So you’ve done it! You have edited your CV, applied for that dream job and secured your first interview. You feel absolutely amazing as you ‘fist pump’ the air in a way that says ‘I did it!’ Suddenly, your brain is doing a mental check of your wardrobe and your 'fist pump' is suspended in mid-air as a horrible realisation hits: you have no idea what to wear!
Calm down, this is where we can help you.
Now don’t get me wrong, the content of your interview will always be the most important element. Your knowledge of the company, the role you are applying for and your enthusiasm at being in that role is key, but your attire will also play a massive part in deciding the final outcome.
In the interview setting, first impressions are instant and can be the lasting impression, if you are not given the chance to progress onto the next stage that’s it I am afraid. It takes seconds for a complete stranger to form an opinion of you – negative or positive –based on your appearance alone, and once formed it can take an awful lot of work to impress someone enough to change that initial opinion. This can be hard, especially when you only have a short window to showcase yourself in an interview. Luckily the question of what to wear to an interview is an age-old one and as such, there has been some rules established over the years on attire:
The formal interview
Most interviews will be a formal one. Always aim to dress one notch above what you would normally consider suitable for the role you are applying for. If in doubt you can use platforms such as the company website or LinkedIn to see how other members of staff dress for work and crank that up a notch. My advice to both men and women however is and will always be: wear a suit. Yes, a suit. Playing it safe has never killed anyone. Suits are timeless and never go out of fashion. There is always some gorgeous actor on the cover of Vogue magazine sporting a two or three piece, which keeps them current and relevant.
Simply, you have a choice of a trouser, dress or a skirt. As a general rule the hemline of both your dress and skirt should be biro length above the knee. Wear black, you can hardly go wrong with black. Navy and brown can also be worn and, depending on the role that you are applying for, you may be able to get away with wearing a lighter plain/pastel colour in the summer.
If you think black or blue is a little too demure, and wish to show a little of your personality you can add a hint of colour with a scarf. Please, avoid a mass amount of pattern i.e. on your shirt. A white crisp long sleeve blouse, or a shirt with a simple stripe is always best. Keep heels at a sensible height. You do not know how far you may need to walk to meet the interviewer, you will already be nervous enough, why add to your discomfort? Court shoes or kitten heels are advisable.
Keep jewellery to a minimum, do not wear dangling earrings or lots of bracelets – they can be distracting to the interviewer. Also ensure that your nails are neatly manicured. Hair should be neat and tidy.
Stick to dark, sober colours such as black, blue, brown and on occasions grey. Wear black shoes with a black, blue or grey suit and brown shoes with a brown or blue suit. Avoid mixing black and brown (believe me it just does not look good) and try to aim for leather shoes with laces as opposed to a buckle or a strap. Laces serve to add a level of professionalism that a buckle just does not.
Experience has taught us that cotton wins over linen. Some people consider linen to not be a great option in the business world and would never even attempt it, but that is not our only qualms with linen – that stuff creases ridiculously easy. Attending an interview with a suit that looks like you did not iron it is a huge NO-NO. It makes you look unprepared and unprofessional.
Oh and guys please try to avoid patterned ties, they are distracting and can throw your interviewer, and therefore interview right off. What I mean by this is avoid wearing ties with characters such as Rugrats, Homer Simpson or Santa Claus splashed over it. Try to wear something that compliments your ensemble. Go with a plain, long-sleeved white shirt, and a non-patterned, single-coloured tie. If you must wear colours then stick to a simple stripe pattern. The same applies to your belt and socks, its great if they match your shoes. Black belt and socks with black shoes and brown belt and socks with brown shoes. Will the interview notice your socks? Absolutely, especially if they are white socks. You can further avoid distraction by keeping jewellery to a minimum.
In terms of hairstyles keep it neat and professional, and pay attention to your nails, ensure that they are neatly trimmed. Remember the first thing you will be doing is shaking the interviewer’s hand.
If a company specifies that you should wear business casual outfits to an interview, this is of course a different matter. Still I would not recommend that you rock up to the company in jeans and flip-flops, even if that is what you see everyone else wearing –remember: they have already secured their jobs, you have not!
For both men and women, we recommend that you wear casual trousers and a blazer. You do not need to wear a tie and shoes can be less formal. Still if in doubt stick to this rule: No jeans. No trainers. No T-shirts.
Remember feeling good and looking good can boost your confidence and help you to perform better in an interview. Aim for comfort as well as professionalism. My favourite part of any interview outfit is of course the most natural part. Your Smile! ‘You are never fully dressed without a smile’, so smile and above all else be yourself in that amazing outfit.