It’s the job you’ve always wanted, the career you’ve studied for years for, and the big day is coming, you got the interview! Your mind was racing when you saw the job, now it’s positively at warp speed. You just hoped they’d give you the call.
The hiring manager scanned hundreds of resumes and noticed yours. They want to meet you in person. You’re going to get the job…
But of course, there’s still one more step. Your final exam: the interview. Everything is set, you’re waiting for the day. Practicing your speech at night, answering most common interview questions and answers in an interview while showering, researching the employer over breakfast. (Okay, don’t leave it this late!).
Then, a question pops into your mind: “What should I wear for my interview?”
First impressions count, people really do judge books by their covers. We’re not talking looks here though folks, it’s your presentation that’s going to count, right alongside your accomplishments. A complete dress failure at an interview, may well lose you the job. Clothing and presentation is an easy fix, far easier than remembering your speech, questions and yes…all the stuff you learned to get your qualifications. You don’t have to spend a fortune either, employers don’t need to see designer brands. They will want to see someone who is clean, tidy, smart, and has chosen their outfit correctly for the interview they are attending. Your own presentation should reflect the quality, and presentation of work you are going to be delivering for your new employer.
70% of hirers admit they don’t want applicants to be trendy or fashionable (Source: Resume Writing Lab).
“Everyone’s gone business casual, right?”
No – never assume everyone has. Some sectors more than others for sure. Let’s face it, if you turn up to interview at Google in your crisp black power suit and mirror shined shoes, you probably won’t get the job. Most technology companies are more casual, but still don’t assume. Other sectors, finance, law, banking, certainly haven’t.
Cheat No 1 – Ask!
If you have the opportunity ask, you can hedge your question a little by asking the dress code for work, then casually infer if this is the expected dress for interview too? An interview will appreciate your taking the time to understand company culture, and dress code – don’t be afraid to do this. They will value someone who takes time to get things right. They will want you to do that in your job day to day, so demonstrate it immediately.
If you don’t have the opportunity to ask, you’ll need to be researching. The internet might have the answer, check out the company web, and social media pages. See any staff photo’s? What are they wearing? Who do you know who works there, or who has visited – quiz them.
Still not sure? If there is no evidence of a casual workwear code, you need to be dusting off your best suit.
“What is Business Casual?”
The growth of technology companies, and entrepreneurial start-ups, has seen a real switch to business casual. It’s the trend, a big switch from ultra-conservative. Smart suits are getting left behind. For workwear, this can even mean jeans. At interview keep it semi-smart, you need to be making an impression. Too casual, says too relaxed and informal, and may imply a lack of respect for your new boss!
Kim Zoller, founder of Image Dynamics, commented for Forbes “Choose an outfit that is customary for your industry and take it up a notch”.
Business casual is really open to interpretation, so make sure you interpret it correctly with your new employer. Failing in this could show that you do not understand business etiquette. Making a good impression, and showing that you want to, demonstrates your commitment and enthusiasm for your new role. Everyone appreciates someone who makes a concerted effort.
“But Mark Zuckerberg delivers his keynote speeches in T-Shirts?” Yes, he does, but no one can argue with his credibility and achievements in his industry, you have a little yet to prove.
Slacks, chinos, dress pants, smart shoes, daytime dresses, knee length skirts, shirts and blouses are all good possible choices for a business casual interview. Blazers, and smart jackets are always a more professional trade off. And, if you arrive, and it really is super casual – you can ditch the jacket. Slogans and sneakers are best avoided, unless of course you ARE interviewing at Google. As with any interview, don’t overdo makeup, tanning, perfume, aftershave or accessories. Iron clothes, even if ironing is a new concept (we know!), make sure they are clean, and always clean your footwear.
“It’s not business casual, damn”
Then it’s time to brush off your dark coloured suit, lighter shirt or blouse, and gentlemen you should really dig out a tie. Coordinating dress shoes are a must, super clean and shiny. Yes, the iron is ESSENTIAL. Always go for closed toe shoes at interview, and if your choice is a dress or skirt, choose light neutral hosiery. Natural and simple choices for makeup, hair, nails, perfume and aftershave are absolutely essential for a professional, suited and booted, interview. The unshaven look is NOT an option for a business casual, or an ultra-professional traditional interview.
Keep clothing stylish and chic, don’t overdo it, but, do shout “success” and show confidence. Especially if you are going into a role which involves business development, or management. Make sure your suit fits well and is comfortable – you don’t want to be fidgeting over clothing while you’re trying to win a hiring team over.
New York City image consultant and stylist David A. McKnight reveals “9/10 employers say, when all is equal, they select the candidate that presents themselves the best.”
Watch your smell!
We’re not telling you to shower here – that is an absolutely given for work, or interview. Be careful in your choice of perfume or aftershave, scent is a very strong sense. If you are overpowering your interviewer, they won’t like it. Your smell does not need to be the one thing they remember. Choose the scent carefully, go a for fragrance with neutral, positive tones.
Cheat No 2 – Ties, scarves and accessories
A well-coordinated tie, scarf or stylish but low-key accessories can set off an outfit, and allow a little of your personality to show. Blue portrays trust, confidence and stability and is a good choice for a tie at an interview, just the image you need. For socks, match them to your pants. A belt should match your shoes.
Jewellery should be good quality, or not at all, stick to one or two basic pieces. Simple, not dangling, earrings, a wedding band, or engagement ring, and maybe a single bracelet, necklace, or tie pin. Keep jewellery simple and coordinating.
If your job will require personality, or creative flair, a well-chosen accessory, which subtly shows you have confidence, and creativity, will go a long way. If you are interviewing for a very creative industry, such as design, or art based, you may want to take this a step further in your choice of tailoring.
Your likely on a budget, especially if you are out of work, or recently qualified, and you may be looking at an interview process of two or three interviews. You have one smart suit, what do you do? Accessorise, you can wear the same suit with a different shirt, or blouse, and accessories, and look almost completely different. Your new employer will appreciate you are on a budget, but, will appreciate the effort you make to look slightly different at each interview.
Of course, make sure you keep your suit clean – if it’s dry clean, or not easily washable, don’t wear it to the bar afterwards, then back to a 2nd interview a day later. Wear it to your interview, head straight home, change, air your suit. If it needs to be wash or cleaned – do it, don’t hesitate. If you don’t appear washed and clean, you will appear lazy, and that is never a good impression.
A few decades ago the only choice for office attire was a suit, a few decades before that, and suits and tailored dresses were the norm in everyday life for many. Choosing your interview clothes then, must have been easier than today, wouldn’t you say?
Are you ready yet?
No matter the trend, or the industry, the best option is always smart and professional, even if you go business casual. Good research, or asking the right questions, will give you the information you need to correctly choose your attire, and wow your interviewers with a good, first glance, impression. It takes just the first 30 seconds to form an impression. Starting an interview on the right footing, will give you confidence to sell yourself, and answer questions, confidently. An employer who has a good first impression, will be receptive to your words. Getting your attire right, gives you an important box tick, take advantage of an easy win!