Whether we like it or not, we don’t live in a world where we are being judged solely on our personality. We are part of a society where people, before getting the chance to know you, base their first impressions on how you look: your clothes, accessories and neatness. As a consequence, choosing your clothes for an interview is not something that should not be taken lightly, nor is it a frivolous problem. Your personal appearance makes a statement about you and gives your interviewer a first clue of how well you would be adjusting to your new work environment.
There is a common misconception that interviews necessarily involve suits, pencil skirts and blazers – but they don’t always do so. If you want to get your future employer to see you as a potential part of their team, you must look as that part, and sometimes, this doesn’t involve tailored suits. Here are a few tips on how to walk the fine line between “ok” and “well-dressed”.
1. Check out the organizational culture
Understand how people dress within the industry you will be working in. If you’re applying for a job at a law practice or at an accounting firm, you will definitely have to dress more conservative than if you would be applying for a position in advertising. Sometimes, the differences can be quite strong: suits vs. T-shirts and jeans. But other times, they are more subtle – whether it is appropriate to wear a tie or not, or even pair a blazer with a more casual pair of trousers. So, the first clue is looking at how other people dress within the same line of work as the job you’re applying for.
It is not only the industry that you must research – it is also the company itself. In the IT industry, for example, the dress codes can change massively from one company to the other. If you’re not sure of what that is, it is better to ask in advance, before getting ready for the interview.
2. Better overdressed than underdressed
It is better to show up overdressed than underdressed. It’s better to show up in heels in an office where the other women wear flats than to show up in flip-flops. It is a matter of respect towards your future colleagues – even in constructions, where people usually wear dirty overalls, candidates still show up at interviews wearing neat, more or less casual clothing, not a work uniform. Nor do doctors show up for interviews in scrubs.
3. Be yourself
Be yourself and don’t turn your clothes into a full-on statement. After all, you want the interviewer to fully concentrate on your skills, experience and personality, not the number of piercings on your face, even though it may be a perfectly acceptable accessory within some industries. It’s always a good idea to be subtle when you choose your clothes, even if the way you dress is an important part of your personal brand. Don’t try to prove something through your clothes – use them to your advantage, but concentrate on what is really relevant, which is your skills.
4. What not to wear
While dressing appropriately for an interview is a combination of research, personal style and intuition, there are a few items that will be on every list of “don’ts”: flip-flops and crocs, a deep cleavage, very short skirts, fishnet hose and extra high platform shoes, sweatshirts and sweatpants or an excessive amount of jewelry. Also, be very careful with your perfume: not everyone likes the same fragrance, and, while your taste in perfume might not be a reason not to land a job, using an excessive amount of perfume might.
Choosing what to wear for an interview might not be an easy task. But if you get it right, it will immediately earn you extra points in the eye of the interviewer before you even open your mouth. And that’s worth something.