Dressing for Interview Success

by Claire Phelan Talent Resourcer -Sales and Marketing Division at Abrivia Recruitment

Does it really make a difference how you dress for an interview? In many cases, it does have an impact on your interview success.  The moment we set eyes on someone, our minds make evaluations and judgements with lightning speeds.

What you see is what you get
If a candidate can’t put himself/ herself together in a professional manner, why should you assume he/she can put it together on the job. 9 out of 10 employers will reject an unsuitably dressed applicant without a second thought. The respect you receive at interview is in direct proportion to the respect your visual image earns for you before you have the chance to say a word. Employers rarely make overt statements about acceptable dress codes to their employees, much less to interviewees; more often there is an unspoken dictum that those who wish to climb the professional career ladder will dress appropriately and those who don’t won’t.

Dressing sharp: Your interviewing advantage
Your appearance tells people how you feel about yourself as an applicant as well as how you feel about the interviewer(s), the company and the process of interviewing itself. By dressing professionally, you send a subtle ‘reinforcing’ message that you can., for example, be relied on to deal one-to-one with members of a company’s prized clients.

In addition, the correct image at an interview will give you a real edge over other candidates. Your overall appearance and presentation may leave a more tangible impression than the words you say, as memory is rooted more strongly in pictures and impressions. It is also important that your professional dress code matches your own personal style. You must feel comfortable and ‘be yourself’ in what you wear in order to project a confident image. Individuality, propriety and comfort can be nicely brought together in a good fitting, well made suit!

The look
The safest look for both men and women at interviews is traditional and conservative. In selecting a professional look, you must combine elements of both conformity (to show you belong) and panache (to show a measure of individuality and style).

The key is to dress for the position you want, not the one you have. This means that the upwardly mobile professional might need to invest in the clothes that project the desired image. Positions of responsibility are awarded to those who can demonstrate that they are capable of shouldering the burden. Looking capable will inspire others with the confidence to give you the most visible challenges.

The correct appearance alone will not get you the job offer but it will go a long way towards winning attention and respect. As previously stated, much of what we believe about others is based on our perception of their appearance. If you are dressed to impress, you will be perceived as practical, well mannered, competent, ethical and professional.

General Guidelines
Appropriate attire varies from industry to industry and most of us are far more adept at recognising the dress mistakes of others than spotting our own sartorial failings. When we look for a second opinion, we often make the mistake of asking only a loved one. It is not that spouses, partners and parents lack taste; these people are however, more in tune with our positive qualities than the rest of the world and so frequently, they do not recognise how essential it is to reflect those qualities in our dress. Better people for evaluation of your interview attire are trusted friends/ colleagues who have proved their objectivity in such matters.
For those of you who need a quick review of the basics, follow these guidelines for successful interview dress

Men and Women
• Conservative two-piece or three-piece business suit (solid dark blue or grey is best)
• Conservative long-sleeved shirt/blouse (white is best, pastel is next best)
• Clean, polished conservative shoes
• Well-groomed hairstyle
• Clean, trimmed fingernails
• Minimal cologne or perfume
• Empty pockets—no bulges or tinkling coins
• No gum, candy, or cigarettes
• Light briefcase or portfolio case
• No visible body piercing (nose rings, eyebrow rings, etc.) or tattoos

If you are still not sure how to dress for interview, call and ask! For example, if you are an engineer applying for a job at a high tech company, a blue three piece suit might be over powering. It is perfectly acceptable to ask someone in HR about the dress code of the company. You might be comfortable showing up for work in a jacket or blazer; nevertheless, it is advised you wear a suit for at least the first interview.
You may simply decide to change you look somewhat after learning that there is a more informal atmosphere with regard to dress at the company. If you are told that everyone works in short-sleeves and that there is never a tie in sight, a prudent and completely acceptable solution is to opt for your less formal suit, rather than dark blues, greys or pinstripes.

One final note on interview dress: while it goes without saying that your interview clothes should be neat and clean, very few interviewees give the same time and attention to their shoes. Shoes? Yes, shoes! I am one of those Recruiters who forms first impressions based solely (pardon the pun) on shoes. I will admit that I subjectively judge that those who pay attention to details like shoes are also likely to be diligent in their work life. And it is not just my own personal opinion. Many have said that you can judge a person by their shoes. You will find that many ex-military officers (many of whom have found their way into management positions in big corporations) are especially aware of a person’s shoes. It is not enough to be clean and pressed. Make sure your shoes are conservative, clean, and polished!

In conclusion, success in interviewing involves being fully prepared- both in attire and knowledge. But it is also more than that—you must stand out in a world of plain vanilla job candidates. It is only by differentiating yourself that you can lick your competition. Dress to impress and know your stuff!

Categories: Recruitment

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