Within the first few seconds of meeting a new potential employee, interviewers have scanned your outfit, your facial expression and your body language and made a snap decision about you that may be more or less permanent. In other words, first impressions matter.
As you prepare for an important interview, you’ll have a lot to think about how you plan to answer certain questions, how to portray yourself in the best light and naturally, what to wear. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-chosen outfit. Those who look well groomed, comfortable and in control garner more respect in the workplace – and in interviews. Here’s how to dress for success.
Err on the side of more formal
You could always call the HR department ahead of time and enquire about appropriate dress, but if you’re unsure, it’s always better to dress more formal than more informal. This communicates that you take the job, your interviewers and yourself seriously. Naturally a three piece suit may be overkill, but show that you care and if you must, stand out because you look a little fancier than everyone else, not the other way around.
Be restrained with fragrance
There’s reason many workplaces have banned aftershave and perfume. You may think your signature scent is heavenly but strong smells can be too personal, even literally irritating to those with allergies. Wear freshly laundered clothes and at the most wear a lotion, but otherwise, it’s preferable to be sweet smelling without seeming like you’re headed to a nightclub after your interview is over.
Keep an eye on the details
As you chat, your interviewer’s eyes will notice small details about you. Make the right impression: have very clean fingernails (for women, too long and brightly painted will probably be perceived badly) and make sure your hair is clean and appropriately styled. Long or “big” hair can be distracting, as can chapped lips or dirty shoes.
Comfort is important
Don’t buy something new to wear to your interview and then get distracted by a garment that itches, pulls or scratches. Choose items that let you sit, stand and bend without worry that it’ll be too revealing, tight or uncomfortable. Choose something on the conservative side – you can always bring more of your own personal style to the table after you’re hired. Avoid towering heels, brand new shoes that pinch, jackets that bulge and pull when you sit or move your arms, flimsy blouses that wrinkle or flap, or neck ties that slowly cut off your circulation.
Use the power of colour
Depending on the job you are interviewing for, you might like to make use of the psychology of colour to subliminally communicate a particular image. Black can give you more authority but wear too much and you risk looking boring and overly conservative. Blues of all kinds are a standard choice and great for more technical positions. Red can be intimidating so use sparingly, and green and yellow will be perceived as friendlier but less authoritative. Generally, small touches of colour here and there are enough to let your own personality come through.
Ultimately, the ideal interview outfit should tick all the professional boxes but more or less fade into the background so that you can come into focus. You want your interviewer to pay attention to what you’re saying, not what you’re wearing, so be neat, clean and proper and avoid distracting outfits. Think of your clothing as a prop to support the image you’re trying to convey, then dress accordingly.