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What to Wear to a Job Interview
They're a funny old thing, first impressions. Whilst few people are comfortable with the idea that they might judge others based on their appearance rather than their personality, or ability to do a job, we all do it on some level - and this is never more true than at a job interview. Thankfully there are a few easy tips that can help you avoid setting off any sartorial landmines the next time you go for a job.
Know your market
That's right; like it or not, at an interview you are essentially selling yourself to an employer. In fact, you are literally selling them your time and effort - so how can you make sure they think your product is worth paying for?
The first thing to do is to work out what is expected from you in the company and job role you are applying for. An IT support worker will generally dress very differently from a solicitor for instance.
Generally, men can't go too far wrong with a good suit - and either a trouser-suit or a skirt matched with a plainish blouse will usually work well for women. But there are jobs where dressing too formally can actually count against you - so if you're unsure, it pays to do your research. You could do this either by contacting the firm's HR department and asking what you are expected to wear, or by visiting their premises at 5pm and scoping the place out. Don't make the mistake of doing this on a Friday though, as people may be dressed-down.
The devil is in the detail
Given that you're probably going to be sat directly opposite your interviewer(s) for some time, you need to make sure that your personal grooming is spot-on. To help you out, we've prepared a quick checklist for you:
- If you haven't worn your chosen outfit for a while, try it on in plenty of time to buy a new one if necessary - because your body-shape may have changed, buttons may have fallen off, etc.
- Have a wash (including your hair) and brush your teeth
- With scents such as aftershave or perfume, less is more, so mist - don't drench
- Gents, remember to shave
- Trim your nose hair - no one wants to see that
- If you wear makeup, don't overdo it; simple is better
- Remove any facial piercings and cover any tattoos where possible (unless you are a tattoo artist of course)
- Make sure your socks match your trousers if you're wearing a suit
- Remember to clean your shoes
- Bring a quality pen and notepad (and make sure they look it)
- If you take a bag or briefcase, ensure that it is well-organised and that nothing embarrassing is likely to fall out
Glasses can be a double-edged sword. Whilst they can potentially make you appear more distinguished and knowledgeable, you may also come across as less physical or athletic. It's worth considering the job role you're applying for here, and potentially going for contacts if you're able to wear them. You could even consider going for plain-glass specs if you don't usually wear them, but feel you need a boost in the other direction.
One thing you may not have considered involves how you are getting to the interview. If you are going to be driving, then remember to wash the car! Your interviewer may see it - and nothing says 'lazy' to anyone who likes cars more than a dirty motor. Be honest; it probably needed doing anyway, and you could always pay to have it professionally detailed if you can't be bothered getting the hose out.
What to wear
As we mention above, if you're in doubt about what to wear, then it generally pays to err on the side of formality. In terms of selecting the actual garments you go for, however, there's still a lot that you can do to optimise things.
As usual, the caveat is that this all depends on the job role you're going for. Where showing a flash of personality through fashion may be a bonus for a graphic designer, an accountant may benefit more from 'camouflaging' themselves within the corporate environment at interview.
There are a few rules of thumb that generally hold true though. Most of the time, it's best to stick to the traditional corporate colour palette of greys, blacks and some whites (or navy blue if you're feeling especially daring). Generally speaking, turning up in a white suit with matching cowboy boots and a bright orange shirt/bow tie combo is going to be no guarantee of success.
Generally speaking, turning up in a white suit with matching cowboy boots and a bright orange shirt/bow tie combo is going to be no guarantee of success.
Women generally have a little more choice in the formal clothing department, but one rule of thumb is never to show too much flesh at an interview. It's usually best to ensure that skirts are no more than a pencil's length above knee level, wear tights if wearing a skirt and ensure that you're not showing your back, chest or midriff. Keep accessories to a minimum (if in doubt, leave it out) and make sure that if you choose to wear heels, they are sensibly sized (you wouldn't want to topple over on the way in anyway!).
What is business casual?
Ah, the minefield of business casual attire! Things are sliding more and more towards this direction in many industries - which is great news for those of us who've never felt truly comfortable in a suit, but not so great for people who don't have the first clue about what the phrase means! Bear in mind that some employers will ask you to dress business casual to an interview, specifically to see if you can interpret what they mean - so it pays to be in the know here.
Anyway, according to Agency Central's resident fashionista 'Gok' Dan, business casual is really quite a simple concept. The key thing is to avoid three particular things like the plague - these being jeans, trainers and T-shirts. Again, it's generally best to steer clear of loud colours, as well as big logos, slogans or prints.
Once you've got your interview outfit nailed down, you'll find yourself more able to relax - which in turn means that you'll be more likely to get the job! Then, when the big day is over, the only things left to do will be to follow up on your interview and (hopefully) give your Contract of Employment the once over. Best of luck!
Written by Matt Atkinson