Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Smart, Smart-Casual or Casual? Cracking the Interview Dress Code. 


Deciding what to wear to interview can be tricky. Traditionally a suit has been the default option and in many cases this still holds true. However as office cultures in many industries have become more relaxed sometimes a less formal interview outfit may be appropriate (or even advisable).  So, if you’re trying to decide what to wear to an interview, Suzanne Ball, from our Careers Adviser team, gives some tips on how to crack the interview dress code.

Focus on the company and the role

If you’re being interviewed for a traditional corporate role, particularly in sectors such as banking, finance or law, then a suit is still essential interview wear, particularly for men.  A suit is a safe option in other sectors too but you can also consider other smart options for many roles (see below). If the job you’re being interviewed for involves wearing a uniform or lab coat or spending time working outside you will still need to look smart but a formal suit may be not be necessary. There are some cases where a smart-casual or casual outfit might be more appropriate for example if you’re applying to a small start-up tech company, particularly if you know it has a relaxed office culture, or if you’re applying for a creative job.

Look at the company’s website

If the company has pictures of people doing the type of work you’re applying for, take note of what they’re wearing.  Ideally your interview outfit should be smarter than the everyday norm.

What will you be doing at interview?

If you know the interview will involve activities such as spending time outside (maybe for a site visit) or doing a lab-based task then make sure you wear (or at least take) appropriate footwear/clothes with you.

Has the employer given any tips?

Read the email and any information the employer sends you when you’re invited to interview. Some employers will tell you if there’s a casual dress code or indicate the types of activities you’ll be involved in during the interview process.  If in doubt you could ask about dress code when you email to confirm your attendance.

What does smart or smart/casual actually mean?

  • SmartA suit or tailored jacket with co-ordinating trousers/skirt or dress. Bear in mind that a suit will be the best option for some roles and men should always wear a tie. Keep shirts/tops/jewellery neutral and black is safest colour for shoes (particularly for men).
  • Smart/Casual. A suit could still be appropriate but perhaps worn with a coloured or patterned shirt or even a smart, plain T shirt. Ties are optional.  Co-ordinated jacket/trouser/skirt/dress combinations will also work well and you could consider less tailored options (but be wary of fabrics that crease easily). Brighter ties, colours and statement jewellery may also be appropriate but consider the industry/role you’re applying for.  You’ll have more options regarding shoe style and colour but avoid trainers unless you’re confident they would be acceptable.
  • Casual. This can be a bit of a minefield. Jeans may be appropriate but make sure they’re new, clean and unripped. If you’re thinking of wearing a T shirt or sweatshirt make sure they’re new and that any images or slogans are appropriate. Knitwear should be new and not bobbly or misshapen.  Trainers may be OK if new but avoid flip-flops!


Whatever the dress code…

  • Use minimal perfume/aftershave or don’t wear it at all.
  • Handbags or document cases should be clean and not battered looking. Make sure your bag is big enough to hold everything you want to take without bulging (but don’t take too much with you).
  • Footwear should always be clean and not scuffed or “down-at-heel”.
  • Make sure you look well-groomed. Clean hair and trimmed fingernails will give a good impression and make sure that there are no missing buttons or frayed edges on anything you’re wearing.  Iron any garment that looks even a little crumpled. Try to fit in a hair-cut before the interview and make sure your hairstyle will survive if it’s windy or raining outside.
  • Don’t show too much flesh – low cut tops and miniskirts (women) or overly unbuttoned shirts (men) are never appropriate. Try to avoid bare legs even if the weather is hot.
  • Plan your outfit a week or so before the interview and do a quick check for stains, missing buttons etc. This way you’ll have time for a quick trip to the dry-cleaners if necessary.

When in doubt…

Dress smartly – it’s usually better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

For more detailed information and suggestions on planning your interview outfit check out our Interview Fashion Pinterest board

Suzanne Ball is a Careers Adviser working with students in the Business School at the University of Hertfordshire. She regularly tweets in regards to Business School related information on @HBSCareers.


3 and a half Ps for Pop-Up Success

We asked Mohammed Ali, Enterprise Adviser, about having a stand to sell your products. This is what he had to say:


You’ve got a great opportunity: a pop-up stall, pop-up shop or market stall. Fantastic!

Number One: Presentation
This is vital. Make sure the area you are selling from is well organised, free from clutter and clean. Make sure your best products are put forward in the best way. If you don’t know what your best product is, or you want to play around a bit, feel free to rotate things and move your products from the front to the back, and see if this affects how people buy and see your products.

