When you are applying for a job, first impressions are always critical. Interviewers and hiring managers will ultimately make assumptions based on your overall appearance, because they really don’t know anything about you except what they have read in your CV or resume. Everything from clothes to make-up to body language contributes to an interviewer’s first impression of you. Thus, it is extremely important to carefully plan what to wear to a job interview and to make sure you will be comfortable wearing it. You do not want to seem skittish and fidgety on the big day. Your interviewer might think you’re hiding something and cannot be trusted when, actually, your dress pants simply feel too tight, or your sweater is scratchy.
Here are some tips on what to wear to a job interview so you can ace that first impression. We have also included a few style ideas to get you started on planning your winning interview outfit too!
Dress for Success
Your clothes will directly influence the outcome of that job interview. The moment you enter the room, you have to be the epitome of confidence. When you are sitting in that chair facing your interviewers, you have to show them that you are exactly where you want to be. The expression “first impressions last” may not ring true all the time, but it can certainly be difficult to get past a bad first impression. In this situation, it can spell the difference between making the cut and getting the thumbs-down. You have to make the interviewer or hiring manager believe that you are a perfect fit for the job even before the interview begins, and wearing the right clothes will help you achieve this right from the get-go.
This does not necessarily mean that you must pull out the stops and buy yourself a pricey power suit. An outfit does not need to be expensive for you to be able to wear it with confidence.
Some things to remember:
- Dress conservatively. Your clothes must not only exude confidence, but also dependability. You can’t go to a job interview looking all dressed up for a party.Skirts and dresses for women on a job interview should never fall above the knee. Also make sure that your clothes are comfortable so that you don’t run into wardrobe emergencies or fidget too much during the interview.
- Choose neutral colors.Bright colors or “noisy” prints will only serve to distract the interviewer. Dark blues and blacks, neutral grays, earth browns and simple whites are your safest bets.
- Don’t wear too much perfume. This is one case where less is more. In some situations, particularly when applying for a job at a company with a formal culture like finance or law firms, wearing no perfume at all is recommended. Strong scents will distract interviewers, and you never know if one of them might have allergies or aversions to certain scents. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Avoid the flashy jewelry. This is not the time to show off your bling. Avoid large, sparkly jewelry that tend to reflect the light and divert your interviewer’s attention. A classy statement necklace is usually enough to liven up your outfit so that it doesn’t look too drab from all the muted colors.
Keep the focus on you and not your baubles. Simple stud earrings, a classic watch or demure bangle and a statement necklace will do, but be careful that they don’t clash with each other. If you’re already wearing the necklace, it’s probably safer to take off the bangle and leave your wrists free.
Match the Company’s Style
We are no longer in the age where getting the job means having to show up for your interview in a business suit. In fact, wearing a business suit might even be the reason you don’t get the job! The keyword here is culture. Different types of companies have various internal cultures, not to mention an image that they want to project to the public. We cannot stress this enough: it is important to know the company you are applying to and the details of the role you’re interviewing for. Don’t just stop at the general information like who they are and what they do. Find out what their culture is. Ask about the dress code, if you can. This can be as simple as asking their HR contact, or looking up their Facebook page or official website. If that is not an option, you could also tap into your network of friends—who knows, a friend of a friend might be working there or know someone working there. This is recommended since some companies may have different dress codes depending on the department; for instance, customer-facing departments may require business formal attire while IT departments prefer a more laid-back style. Once you get that information, plan to dress accordingly.What to wear to a job interview will vary depending on what type of company it is, and the first step to making a good impression is to match their preferred image. If you’re dressed to fit the company’s culture, you’ll look like you belong there. This will work immensely towards influencing your interviewer that you are the right candidate for the job!
Here are a few style ideas on what to wear to a job interview based on the company:
- The Fashion Icon
If the job is at a fashion company, you have some leeway when it comes to styling up your look. Don’t be too trendy or it will seem like you’re trying too hard. You are not applying to be a fashion model (that would be a totally different scenario) so don’t dress too much like you’re ready to walk down the runway. Brand image is important here, so do your homework and dress to fit the brand and the role, whether you’re applying as a stylist, assistant or sales representative. In this example, the skinny denims and blouse keep the look casual, while the classic belt and light jacket add just a slight touch of formality to pull off the smart casual style. The length of the jacket is just enough to be midway between formal and casual. The one obvious trendy item is the shoes, but the color perfectly complements the blazer. The dangling earrings are suitable for a fashion job, but are still understated enough to be conservative. The pouch and the high ponytail complete the fashionable image.
- The Finance Consultant
Roles in banking, insurance, stocks and other finance jobs usually require a business formal or business professional dress code. This is when you’ll need a suit for your job interview. In such cases, your safest bet is to go with a black, long-sleeved blazer over a white button-down shirt and black slacks. This should be worn with closed shoes—black pumps are recommended, with heels no higher than 2-3 inches. In terms of accessories, stud earrings are best. Finish off with a simple watch and pulled-back hair for a sleek, clean look.
- The Corporate Lady
This look is just a slight step below #2, suitable for corporate jobs in marketing, sales and even law firms. The lady in this example is still wearing a full suit, but she opts for a neutral gray shade and a white blouse instead of a button-down. Instead of slacks, she pairs a skirt with her blazer. A statement necklace brightens up the look a bit so that it doesn’t come off as too strict.
- The Art Professional
Creative companies tend to have a more casual environment, so don’t be afraid to add some color and personality to your interview outfit. Just don’t overdo it! Bringing your individuality into the mix can be a plus point when interviewing for a creative job, but too much personality can overwhelm the atmosphere and cause your interviewer to lose focus.
In this example, a styled button-down shirt with a subtle print and a statement necklace show just a hint of personality without being too casual. You can pair something like this with a neutral skirt or slacks and you’re good to go. Remember to go easy on the accessories!
- The Laid-Back Techie
When it comes to dress code, techs and startups have the most casual styles of them all. This doesn’t mean you can show up for an interview in a funky shirt and faded denims. You must indicate that you are serious about wanting the job, so keep to the basics while dressing comfortably.
Take this image, for example. She is wearing a pair of black leggings, but keeps it conservative with a sweater that hangs all the way down to mid-thigh. The hem peeking out from under it suggests she is wearing a skirt or a one-piece dress that’s the same length as the sweater. She barely has any accessories except for a printed scarf which, together with the pink/beige color of the sweater, retains an overall casual vibe. A pair of black, heeled boots complete the outfit.
We hope this handy guide on what to wear to a job interview helps you land that dream job. Just remember the basic tips and be confident!