We may dread them, but interviews are the things that stand between where you are right now and how successfully you make your next move up the career ladder.
The issue of what to wear will play such a powerful part in the hiring process.
Candidates’ two biggest concerns about an interview are:
1. What to say, and 2. What to wear
Preparation in both these areas is critical to interview success. Most people will spend their preparation time doing some research about the company they want to work for, finding out what the job entails and rehearsing appropriate answers to the questions they’re likely to be asked. The issue of what to wear tends to be secondary and yet it plays such a powerful part in whether someone will hire you or not.
Dressing for interview is like taking a role in a play; your character won’t be believable to the audience unless you’re in the right costume. So let’s get down to what to wear and what not to wear at interviews. Before you start trawling through your wardrobe or going out shopping you need to do some important research.
1. Check the job description/person specification
If you’ve been given these documents have a good look at them. What do they tell you about the qualities, skills and attributes the company is looking for? Highlight three key areas that stand out the most. For example, in a project management role the employer might be looking for someone who is well organised, decisive and attentive to detail. In a marketing role they might be looking for someone who is dynamic, creative and pioneering.
These three areas should strongly influence how you dress for your interview. So for example, if attention to detail is key, ensure that you have checked the crease on your trousers is sharp and that there are no loose threads on your button holes or hems. Carry a bag with interesting details on it. Wearing a scarf or an accessory with geometric shapes will demonstrate a logical mind.
If creativity is of utmost importance, dress with a little flair so that you stand out from the crowd. You should always look business-like when you dress for interview, but here you have some leeway to show your creativity by adding a pair of quirky cufflinks, or a piece of stylish bold jewellery.
2. Look at the company’s marketing literature and website
Consider the message they are conveying about the business. Are they formal or informal? Is their style cutting edge or more traditional? Look at the colours they use - are they bright, fun and engaging or cool, sophisticated and serious? Visit the website for Virgin Airlines and then for British Airways. They both offer similar products and services but have totally different cultures, backgrounds and approaches.
Reading these subliminal messages will tell you far more about an organisation than any question you ask at the end of your interview. It also enables you to think about how you need to project yourself to fit with their culture.
To help you in deciding what to wear for interview, here are some interesting Q&As:
1. How can women look smart in a suit without looking overly formal?
Go for suits in lighter neutral colours such as beige, grey or navy. Women’s suits don’t have to be boring. Choose something with a bit of design flair such as a peplum on the hem, an interesting lining or embellishment to let a bit of your personality shine through.
2. Suits seem still to be de rigueur for management consulting and investment banking interviews; are suits too formal for industry interviews?
It’s better to be over dressed than under-dressed so if you are unsure, I would err on the side of caution and opt for a suit. You can always remove the jacket if you feel too formally dressed once you’re in the interview.
3. How can men inject some personality into what they wear at interview without donning a Mickey Mouse tie or novelty socks?
Men should always be smart, sharp and understated. They should be clean shaven and wear a freshly pressed shirt, polished shoes and a tie that doesn’t clash.
However, whilst it is tough for men to add colour or accessorise, there are opportunities for them to stamp their own style onto an interview outfit. Adding a pair of interesting cufflinks and using a stylish pen during the interview can be a good way of showing your personality.
4. How can women stand out in a good way?
Women can accessorise by adding a scarf, brooch or an interesting piece of jewellery to an outfit. Women can also be a bit more fashionable and colourful with the handbag they wear. Avoid fussy, noisy, dangly jewellery as this might be too distracting to the interviewer.
5. What about tights at interview and open-toed sandals, any views on this?
I’d always advise wearing hosiery under trousers and skirts to an interview. It shows respect and adds formality to an outfit. Even on the hottest of days I’d advise it! Avoid open-toed shoes and sandals and avoid showing off too much flesh; wear a short-sleeved blouse rather than a sleeveless one. You want to be memorable for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones!The job hunt can be so stressful because it’s a really isolating experience for some of us. By regularly asking for help, advice and information from your network you can avoid feelings of isolation. Explain to family and friends how they can support you both practically and emotionally. If you’re looking for professional support, consider working with a good career guide who can help you land the job you want by going over career objectives and job search strategies with you.
This article is republished with the permission of www.thecareerfarm.com Regularly working with high calibre talent at top business schools in Europe and also corporations who want to help their employees proactively manage their career. The Career Farm is devoted to career development. You can sign up for a F.R.E.E. copy of our quick guide "Using Linkedin to maximise your network" at http://thecareerfarm.com/ or download 2 F.R.E.E chapters of the book co-authored by the founder Jane Barrett 'If not now when? how to take charge of your career.' at http://thecareerfarm.com/the-book/.