Number Two: Personality
This is your pitch where you get to make face-to-face contact with your clients and potential clients. Be warm, friendly, polite and smile. It’s amazing how smiling makes you instantly sound better and builds rapport. Feel free to ask questions of your customers. This isn’t purely transactional; it’s an opportunity for you to build a relationship so you understand your customers better and they understand your product better. People are going to ask you lots of questions, so make sure your product knowledge is top-notch. If you don’t know, promise to get back them and make sure you deliver.

Number 3 (and a half): Price and Promotion
These are both crucial to a business. Make sure what you are selling is clearly priced, perhaps in big writing. Some people feel quite shy coming up to talk to you if the price is not clearly displayed. If your prices are really good you might draw people in! Offers that encourage multiple purchases are also useful.
Then there’s promotion. For example, using social media, you can let everyone know before an event where you’re going to be, what you’re selling, and even offer them a promotion if they find you. During the event you can show all the people interacting with you what you’re doing, and involve current customers as well. After the event you can share what you’ve done and perhaps offer incentives for customers to find out where you’re going next.
With promotions, another really important thing to think about is encouraging repeat business. If someone’s bought from you the first time, that’s the hardest step they’ve taken to trust you and buy something. Why not offer them a promotion to buy a second thing in a certain time they will receive a small discount or other reward. You can also offer referral promotions to encourage existing customers to recommend you to your friends. Even a thank you will encourage repeat business.

Final Thoughts
Now you know some small steps about how to make your market stand or pop-up stall a success. This is your time to get real first-hand engagement with customers – listen twice as much as you speak to make your product better. It’s also great to experiment, play, and try things out. Who knows, this could be the first step of a very successful business venture. I wish you good luck.

Would you like a free space to sell and promote your products and services on College Lane? The deadline for signing up to Pitch for a Pitch is Sunday 22 March, so don’t miss out! Find out more and how to apply by reading this or emailing

Categories: Enterprise Tags: , ,

Structured help to launch your business

Ladder to cloudOur Business Start-up Programme is a structured programme of practical support aimed at helping students and recent graduates take their business ideas from concept to market readiness within one year. Taking an idea from concept to market readiness can be a protracted process, with a lot of time spent finding the right information and guidance. With the Business Start-up programme, this process is efficiently managed and students that successfully progress through the programme can have a business that is ready to launch within 12 months or less.

Our Business Start-up Programme will guide participants through the following stages:

  • Proof of concept: assessing the viability of the idea as a business concept
  • Proof of market: identifying the potential market for the product or service
  • Company formation and launch: designing an action plan to bring the product or service to market; establishing viable legal, operational, marketing and legal structures; and launching the business

Participants can join the programme at any of the above developmental stages.

What does it involve?

Read more…

Take Care – Get Aware: What is Commercial Awareness?

18/12/2013 4 comments

It’s one of those terms that’s often thrown around when we talk about job search and going for interviews but is rarely explained. It doesn’t help that it’s also referred to as Business Awareness, Business Acumen, and Client Focus, amongst other things. So what actually is Commercial Awareness and how do you go about getting it?

Lady looking at newspapers image

Firstly, creative students and grads, let me try to catch you before you leave. I know the terms look very business-y and corporate-like but I assure you, you will need commercial awareness as well – although you might never call it that.

Commercial awareness is:

Knowledge of how businesses make money, what customers want, and what problems there are in particular areas of business

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

So basically an employer needs to understand that you know enough about their business to be able to be effective working for them. This is why it’s applicable across all sectors; unless you are working in total isolation it’s still knowledge you need. Employers will try to measure your understanding by asking questions in interview like; What do you know about us, What makes us different to our competitors, and What are the challenges facing the sector.

Find out more in this video: Read more…

An Early Christmas Gift for UH Grads

Snowflake‘Tis the season to be jolly… well more or less. As we approach this festive time of year it’s easy to slack off on job hunting and put time into shopping for the perfect gift instead. But there are still opportunities out there ready to be pounced upon by the savvy job hunter. And as such we have a gift for our graduates…


The word ‘paid’ is one not often associated with the term ‘internships’ these days. It seems not as week goes by without there being a news story on someone not paying for interns or how recent graduates have interned for free in order to gain some much-needed work experience. But, knowing that our graduates deserve to be paid, the University has made a partnership with one of the world’s largest banks, Santander, to offer three-month paid internships in small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). That’s right, paid. Not only will you be gaining work experience but also earning £1k a month! That in itself is not to be sniffed at but as well as this there is always the potential to be taken on as a full-time employee after the internship. No promises but also no ‘working for free on a promise’ either.

santander-bannerThat’s the good news. Now here’s the great news… Read more…

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