Like it or not, first impressions count. People take a while to change their first impressions, if they ever do. But an interview is short. So your first few seconds, before the conversation gives you a chance to let your personality shine through, are entirely about how you look. Here’s how to get onto the front foot, so people think well of you, before anything is said.
Dress to the code
Every organisation has some kind of dress code, however loose and variable. Often there are different expectations for different jobs. If you can, check the organisation out in advance. Otherwise, you’re going to have to guess based on the position. Looking at the organisation’s website and promotional material may help.
Dress to the code. If it’s a bank it’s probably going to be conservative. If it’s a tech start up the code may emphasise individual style. Dress so you fit.
Dress to the top of the dress code – or just above it
Within the code there will people who take care with their appearance and people who just throw it together. For an interview, dress to the absolute top of the dress code for that position, or even a little above it.
They don’t want to hire someone average for the position, they want to hire the best. Look the best.
If you’re not sure, err up: you are not going to be personalised for dressing a little above the position. Maybe they want someone with the potential to grow beyond the role they are hiring and above the role will suggest your ambitions.
Beware when you are told not to worry about dressing up or that “just casual” or “as you are” will do. This is always bad advice.
They want someone who knows how to dress for the job, but they want their main focus to be the job – not their clothes. Style, not fuss.
So, simplify. Fewer items.
Your clothes should be practical, they should suggest you are ready to roll up your sleeves and get into it. If they say in the interview “If we hire you, when can you start” you want to be able to answer, “Right now” and look like you mean it.
You’ll probably be interviewed by a panel who will interview several people. It’s easy for them to get confused. So, while fitting in, you want one memorable item that will be noticed by your audience.
Often interviewers will help you with this; they are looking for ice-breaker openers and will often comment on some aspect of your appearance, eg “That’s an interesting brochure” or “I like that tie/bag/scarf…”
Without going over the top, aim for one item that stands out visually, that you can give a bit of a story to.
“The brooch was my grandmother’s, she was the first woman in our family to have a career and I always admired her for that.” So you’ve not only made yourself memorable, you’ve told them something about your attitudes and your family background – all before the interview gets formally started.
Comfort and confidence
More important than your actual clothes is the personal style they support.
You must be comfortable in what you are wearing and you must be confident in how you look, so you can focus on the interview without worrying about your appearance.
Be confident in your style and that will show through. People will tend to like you and judge you to be competent. And in most hires, that will count at least as much as the words in your CV.