Your CV or LinkedIn page may have caught the eye of an HR professional, but nothing makes a first impression like your appearance at an interview.
The way you dress for an interview doesn’t just showcase your sense of style; it demonstrates your professionalism, self-care, confidence and your ability to ‘fit’ into an organization.
No pressure, right?
The fact is, while that might seem like a lot to ascertain from an outfit, employers do place an enormous amount of importance on your appearance. A survey conducted by TheLadders revealed interesting facts about the way hiring managers think. It showed that of all the male and female executives interviewed, almost 40% had decided against a candidate on account of their dress in the interview. And according to Cosmopolitan magazine, a new UK study of 2,000 bosses revealed that women simply wearing a fitted top to an interview – even a turtleneck – can be deemed ‘unprofessional’.
It may seem like a lot of pressure, but there are some certain guidelines to follow that generally ensure success. So, how to you get it just right?
Interview Attire – Do’s and Dont’s
Keeping it simple is a safe bet.
Opt for a suit in solid, professional colours such as navy, black or grey. Respondents in TheLadders survey showed that 36% of hiring managers believed colour coordination revealed a lot about a candidate’s personality. Once you’re hired, you may become for comfortable adjusting to the in-house style, but even if everyone in the office is wearing jeans on a casual Friday, you should still arrive to your interview dressed for business. 75% of hiring managers asked wanted candidates to arrive in clothing appropriate for the circumstances.
Personal hygiene is another factor that goes with your overall appearance. Cleanliness is next to Godliness -and employment! Nails and hands should be clean, so that means trimmed, clean nails for that all-important first handshake. If you colour your hair, you should always ensure the roots are touched up and your overall hairstyle is neat and presentable.
Finishing touches are important, too. Accessorise with a belt, tie, and a clean carrying case such as a briefcase, portfolio or smart handbag. Jewellery should be minimal, with no dangling earrings and no facial piercings worn to the interview.
33% of hiring managers considered the style of the candidate on account of how it “suited” the organization. This can be a tough call to make – the last thing you want to do is show up in a pair of jeans with no tie because the organization champions a ‘cool’ vibe only to be met with criticism. Doing some research into the company before the interview will help guide you towards an outfit choice. But whatever you choose, there are some interview attire no-no’s that are universal across all industries.
Don’t go overboard with anything – jewellery, make-up, perfume or aftershave. You want to leave the interview with the hiring manager thinking about you, not your Chanel No. 5. Steer away from things that are too ostentatious when it comes to your overall look, and that includes colours. Even for women, shades such as red and pink are generally met with disapproval by HR personnel. In fact, TheLadders survey revealed that the majority of executives felt orange was the worst colour to wear to an interview, with 95% agreeing that it felt unacceptable (red followed at 84%, and pink at 83%). Wearing bold colours may work once you’re hired, depending on the corporate culture, but should be avoided at interviews at all costs.
Jeans should also be avoided like the plague! Even if the work environment doesn’t call for suits, showing up to an interview in jeans shows a lack of common courtesy. Choosing a stylish suit or long skirt (it should cover your thighs when you sit) is the best way to avoid appearing uneducated and disrespectful. Ladies, don’t go bare legged. An overwhelming number of managers agree that tights should be worn to an interview. Gentleman, black socks are essential to avoid a Michael Jackson-esque faux pas, and should be mid-calf length to avoid showing skin when you sit.
Your outfit should appear clean and fresh. As much as you may love Fido, showing up to an interview covered in dog hair won’t earn you any favours. Broken zips, deodorant marks or food stains will all stand out to an interviewer. The survey results showed that stains or dirt marks on a candidates clothing turned 59% of executives off.
Finally, don’t neglect the details. A ladder in your tights, a missing button – these little things won’t go unnoticed in an interview. By arriving early, you can give yourself a couple of minutes in the washroom to go over every little detail to ensure you make the stellar first impression you want.