(As I’m a survivor of the corporate minefield, which includes dress codes, I am writing a series of articles about how to dress appropriately in a professional environment. I’m hoping to roll this series out to local schools and colleges to help the students as they get closer to getting their first job. It’s basically ‘stuff I wish my careers coach had told me’. Enjoy!)
You’ve polished your CV. You’ve written an amazing cover letter. You’ve found that dream job with your dream company and sent in your application.
Your phone rings.
‘We’d like to invite you for an interview.’
Fantastic! Well done! You confirm the time, date and location with the company and hang up the phone.
And it hits you.
You don’t know what to wear. Panic rises – finding an outfit for an interview is impossible, right?
Wrong. Dressing for an interview is simpler than you might think. There are basic rules for interview dressing that have remained unchanged for decades, and apply no matter how old you are or what field you’re in.
An interview is meant for you to wow your potential employer with how incredible your skills are and see if you are a good fit for the company. It’s true that what you wear shouldn’t matter, but it is a fact that first impressions count and as soon as you walk through the front door of the building, your interview has begun.
So what are the rules that will make interview dressing simple, and make you feel that you are going to give the interview of your life?
- Keep it simple – A suit with a blouse or smart top, or a shift dress with a suit jacket, is a typical interview outfit for women. Invest in a good suit or tailored dress and jacket and not only will you have a perfect interview outfit, you will also have a go-to outfit for any business occasion.
- Colours should be muted – Black, navy and grey are the traditional colours for interview attire such as suits, dresses and jackets. Shirts and tops should be in a colour that suits your skin tone – you don’t have to wear white if it doesn’t suit you, or even if you don’t like it. There are other options.
- Make sure it fits – Don’t buy the wrong size in a panic! Try everything on in the shop before you buy it. Do not leave the shop without making sure everything fits you well and that you feel happy in the outfit. If you’re not comfortable in it, don’t buy it.
- Avoid ‘body con’ – Tailored pieces are your best bet when going for an interview. Skin tight clothing should be avoided as it can come across as unprofessional. The same goes for overly short hems or plunging necklines.
- Jewellery should be simple and understated – Keep earrings and finger rings small. Facial piercings should be removed or changed for a small stud or ring.
- Wear appropriate, smart shoes – Make sure you can walk confidently in the footwear you have chosen. Heels should never be so high that you can’t walk in them – staggering into the reception area on a pair of sky high heels is not the best first impression.
- Makeup should be kept natural – Neutrals that suit your skin tone and a light coverage foundation will give a polished, professional look.
These rules may go against everything you stand for when it comes to expressing yourself through clothes, but they are the simplest way to make dressing for an interview a breeze. Your outfit is the last thing that should be playing on your mind when you are going for the interview of your life.
And one final tip: when you’re in that room, remember the interview works both ways – the company is deciding if they want to employ you, but you are also deciding if you want to be employed by the company. Ask questions about everything you think you might want to know – it’s worth making a list. And don’t forget to ask about dress codes, rules for tattoos, piercings, unicorn hair colours and the like. Make the most of the time you have with your interviewer.
Go out there and get that amazing job that you so deserve. Good luck!