“So you’ve scored an interview – but what should you wear..?”

What to wear? What not to wear? Are bright colours okay or should I stick to dark? What about creative companies??? And the list goes on in terms of questions I regularly receive regarding “What to wear to interviews?”

My answer has always been very simple “It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed for interviews, you need to look smart and show your prospective employer that you are ready for business….however, you always want to show some of your personality”

I’m sure you are saying “What the hell does that mean?!”

Let’s break it down to a couple of key bullet points…

  • Irrespective of what type of company, corporate or creative, CBD based, out in the sticks, large or small….an interview is an interview. End of story. It’s not a gossip catch up with the girls where jeans, thongs and t-shirt is okay. It’s your first chance to impress someone. Would you go on a date with a hot guy or girl that you REALLLLYYYYY like looking like you’d just been pulled through the bush backwards? Of course not, you would spend all day agonising over your outfit, how to wear it, how to do your hair, you’d shower, make yourself smell nice rada rada.
  • Well an interview is probably nowhere near as exciting as a hot date (unfortunately!) however, it is still the time for you to show a prospective employer what you are made of and as clichéd as it sounds “FIRST IMPRESSIONS LAST”.
  • It DOES matter if  you iron your shirt, it DOES matter if your shoes are scuffed and it DEFINITELY DOES matter if you turn up to an interview looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed with no make-up on and your hair all over the place.
  • Ask yourself as you walk out the door ‘If I was in a position to hire a new employee, would I hire ME???.
  • Not to be too harsh about this but staff are the single biggest risk and cost to businesses in Australia. Australian salaries are high compared to other countries and on top of that companies are required by law to make super contributions, pay workers compensation as well as payroll tax to the government – in short, staff are a major cost to companies so don’t act surprised when they say they want to hire THE BEST OF THE BEST! If you don’t look the part, if you can’t make an effort (and I mean a real effort) they why should they make an effort to hire you?!

So again what does this all mean in terms of your dress and appearance for interviews…

  • For girls nothing beats a dress with a jacket or a straight pencil skirt, modern shirt and top with jacket as well as heels and some tasteful jewellery. None of this needs to cost a fortune. You can buy one great black dress (try to buy it in wool, it will breathe and also last longer) and change the look with different coloured shirts underneath, different coloured belts, even coloured shoes. You also don’t have to wear a black jacket, something with a bit of colour is fine as long as it’s not too loud (avoid neon’s for 1st interview).
  • You can jazz it up a bit with coloured necklaces or a groovy bangle but don’t go overboard.  A bit of colour is fine, too much and you’ll look overdone.
  • For boys, if it is a very corporate company then I would suggest a suit. Pants, matching jacket, tidy shirt and possibly a tie. Even you don’t wear the tie but you have the other things on you’ll still show them that you are there for business. For less corporate you should still make the effort to wear dress pants (not jeans, no matter what they cost, what brand they are, how good they make you look) and a well ironed shirt.
  • For both guys and girls the following applies:
    • Get a haircut if you need it or for girls, pull your hair back and ensure it is tidy. This is not the time to be showing off your creative new birds nest teased creation with coloured bow clips. Keep it simple.
    • Shoes – make sure they are clean, if you have heels that are scuffed then buy a new pair and try to keep them for interviews or important meetings. Use your old ones to do the leg work to get you around (or even better, wear ballet flats) and pop your new ones on just before you walk in. If you can’t afford a new pair ask a friend to borrow a pair and tell them you’ll shout them a movie once you are offered a new job.
    • Make up (for girls)….sorry girls but it’s a must, it really is. You don’t need much and less is always best but wearing none can make you look washed out…don’t you want to look your best?? Especially for a first meeting. Strive to be the best you can me, you want to be remembered. A bit of foundation or even a wipe of face powder, slick of lipgloss and a quick brush of blush will at least brighten you up.
    • Shopping bags – don’t take them. If you must, state the point as soon as you arrive that you are very sorry you have shopping bags, it was just due to timing and circumstance that you couldn’t drop them off somewhere first etc etc.
    • If it’s freezing cold outside and you are wearing a large overcoat, take it off when you arrive. Sitting in a bulky overcoat not only looks uncomfortable but chances are you will get hot and you don’t want to have to be interrupting the interview to take it off midway through.
    • Rings on your fingers (excluding wedding rings of course!) keep them to a minimum eg. one or two, you don’t need one on every finger, it just looks messy. Interviewers look at your hands a lot, so on that point make sure your nails are tidy as well (e.g. no chipped nail polish).
    • Earrings – keep them to one in each ear (small studs, avoid anything that jangles, dangle or is distracting for the interview).
    • Piercings – take them out (YES, I MEAN IT!) Some clients are ok about them, others are not. Don’t run the risk of putting a client off in the first 30 seconds they meet you by wearing facial studs. I can’t tell you how many people I have interviewed where I ask if they would take them out and they say “of course, I’d never wear it to an interview’…It always amazes me (so an interview with an agency is not an interview??) You need to impress us too! Every single meeting you have with anyone to do with your career is your chance to build a positive and lasting first impression. Always remember that.
    • It is absolutely fine to wear the same outfit to 1st and 2nd interview, do not freak out about that. No client in my entire career has ever come back to me and said “we really like the candidate however, we did notice she had the same outfit on’. Never! They only notice that you made an effort and looked smart.

One a final note, please remember that interviews are your chance to build a lasting impression on someone and the truth is a vast majority of opinions are formed about someone in the first 10 seconds…because of how you look. Before anyone goes off at me and says ‘so you have to be pretty, you have to be thin’….that is absolutely NOT the case. You have to present yourself the BEST way you can. Dress well, dress appropriately, do your hair, do your make up, iron, carry a handbag not a plastic shopping bag and smile! THEN after that comes your performance in an interview….to be discuss in our next blog.

It’s sad but I have had clients reject candidates on presentation….deemed as discrimination? Sure is…but the cold hard truth is that it happens. So don’t allow it happen to you and rise above the rest – present yourself the best you can, not just for interviews but for every single interaction you have with people…… and see how positive that can make you feel.