Picture this… It’s a Thursday night and you are about to meet your date for the first time. You have agreed to meet in a bar in St Paul’s – somewhere you’ve never been. You arrive and it’s swish. She is wearing a cocktail dress and heels. You are in board shorts, a vest and flipflops.
That moment there, is the same level of awkward as wearing something to an interview that is completely out of step with the business you are hoping to join. Whilst you may feel hopelessly awkward, you also put your interviewer on the back foot – they will be feeling that awkwardness too.
So where do you start?
Confidence and comfort go hand-in-hand
You don’t want your outfit to detract from your abilities or to distract your interviewer. Wear something that makes you feel good, puts you in the right frame of mind and is comfortable enough to sit down in for at least an hour. No-one likes a wriggler.
Work with a recruiter you trust
Any good recruiter will have met your prospective new employers and will have made the effort to go and see their offices and understand their culture. You should be able to have an open and frank conversation with your recruiter about what is appropriate and what is not. Wearing a three-piece suit to meet with a start-up is a no-go.
Any good recruiter will also have insisted on meeting you face-to-face if logistically possible. They will be able to guide and coach you on appearance if they feel you may find it difficult with their clients.
Research the business and their competitors
Where are their offices? If they are based in Shoreditch, they are likely to be more relaxed. Canary Wharf, different story. Location often reflects the brand. What size is the business? Large finance corporates are more inclined towards more formal office attire, whereas small tech start-ups will likely be donning jeans and t-shirts.
Run your outfit past your friends
Your friends will be your greatest critic when you need them to be. If you are uncertain ask friends who work in similar environments. And of course, ask your recruiter!
There are some definite booboos in interview attire. Torn jeans or clothing, shorts, flip flops, low cut or crop tops and trainers. An ill-fitting or crumpled suit is as bad as wearing a parrot on your head.
In any interview situation, you want to bring across your best self. You need to be true to who you are and let that show. Unless you are going into a very corporate business a safe bet would be tailored trousers or smart jeans and a button-down or collared shirt with a blazer. This is a unisex outfit that won’t detract from the most important aspect of the interview – do you suit each other! Don’t feel like you can’t bring your personality across, but remember there is a fine line between self-expression and overkill. Go for solid colours and minimal accessories. Avoid glaring labels and slogans and remember to wear what you are comfortable in – that will show in your demeanour.
Myth or truth, some say your chances of success at interview are 55% down to body language and appearance (how you look and move), 38% tone (how you say what you say) and 7% words (what you say), so you can’t ignore the importance of appearance. If you look the part, the words you say and the way you say them if in context, will all improve your chances of success.
To finish, think about your successful and unsuccessful interviews of the past. Do you remember how you looked, what you wore, how you felt and so on? When you interview next, be sure to do yourself justice, invest in appropriate clothing if required and put a similar amount of thought into your appearance as you would a CV or presentation. It’s about starting well, that first 60 seconds is important, so projecting confidence goes a long way.
So enough words for now; go and get your dream job!
From Ball and Hoolahan