Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
Dressing for interview success 17/10/2012
Martine Alexander, fashion stylist to high-profile executives, gives her advice on how to achieve that interview-ready appearance.
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- Dressing to impress at interview
- First impressions count
- Do your research
- Ladies - less is more
- Suits you, Sir
- Accessorise with eyewear
- Attention to detail
- What not to wear
- Be cautious
Dressing to impress at interview
Finding that dream job is a popular new year’s resolution. Yet, with career prospects being so thin on the ground, once you get to the interview stage, you need to ensure your interviewer is as impressed with your appearance as they are with your professional attributes. From wearing glasses to enhance your professionalism, to matching your outfit to company cultures, there are a number of simple steps you can take to boost your chances of a dream job this new year.
First impressions count
An interviewer will make a decision about you within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. It may seem unfair, but employers will make a judgment on how competent you are for the job before you even open your mouth, as physical appearance is the first criteria we have to determine a person. Something as trivial as having your shirt un-tucked could form an impression that you are a sloppy dresser - an attribute which could cross over into your work ethic.
Do your research
As part of your interview preparation, research the dress and behaviour codes of the company on its website. By looking and sounding as if you already work there, it will help your interviewer to envisage you fitting into their company. However, even if there is a casual dress code, always dress smartly for the interview itself, and if in doubt - suit up.
Ladies - less is more
The main thing to remember is to keep necklines high and hemlines low. Don’t feel, however, it’s imperative to wear a dress or skirt - opt for whatever you feel confident in so that you are comfortable during the interview, while being in line with the company dress code. Choose a shirt that is relatively loose-fitting and wear low-heeled court shoes rather than skyscraper heels. Keep jewellery and visible piercings to a minimum.
Suits you, Sir
Men fare best in interviews with a dark, well-fitted two-piece suit complete with an ironed shirt in a complementary colour and matching tie. Subtle patterns on a tie can enhance your presentation and credibility. Avoid cartoon and gimmicky designs at all costs. Shoes should be comfortable and polished, as this implies good attention to detail, which is a great attribute to have in any job.
Accessorise with eyewear
Something as simple as wearing glasses could actually improve your chances at getting that dream job. A recent study by Henleys Eyewear reveals that 90% of people think that glasses make a person appear more attractive, approachable and intelligent. The College of Optometrists support this, with research showing that one third of adults believe glasses make the wearer appear more professional. With this in mind, always opt for the classic frame over contact lenses every time. More and more high-flying executives are wearing fashion glasses for business meetings, so even if you are lucky enough to have 20/20 vision, why not go for a non-prescriptive fashion frame to add to your professional image?
Attention to detail
Make sure your overall look is neat, tidy and sharp. Don’t leave it until the last minute to choose an outfit, there’s nothing worse than turning up for an interview in a fluster. Choose your outfit a few days in advance; making sure your ensemble is washed, ironed and ready-to-go. Check your garments for loose threads, missing buttons and other imperfections. If your outfit is looking a little rough around the edges, it’s definitely worth investing in some new interview clothes.
What not to wear
As well as learning what to wear for an interview, it’s important to know what not to wear. Sales director Jennifer* recalls her interview fashion disaster:
“After graduating from university, I was lucky enough to be offered an interview for the graduate scheme at a FTSE 100 London bank. Being somewhat of an interview novice, I had no idea what to wear. Hearing horror stories of women dressing too glamorously at interview stage and not being taken seriously, I opted for the exact opposite approach. I eventually decided on a black trouser suit, white shirt and flat lace-up black leather shoes. It wasn’t until I went into the interview room and found myself faced with a 50-year-old male interviewer, wearing the exact same outfit as me, that I realised what a fashion faux pas I’d made. Needless to say, feeling uncomfortable throughout, the interview went downhill from there and I didn’t get the job!”
*not her real name
Of course, you want your interviewer to remember you, but make sure it’s for all the right reasons. Feel free to wear something that brings out your personality and reflects who you are to a certain degree, but subtlety is key. Colours should be kept safe, so avoid extremely bright colours which could detract attention from what you are saying.
And remember, dressing for an interview isn’t about hiding your individuality. It’s about presenting yourself professionally and creating a blank canvas so that your future employer can visualise you working at their organisation. Make yourself stand out from the crowd with what you say, rather than what your outfit says about you.
Martine Alexander, stylist
Since establishing the Martine Alexander brand in 2005, Martine has earned a reputation as one of the North-West’s most sought-after and credible fashion experts with an established client base included high-profile and time precious professionals.