“How to dress for an interview?” is an incredibly important question, because what you wear will have as much influence on the outcome of the interview as what you say. There is a saying: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. And that’s why thinking about how to dress for an interview is just as important as thinking about how you answer the questions you expect to asked.
In this blog, we will cover the basics of how to dress for an interview, based on more than 30 years of experience in business. The advice is purely personal, and no doubt some of you will take exception to some of the comments below. However, if you are reading this blog, then you must be looking for advice on how to secure a job.
If you’ve not performed well in interviews yet, maybe it’s time you changed your approach? What’s the worst that can happen? All we can say is that if you follow the advice given below, you are not going to do any worse in the interview. You can only do better. Try it. It just might work for you.
How to Dress for an Interview: What is Business Attire?
“Business Attire” differs for men and for women, but broadly speaking, it means a suit – and for men, a tie. Neutral colours are best, usually light or dark grey, or medium to dark blue. Avoid suits with bold colours, strong stripes or patterns. Make sure that none of the buttons are missing. Take it to the dry cleaners if need be. It only costs a few £ and will also make you feel much smarter and more professional. Make sure it fits well, particularly the arms – not too long, or too short.
Shirts should be neutral colours, such as white or blue. Avoid strong colours like pink or yellow, or those with bold stripes, checks, or other patterns. You want the interviewer to remember your answers to their questions, not how loud your shirt was.
Men should always wear a tie. Even if you are interviewing for a job which doesn’t require a suit, for example as a Boiler Man on a Steam Train on a Heritage railway line, a suit, shirt and tie for the interview shows you care about your personal appearance. And if you care about your personal appearance, then you are more likely to care about the company and the job on offer. Ties should be single colour, not striped or with a strong pattern.
How to Dress for an Interview: “Shoes Maketh the Man”
The safest pair of shoes are plain black lace-up shoes. Brogues are always classy, and black is always a safe bet. Brown brogues are also okay, but they are slightly less formal than black. However, suede shoes or brightly coloured shoes are not appropriate for interviews because they are too casual.
For women, open-toed shoes or shoes with high heels are not appropriate. Medium height with flat heels are best. Don’t wear high heeled shoes, no matter how glamourous you might want to look. If you are applying for a job in Human Resources at a large engineering firm and they invite you to see the workshop, high heels are potentially dangerous. The workshop floor may be uneven, or a mesh in which your heels are only going to get stuck.
How to Dress for an Interview: Watches, Jewellery and Accessories
Bear in mind that any interviewer will make significant unconscious value judgements about your background simply by the watch, jewellery and accessories you wear. Watches can work both for or against you. A Casio or Seiko watch, for example, says something very different about you compared to a gold Rolex or Tag Heuer Monaco. The same also applies to lots of rings on several fingers, or large chunky bracelets, or, for women, large and glittery necklaces.
The best advice here is to leave the gold Rolex at home and go for subtle and discreet. However, it is fair to say that women can get away with wearing more jewellery and accessories than men. But the same rule applies – you want the interviewer to remember you for your answers, not your accessories.
How to Dress for an Interview: Tattoos and body piercing
You might think a tattoo of an eagle around your neck, or a chain from your pierced nose to your ear lobe, mark you out as an individual. But unless you’re going for a job in a tattoo parlour, these body adornments will almost certainly count against you in an interview. Most companies want someone who can represent the organisation in all manner of situations. This is particularly true with roles where you will be “front of house” and interacting with clients or suppliers.
You no doubt believe a tattoo or piercing does not affect your ability to do your job, and you would be right. However, they will not help you do your job better, and therefore they should be covered or removed for an interview, where possible. Again, you want the interviewer to remember you for your answers, not your adornments.
How to Dress for an Interview: Let’s get Dressed and Go!
So, now you know how to dress for an interview, you have the confidence to go and get that job! Give it your best shot. Blow them away with your enthusiasm, your knowledge, and your commitment to the role. However, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the job. Look at the interview itself as a learning experience. Always go to every interview you can with full commitment and enthusiasm for the job on offer. As you attend more interviews, you will learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll know which to focus on next time.
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