What to Wear to that All-important Interview?
While an interviewer has reviewed your application and made their decision to grant you an interview based upon your qualification, how they interpret your appearance in the first few seconds of seeing you will most likely determine whether or not your get the position. They will pass judgment on whether you are the right person based on their reaction to how you walk, your handshake, how you sit and most importantly, how you are dressed.
Deciding what to wear to that all-important interview can be nerve wracking, but there are some basic rules that will make it easier. The rules are different for men and women, as gender fashions have their own catalogues. Of course, there are times when the rules are meant to be broken.
The Rules are Easier for Men
Men have a remarkably limited choice for interview apparel, and that makes the whole process easier for them. The things to be mindful of are that the weight of the suit is appropriate to the season, socks and ties are complementary and neutral, shoes are traditional and the colour of the suit is sedate. Stay with dark colours that compliment your skin tone and carry as little as possible in your pockets to preserve the lines of the suit.
Never (ever) add a “fun” tie or socks that draw attention to themselves; save that for an office party. Also, pay close attention to the weather and make sure you have appropriate outerwear. Don’t show up in Saville Row with a down parka over the top. The overall image you want to project is one of cleanliness, competence and reliability.
The Woman’s Dress Code
For a woman to choose an appropriate outfit is akin to preparing to go into war. You want to be prepared, adequately covered and yet able to move freely. The colours should remain neutral but tend toward the strong and dark. Beiges and whites should be avoided as they are bland and will show stains that you will never know are there until after an interview. Make sure to minimise emphasis to the breast area and believe it or not, mind the ankles. Stiletto heels and ankle bracelets will draw too much attention to that area of the body.
A moderate heel is best so you can be as comfortable as possible. Another difficult area for a woman to handle in preparing for an interview is what handbag to carry. Try to avoid a large handbag, briefcase and other cases that make it appear more as if you are leaving on holiday than dropping by for an hour to explain your qualifications. Less is always more; you want to project efficiency and organisation.
Hair, Makeup and Accessories
Clean but not extreme should become your mantra when styling your hair and choosing accessories for both men and women preparing for that all-important interview. If your hair is long, pull it back or otherwise restrain it to make it neat and allow it to form lines to frame your face.
Accessories should quietly complement an outfit while maintaining just a hint of personal flair. An interesting watch or bracelet with a slightly unusual flavour can be a way to invite questions in an interview. The accessories you choose should never overwhelm the outfit and be mindful that they do not clank, jingle or cause unnecessary distraction.
When to Bend the Rules
The old saying is that rules are meant to be broken, but knowing when to do that is yet another rule. Men and women both make the mistake of thinking that breaking the rules exudes confidence and the ability to be innovative. Done at the wrong time, the only message you send is your ability not to do what is needed in the moment and to be inappropriate. Done at the right time, you can become the candidate that projects competence, independence and diplomacy.
When is the right time?
When you are interviewing for a position in an industry that has a slightly different sense of the normal when it comes to business attire, like the fashion sector or music business, make sure that your attire matches the function of the position. A personal assistant can either need to represent a reliable business capability for a wild personality, or the PA is meant to be an extension of the innovative, out of the box style of approach of an agent. When in doubt, check the media images of people who have been in the position before you for a hint as to how far rules can be bent.