What to wear in an interview

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This is it: you have finally been invited for interview for the job of your dreams. You know how to prepare for the interview itself. But you look in your closet and draw a blank.

What exactly do you wear?

As a recruiter, I have had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of candidates over the years. In addition, I have had a lot of interview feedback from clients who have met with candidates.

Overall, it seems that the majority of people have a general idea of what is suitable for a job interview. This is followed by a small percentage who look the part on the whole, but who overlook the details. Then, there are people who seriously have no idea.

 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when dressing for an interview. Some may learn a few tips here and there, while others may learn a whole lot.

 

First impressions

First impressions are formed instantly. They are the basis on which we are judged and judge others. Despite what we may like to think, we all rely on our first impressions for a lot of decisions we make about others. We can’t help it, it’s human nature. Of course, with enough time, we have the opportunity to change these initial impressions. However, it is rare that the feelings given by a first impression can be completely changed by the few minutes dedicated to the interview itself.

“The way we dress affects the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act and the way others react to us.”  – Judith Rasband, Image Consultant

 

Why dress appropriately?

Some may not realize the full importance of wearing appropriate attire for an interview. And yet, it can be just as important than what you actually say. Although a recruiter will not discount your skills and experience for the role, those key first impressions, including how you are dressed, will play a part in whether or not you are offered the position.

Appearance is important in practically all careers. It is even more important in jobs where you are either customer or client facing. Keep in mind that all employees represent the company in some way or another.

What a candidate wears during the interview wiill give the recruiter an idea of how they would dress at work, or when dealing with customers or clients.

Moreover, during an interview, you are basically selling yourself to your potential future employer. You are highlighting all of the positive attributes that will make you a perfect fit for the role. Most importantly, you are presenting the best possible version of yourself.

Since how you dress is the first thing the interviewer notices, it is vital to pay attention to detail. You may be perfect for the position, but if you look like you have come straight from a night out with friends or just pulled yourself off your sofa, your qualifications may not be what they notice.

 

A question of style

All of us have our own sense of style. For some, it may be keeping up to date with the latest fashion and trends. For others, dressing is about making a statement. Others just see clothing as a practical thing.

Whoever you are, whatever you style is, you have the potential to make major errors when it comes to putting your interview outfit together, either by overdoing it or by making no effort.

 

There must be a balance

Interviews are not the time to be making fashion statements, unless your interview is for a haute couture fashion house. You don’t want to distract the interviewer with your clothes, even if you think you are fit enough to walk down the catwalks of Milan with your trendy, carefully put together outfit.

Alternatively, you don’t want to turn up for interview dressed overly casually, with uncombed hair and an unruly hipster beard, wearing jeans.

You may have your own unique style and not want to change for anyone, however, it may not be a case of changing as much as a case of toning down your look.

 

So, with that in mind, some dos and don’ts for your job interview attire are:

Do:

  • shower and wash your hair the day of the interview
  • wear deodorant
  • brush your teeth
  • shave/trim your beard
  • cut and clean your nails, wear neutral nail polish
  • wear clean and ironed clothes
  • clean and polish your shoes
  • wash and brush your hair
  • remove facial piercings
  • tone down makeup and jewelry
  • wear subtle colours/patterns
  • dress conservatively/professionally
  • get back to basics – a black, grey, navy suit with a light/neutral shirt
  • dress to impress
  • wear dress shoes
  • if you wish to wear a skirt, make sure it is knee length

 

Don’t wear:

  • ill-fitting clothes
  • overly casual clothes (jeans, shorts, trainers, sportswear)
  • revealing clothes
  • busy prints/colours
  • flashy ties
  • anything distracting
  • excessive accessories
  • perfume/aftershave (if you feel you must, use sparingly –a little goes a long way)
  • stained clothing
  • open toe/back shoes

Also, pay attention to details: don’t go in smelling like smoke.

And if you absolutely must give Fluffy a good luck hug before the interview, make sure you remove ALL pet hair from your clothes.

 

Some of these suggestions may sound overly reserved. However, since recruiters and hiring managers are looking at every detail and your first impression is the most important, “When in doubt, dress conservatively.”

 

 

 

Sarah Roper

Sarah Roper


I offer a personal touch to recruitment. For me, using empathy to understand the needs of clients and candidates is key to building strong and long-lasting relationships.
As a British international recruiter and business developer, I manage the whole 360 degree lifecycle. From finding a client to placing a candidate - and everything in between! - I act as an intermediary to make sure that whatever the role, the process runs smoothly and I match the right person for the right job.
I have done this internally, as part of HR and externally, in numerous consultancies in Geneva and London.

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