Dress to Impress – Dressing for an interview.
With every interview I arrange, the question I am always asked is “what should I wear for the interview”? While there are no hard and fast rules for this I do feel there are a few simple rules that should be adhered to. You should never be over dressed in a casual environment; whereas even worse is being underdressed in a corporate suit culture.
The first thing you should do regardless of the clothes you intend to wear, is to research the company beforehand. This should be a natural thing to do before every interview, but you would be surprised how many people still don’t fully prepare for their first meeting.
When you are on the website you can get a feeling of what the perspective company culture is about. The images they choose, the layout and even the company mission statement will tell you about the environment you are about to enter. Your approach to your interview dress code should reflect this.
If you are going through a professional recruitment agency they should be able to tell you exactly what to wear and assist you in preparing beforehand. If their response is “I don’t know!”, then this should be a red flag that they don’t really understand their client’s culture or their needs; and if they don’t understand the client’s needs you can be guaranteed they don’t understand yours.
When I started out in my career I was always told you could never be too over dressed for an interview and you only get one chance to make a good OR bad first impression. Over the years I have slightly changed my view on these statements. I personally think that being over dressed for an interview in a casual setting can create a very awkward first meeting.
However, I do still strongly believe that you only get one chance to create a positive first impression. It is a fact that in the first 5 minutes of meeting your interviewer they will have already decided if you are the right cultural fit for the company; the practical ability questions will be the remainder of the interview time.
So here are a few simple tips on how to dress for an interview.
Firstly research the company or ask your recruitment consultant what kind of environment you are going to: is it casual, funky, corporate or sporty? Once you have this information it’s much easier to decide on your wardrobe attire.
- Casual – If the company is casual, this doesn’t mean you turn up to your first meeting in shorts and flips flops and yes this has actually happened to a recruiter I know.
So I would say aim for a smart casual effect.
For men wear clean, pressed trousers, shirt and casual jacket; but absolutely no tie.
For women, trousers or skirt (Not a mini skirt) and a nice top; but no blazer jackets.
Absolutely no trainers to an interview or open toes shoes for women. Remember this is still an interview and unless it is a sports company trainers are rarely accepted.
- Funky – This category I think is the hardest one to advise on as funky companies could be dotcoms, IT, PR or a variety of young organisations. If they are funky a full suit would be totally inappropriate and out of place; you may even make your interviewer feel uncomfortable if you are over dressed and for sure if you are “suited and booted” you will also feel like a fish out of water. I would suggest dressing in smart casual attire and do not try and dress funky to try and fit in as you will feel uncomfortable and this will show.
- Corporate – I think this is the easiest culture to dress for.
Just think what you would wear working for a bank, stock exchange or high end consultancy. This is where the bulk of my clients sit, so I do say often to candidates that they must be “suited and booted”. This expression just means for men and women, wear a suit, tie for men and a jacket. Trainers are an absolute no go here under any circumstances.
It is also possibly a strange thing to write and seem obvious to you all, but polish your shoes before the interview. People do judge you by the state of your footwear. If shoes are neat and polished this is an indication that you take a pride in your appearance; which means you are probably the same in your work ethics.
Also, if there is a language difference make sure the candidate or recruiter is clear on what they mean. I once had a candidate turn up to an interview in a Ski Suit, because I told him to go in a full suit; OK maybe he wasn’t the brightest to have done that, but also it was my mistake to not make it fully clear that a suit is not one you would wear on the slopes.
- Sporty – If you are going to a sports company this is the only time I would say trainers are acceptable; but make sure they are the brand you are going to interview for. There is nothing worse than say going to Nike for an interview, in a pair of Adidas trainers. It’s probably best you follow the rules of smart casual, so smart outfit, but dress it down with trainers or pumps for ladies. It is not acceptable though to go to an interview in a track suit or training clothes; even if it is the product they sell.
Absolute no no’s regardless of the company!
- Brands – As stated above make sure you don’t wear a competitors brand on full show. If anything it would be advisable to wear their brand OR stay neutral where brand is not obvious.
- Perfume/Aftershave – Do not cover yourself in perfume before the interview, the interviewer doesn’t want to be gassed during the meeting and over powering smells will create a bad first impression of you. Opt for light neutral smells and put perfume on at least an hour before the interview, so it has had time to wear off a little.
- Piercings – This is a controversial topic as body piercings, like tattoos are considered very personal to the individual and an expression of personality. I think with piercings you should look at the type of company and ask yourself do you really want that job and to work there? If the answer is yes and it’s a corporate environment I would say take the piercings out! Because by leaving them in you will be judged immediately on your appearance.
- Tattoos –For corporate environments tattoos should not be visible at interview, cover them up if possible. I appreciate it’s an expression of personality, but you are being judged at interview and if you want the job covering something up for that hour to make a great first impression is a small price to pay. However, for funky companies, IT and casual environments, visible tattoos are not so much of an issue.
- Hair – Clean and neat for both men and women.
- Hygiene – This seems quite obvious, but make sure you use deodorant as nerves mean you may sweat during the interview. People will judge you on hygiene, because if you don’t look after yourself, why would you be any different in your work approach. Nothing is more off putting than sitting in a room with a person who has bad body odor.
- Style etiquette – Remember you are going to an interview, not a disco; so miniskirts, low cut tops, shorts and an excessive amount of flesh on display is really inappropriate, unless your interview is within the adult entertainment field.
Of course this article is just my personal opinion based on many years of recruiting; but you really do only get one chance to make a great first impression and clothes say a lot about an individual.
Article written by Rachel Wardle Resourcing and Staffing Project Manager EMEA
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