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What to wear to Interview

You’ve worked on your CV, sent in the application form, maybe even faced a telephone interview, and have been offered the all important face to face interview. Congratulations! But what next? There are many important steps to take in order to prepare for an interview; you may have to prepare a presentation, think about the typical interview questions you might face, and work out your journey to the interview. But what about your choice of outfit?

 Lady in a suit leaning on a ledge

“Dressing is about what you want to project, but it’s also about what your boss or customer expect to see.” So, as trivial as it may sound, you need to spend some serious time thinking about what you might wear to the interview. It is more than likely that the interviewer will form an opinion of you based on what your personal appearance says about you. Status, self-confidence, self-care and self-worth are all things that can be indicated by your hair, clothes and shoes.

What is appropriate and suitable may vary depending on the type of interview or organisation you are attending. So let’s start with the basics that will apply to most…

  • Ladies – Should you wear a suit or not? It’s not always necessary unless the company you are going to has a very traditional, ‘pin stripe suit’ ethic. A smart, tailored dress or skirt of a suitable length, with a shirt or jacket should do the trick. Just be careful of the colour – more than 80% of interviewers say that it is not appropriate to wear red to an interview!
  • Guys – Stick to full suit and smart shoes. Stick a tie on; if it feels out of place when you get there, you can always take it off.
  • Good shoes are a must. Give them a polish and avoid the ‘comfy’ pair that you’ve had for a good few years now. For ladies there is the additional issue of flats or heels? Go with whatever you feel most comfortable in but avoid skyscraper heels or summery looking wedges.
  • Personal grooming is also important – men should make sure that facial hair looks neat and tidy. Give your hair a quick check before you go in too.
  • Don’t go overboard on the perfume or aftershave – small interview room + excessive fragrance = bad mix!
  • Be minimalist with jewellery – stick to a few simple pieces and avoid wearing anything may cause you to fiddle and fidget.
  • Remember the little things – fresh breath, clean fingernails, and wrinkle-free clothes

People looking to work in an industry such as fashion should take special consideration – for example wearing something by the company’s fashion rival should probably be considered a no-no. And a fairly standard black suit may not create the right impression to an upcoming fashion firm who want to see some sort of statement from you through your style and choice of outfit; they may want originality, creativity or something that stands out from the ‘norm’.

Overdressed vs underdressed? A tough one may be if you are going for an interview with a company who you know has a casual dress code – being too smart here could count against you. In particular, a well known computing company frowns upon suits, the ethos of the company being very casual. But this is something you can pick up on in your research into the company. A full suit may not be necessary but still avoid sandals or football shirts.

If you’re still not sure what is appropriate, why not try and discreetly visit the offices and see what everyone else is wearing. This should give you an idea of the level of smartness you need to aim for. You want to make it as easy as possible for the interviewer to visualise you working for them and in their company, so dressing at a similar level to the rest of the team will only assist with this. It’s worth getting a second opinion from someone you trust and remember, looking good can also help you get in the right frame of mind for an interview – it can make you stand up straight, exude professionalism and feel confident.

For more ideas on how to dress for success, watch the “First Impressions Count” video on the Jobs & Careers pages of StudyNet.

Image to link video


photo credit: Victor1558

Image of Katharine Littlefair

Katharine Littlefair is a Careers and Placements Officer in the Careers and Placements Service at the University of Hertfordshire

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