appearance and body language, then dressing appropriately for your interview is of the upmost importance. Remember, you are marketing a product - yourself - to a potential employer. Just as a company aims to package their product as unique in the marketplace, personal branding is much the same.
As every job is different, every interview is different. You should wear clothing that is appropriate for the client, the industry and the position you are applying for. Research the prospective employer, they are most likely to have a definable corporate culture. Find out what the corporate uniform is and wear it. The business "uniform" communicates that you are a mature, stable professional and an ideal member of the team. Look businesslike, yet stylish, not boring like a corporate filing cabinet. Attractive but not distracting. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
This is a tough section to write. Most of the literature out there is really written for people who are going for jobs that entail one day having to wear a suit to work. If you work in the creative industries, this is not necessarily the case and a designer is unlikely to turn up to an interview in a suit! In fact there is a chance you would not get the job and may be laughed at by the creative director (this happened to me). However this doesn't mean you can go in looking slack.
Look like the job you want.
- Try on the outfit a few days before the interview - just to make sure it is all tin one piece.
- Everything must be clean
If you are going for a design or creative job, the rules are kind of turned on their head a bit for what to wear. Your best bet is to wear something casual but dresssed up. I guess along the lines of jeans, good shoes, shirt and jacket. These are a pretty safe bet. If you are an established creative with a reputation you can go in wearing speedos and a snorkel... For the rest of us, your best bet is to dress up like you are off to see a client.
For the rest of you suits out there here are your tips:
Wear a two-piece dark grey or a dark blue business suit. Team it with a good fitting, long-sleeved shirt that is neatly ironed. Ensure the colour compliments your suit, if in doubt, wear white. Unless your name is Don Johnson, don't roll up your sleeves! It is interpreted as less powerful and is less formal.
- Choose plain cufflinks and a tie that coordinates with your suit. Selecting subtle or simple patterns enhances credibility. However, leave the comedy cufflinks and your favourite Donald Duck ties at home! Tie pins are best left...in the eighties!
- Shoes should be comfortable and polished. Shoes that are well cared for, signal "good attention to detail."
- Wear dark socks, black if possible.
- Your belt should match the colour of your shoes.
- A full-length coat can be worn over your suit, avoid casual coats and sports jackets.
- Take in a pad, a pen, extra copies of your CV and letters of reference in a briefcase are all you need.
- Pay special attention to grooming. Make certain your nails and hair are clean, trimmed, and neat.
- Ensure beards and moustaches are also neat and trimmed.
- Make sure that you do not have body odour or bad breath, have some mints with you just in case. If using aftershave keep it to a minimum.
And for the ladies...
Same rules as above for the creatives really. But personally I would say that the scope of clothing that a woman can wear is a lot broader than what men can. So as long as it's clean and fashionable, you should be fine. In a lot of ways wearing what makes you feel comfortable is probably more important than anything as it will help you feel relaxed.
For the accounts and production staff:
A stylish tailored trouser or skirt suit in a neutral colour such as dark grey, navy blue, black or beige will give you a clean professional look.
- Wear long sleeves for a take-me-serious look. Sleeveless garments will not portray you as a serious businesswoman.
- Skirts should be knee-length, slightly shorter or slightly longer. No mini skirts or floor sweepers if you're looking for office credibility.
- When selecting a shirt avoid transparent materials, tight fits, low necklines and revealing waistlines.
- Wear flat or low heeled court shoes in colours that avoid making your feet a focal point. Be sure that they are clean and polished. Nicked heels, scruffy toes, or unpolished footwear scream failure. Avoid shoes that are difficult to walk in or slow your step, they will lose you credibility. Do not wear open-toed shoes and always wear tights/stockings in a neutral colour - carry an extra pair in case of runs!
- Do not carry a handbag and a briefcase. Choose one or the other and don't overload them. Simply carry a pad of paper, a pen, extra copies of your CV and letters of reference.
The finishing touch
- Select accessories, fragrances, jewellery, hairstyles, etc. that do not detract from your professional image. The attention should be focused on what you are saying and your qualifications.
- Make sure your hair is clean and neat. A stylish haircut is essential to a professional image, a good hair cut will also save you time as it will be easier to manage. Avoid covering your face or long fussy styles you will want to fiddle with.
- If you are wearing jewellery ensure that it is understated. Visible facial piercing should ideally be removed with the exception of a plain set of earrings.
- Visible tattoos should be covered to avoid distraction.
- Use natural-looking, well applied makeup. Make sure your nails are clean, trimmed and neatly manicured. Again this will reinforce your 'attention to detail'.
Having given your interview outfit an MOT you can relax, safe in the knowledge that you are projecting a positive professional image. You will look good, feel comfortable and ultimately more focused on getting that job!