How to Negotiate the Minefield of Dressing for a Professional Interview

How to Negotiate the Minefield of Dressing for a Professional Interview

Now don’t get me wrong, there are tons of places you can go for advice on dressing for an interview but after having looked into it a bit further, I found that a lot of this advice contradicts the next page you will read. For example, The Guardian wrote that more than 80% of interviewers think it is inappropriate to wear red to an interview, but it is generally said that a red tie is a power tie, a statement of confidence. There is no consensus on right or wrong interview attire mainly because each industry, each company is so different and so expects different things. 

Having worked in recruitment for a little over 3 years I have found there to be a few recurring themes with what my clients expect or highlight as being a ‘no, no’, and a reason not to hire the person who could have been the perfect addition to their team. Navigating this land of faux pas is always difficult, and it is agreed amongst my colleagues that you can never put too much thought into your interview outfit. 

Tip 1: Be comfortable
If you wouldn’t normally wear heels, don’t wear them for an interview. Falling on your face or tottering like Barbie will not help make that all important good first impression. If the neck of your shirt is too tight, buy a new one. Having your top button undone is so high school, and turning purple will certainly make you memorable but not for the right reason. 

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to ask the question
Whenever you are arranging an interview, don’t be afraid to ask the dress code. It shows you want to tick all the boxes and have considered every aspect of your interview preparation. If you don’t ask, or they fail to provide the information: go professional. It is always better to be over dressed than underdressed. 

Tip 3: Professional means plain and simple
Let your answers and research do the talking, not the chunky necklaces or novelty tie you are wearing. Suits and dresses need be plain, one colour and muted, especially for a corporate environment. Safe colours are grey, navy and black for both sexes. These should be matched with, invariably, black shoes but brown can be acceptable. According to the same Guardian article, 99% of bosses interviewing female applicants say they would be inclined to mark them down if they wore dangly jewellery and 95% find low cut tops unsuitable. Simple goes for the make up too ladies, and facial hair for the gents.

Tip 4: Appearance isn’t everything, but first impressions can be
It DOES make a difference how you dress in your interview, and you are naïve if you think an unironed shirt, no blazer or a skirt which could pass for a belt won’t have an effect on the interviewer’s impression of you. According to Kim Zoller at Image Dynamics ( 55% of another person’s perception of you is based on how you look. 

Tip 5: Spend the money
Quality costs so don’t expect to be able to spend pittance and look a million dollars. It is worth spending the extra money on something that fits well or isn’t shiny… If something doesn’t fit right you will feel awkward and probably look it too. Take the time to get your hair trimmed and have your interview clothes dry cleaned if needs be. Chinos are not suit trousers and spiky heels are for the dance floor, not the sales floor. 

If ever in doubt, stick with tradition. Know the value of a good suit and remember, they are looking to see the consummate professional in appearance and demeanour.