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

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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.

 

How to answer scenario interview questions

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There are a many different types of questions that can be asked at an interview, from traditional questions such as: ‘Why did you apply for this job?’ to behavioural questions such as: ‘Can you give me an example of a time you have worked effectively in a team?’

Sometimes you may be asked scenario questions, which are similar to behavioural questions. However instead of asking you to discuss a past experience you’re presented with a hypothetical situation. An example of this type of question is: ‘What would you do if you were dealing with a difficult telephone conversation with a client/customer?’

Watch the video below as Careers Adviser, Suzanne Ball, explains the best way to deal with scenario interview questions.

How to answer common interview question: ‘when have you worked well in a team?’

How to answer the interview question ‘do you have any questions for us?’

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You are in a face to face interview with an employer for the job you really want. You feel that the interview has been going very well and you have answered all the questions to the best of your ability. You have remembered to back up all your answers with evidence and an evaluation.

It comes to the end of the interview and the employer tells you that you have answered all the questions. The employer then says: ‘do you have any questions for us?’

What do you say? Do you say you have no questions? Do you ask about the salary? Watch the video below as Careers, Employment and Enterprise Adviser, Suzanne Ball, explains the best way to deal with this common interview question.

How to deal with with difficult interview questions

Question: ‘How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the UK every year?’

Careers, Employment & Enterprise Adviser, Donald Lush, explains the best way to deal with those ‘curve ball’ questions at an interview.

For more information and other resources on interviews, please search for the keyword ‘Interviews’ under the resources section of CareerHub.

You can book an appointment to speak with an adviser about interviews by calling us on 01707 284791.

Don’t Leave Home Without It – Top Ten Interview Essentials

05/03/2014 5 comments

When you’ve got an interview there are a few non-negotiable things you need to do; dress right, do your research, be on time. But when you’re just about to leave home on your way to interview, what should you check you have with you? We did a quick office straw poll to find the most popular things to take with you to an interview. Here’s the list…

Interview Essentials 03

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Examples of Work/Portfolio
If you are talking about a particular achievement in your work, something you are especially proud of or that was particularly effective, it can be a great moment to have a physical copy to show the interviewer – only if it’s relevant though. If you’re a creative/designer and have a portfolio it’ll probably be mandatory to bring it.

Questions to Ask
9You know how it is; the last thing that happens at interview can be the most important. This is especially true when the employer turns to you to ask if you have any questions for them. Now you will have practised this moment, you will have your questions memorised and ready, right? Of course you will but sometimes the pressure can get to you and you may draw a blank. Put down a few questions on a small card just in case, it might just save your bacon.

8Spare Tights
I’m reliably informed that a ladder in your tights can ruin your whole look! But it’s not really about how you look, it’s more about how you feel. You want to feel smart as this will make you feel confident and professional. Never knowing when that dreaded run will strike, keep a spare pair handy just in case. (On the flipside for those in suits; a spare tie could be just as useful)

Money
7You’ll need enough to bribe the panel…! Actually, you’re not sure what you might need. Your interview might be over coffee in the local Starbucks and you want to be able to pay for your own if it comes to it. Also, if you’re driving, make sure you have spare change for car parking. It will save you the last minute dash to the newsagents to break a note.

6Phone
You might think it’s universal but not everyone would bring a phone to interview – in case it rings in the middle. But if you do have difficulty getting there and you’re running late, you want to be able to inform the employer. Make sure it’s fully charged (especially if you also use it as a sat nav) and program in the contact numbers for the office before you leave.

Interview Essentials 02 Read more…

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