On its own an interview outfit won’t win or lose a job, your track record and future potential are the real indicators of success, but let’s face it, what you wear can affect how an employer sees you. At the very least how we dress sends non-verbal messages to others. These can be interpreted in different ways like how seriously you take this job opportunity, how detail oriented you are or how you might dress for a client meeting. Because rightly or wrongly, what you wear makes an impression and an inference of competence to do the job.
I’m currently helping a friend with her resumé and we were talking about what to wear to interview to nail the job. We got chatting about our own outfit choices and how clothes can help (and hinder) your chances of job success. As an Occupational Psychologist I’ve conducted my fair share of interviews and assessment centres over the years and I won’t lie to you, I’ve seen people rock up in a variety of outfits, some stylish, some questionable and a few downright dreadful. In the worst instances I’ve interviewed candidates for corporate roles wearing sweaters and jeans, wrinkled shirts and badly fitting trousers and what can only be described as belts for skirts. Is it a coincidence or a direct / partial correlation that these individuals didn’t make it far in the selection process? Of course it depends on the role you’re applying for but generally speaking effort is required when dressing for an interview.
So what should you wear to a job interview and what are the rules to bear in mind?
Rules on dressing to land the perfect job
1. Blend In to Stand Out
Do your homework (and maybe a bit of stalking) to check what people in the company wear. You might even be able to check the dress code online. There could be a certain style that employees follow. Wearing something similar could make it easier for the interviewer to see you fitting into that environment.
If the role you’re applying for doesn’t require formal dressing on a day-to-day basis don’t let that stop you dressing up for the interview. You should always dress more formally in a selection process. That doesn’t always mean wearing a suit but you should look tailored and sharp. A dress (that isn’t too short) or pants and a blouse are smart alternatives to a trouser suit. When it comes to footwear its best to wear shoes you know won’t hurt and preferably in a height, style and colour that won’t distract the interviewer. It may sound obvious but make sure your clothes are clean and ironed and that your shoes are polished.
2. Don’t Wear Monochrome
Colour wise, stick to neutrals but don’t feel you have to play it safe with black and white. If you can’t imagine wearing anything but monochrone that’s fine but it is perfectly acceptable to wear some colour and pattern. Grey and navy are great neutrals to anchor your outfit. Just add one or two more accent colours to bring your outfit to life. Blue, tan, blush and burgundy work well with neutral tones. Avoid a large distracting print all over. If you want to add pattern use a neck scarf or wear a patterned shirt under a plain jacket. Use accessories like a brooch or necklace to add extra detail. Avoid wearing too big a statement piece that could detract from what you’re saying.
3. Be Comfortable
Whatever you decide to wear make sure it’s an outfit you feel comfortable in, physically and mentally. Wearing something too tight that is restrictive will distract you and make you feel hot and bothered. Sweaty palms are a major turn-off. You want to focus all your energy on remaining calm and having a clear mind to answer questions proficiently. Pick an outfit you’ve worn before, one that reminds you of a time when you were strong, in control and successful, perhaps when you delivered a presentation or chaired a meeting. This memory and positive association will give you a sense of security and make you feel more confident in the interview.
4. Have a Dress Rehearsal
Take time to pick out your outfit before the interview and try it on. Your go-to interview suit might need to be dry-cleaned or you might find the new shirt you bought for the occasion doesn’t tuck into that skirt properly. Note to self, avoid belly exposure. Pick out shoes, a bag and all accessories before the big day. The last thing you want to think about on interview day is which necklace to wear with that dress. Oh and check in the mirror, or even better, ask a friend to look at your complete outfit when you’re standing and sitting down to make sure it fits properly.
5. Be in Control
Interviewers take in what we say and also what we do, which is why it’s key you manage your non-verbal behaviour and mannerisms during the interview. How? Smile when you walk into the room, make eye contact with each interviewer and give a firm handshake. Be confident and controlled when you answer. Engage with the interview panel throughout the interview – look directly at the person who asked the question when answering. If you feel yourself getting nervous take a deep breath and keep your hands together to avoid fidgeting. Listen to yourself as you’re talking. If it sounds like you’re waffling, stop at the end of that sentence and indicate you’re ready for the next question.
First impressions do matter. Psychological research shows this (it’s called the Primacy Effect) but it also tells us that later impressions matter too (the Recency Effect). So if you do mess up in round one and happen to get through to the next stage, you have an opportunity to change your styling approach and nail it the next time round!
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Thanks for dropping by – J ♥
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