A lot of job-hunting advice emphasizes the need to dress for success. When you’re interviewing for a job, first impressions are critical. You’re marketing yourself to a potential employer and the first thing they see is your clothing.
Of course, just dressing properly won’t get you the job, but it will give you a competitive edge and create a positive first impression.
Once upon a time, a business suit was the only acceptable option to wear to a job interview. However, over the years, as a society we’ve become a lot less conservative as far as dress code is concerned. Certain industries (e.g. banking or legal) still require employees to dress conservatively, but many other industries have a very casual dress code and it is not uncommon to find employees wearing shorts or flip-flops to work. You probably don't need to wear a suit and tie to a job interview at a company with a relaxed dress code, but that doesn't mean you should be wearing trainers or flip-flops either.
How should you dress for a job interview?
What dressing for success will mean for you will depends on the industry to work in. You’ll be dressing differently to interview in the advertising industry than you would for an interview in the financial services sector. It’s best to find out about the dress code (you can ask your recruiter or HR) prior to the interview, so that you fit in with the organization.
You should also make sure you have at least two professional interview outfits. You’ll need more than that if you get the job but depending on your current financial situation, two is enough to get through the interview process. You can buy more once you have the job or have more financial resources.
Expert Tips for Looking the Part at a Job Interview
- Dress for the industry. You won't wear the same outfit to a job interview at an ad agency as you would a law office.
- Wear something that makes you feel comfortable; discomfort will show during your job interview
- Have clean and trimmed fingernails
- Use minimal cologne or perfume
- Be sure to have fresh breath
- Take care not to have body odor
- Never interview with gum or candy in your mouth
Dress for Success: Women
- For a job interview in most industries, a classic power pantsuit or skirt suit or a work dress are always strong choices.
- Wear something you feel comfortable in - if you never wear suits, don’t wear one to the job interview as if you don’t feel confident in your outfit, it will show.
- It goes without saying that the skirt shouldn’t be too short and you shouldn’t show too much cleavage. It’s absolutely fine to show off your personality through what you’re wearing, as long as you’re not wearing a fluorescent pink mini skirt! Stick to business-professional looks.
What dressing for success will mean for you will depends on the industry to work in. You’ll be dressing differently to interview in the advertising industry than you would for an interview in the financial services sector.
Dress for Success: Men
- If you need to dress formally, you can’t go wrong wearing a gray or navy two-piece business suit, a shirt and a silk tie that matches the colors in your suit.
- If the company is a bit more informal, you could wear smart dark jeans or dark trousers and a jacket.
- Your belt should always match your shoes.
- Avoid garish patterns on ties that can distract an interviewer.
Dress for Success: Accessories
- Keep jewelry minimal – either wear small delicate pieces or wear one larger piece, such as a statement necklace, but nothing else.
- When it comes to shoes for women, make sure they are comfortable and that you can walk. If you’re wearing heels, the safest bet is closed-toe pumps. Make sure your shoes are polished.
- Men’s shoes should be brown or black. Avoid mixing black shoes and a brown suit and vice versa.
Dress for Success: Hair & Makeup
- Well-groomed hair is important. Before your interview, check that your hair is combed properly.
- Don’t use too much makeup. Subtle makeup that enhances your features is best here.
Dress for Success: Final tips
- Be aware of your posture and body language. Good posture and a solid handshake is important, as is making eye contact and smiling.
- It’s important to dress appropriately. Taking care with your appearance shows that you’re taking the opportunity seriously and that you’re eager to make a good impression. Think about what you’re going to wear to the interview the day before so that you have time to make sure everything is clean and pressed.
- Get everything ready the night before. Lay out your clothes and accessories so that there is no last-minute panic about your outfit. You want to feel great when you meet your potential new employer and looking good is a big part of that!