For all of us, regardless of how great or little interest we take in fashion and the clothes we wear there is certainly one occasion when we should actually stop and think about it, the interview! The first rule is that you must be smart, first impressions count and more so in an interview than at any other time. The adage, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ sadly doesn’t really apply here… At some point during your time at the company you hope to be working for, you will probably have to look smart, that is usually jacket or suit and tie for men and a smart skirt/trousers blouse and jacket for ladies. Based on this inevitable fact the interview panel will be wondering how you might turn out for a more formal meeting, sales call, presentation etc., so don’t keep then guessing and turn up ready for business. It also often feels good to look smart and brings a certain sense of positivity and presence to your arrival. Check out the company website to see if there is a page showing photos of the staff and senior team, what are they wearing? Look up your new boss on LinkedIn to see how they present themselves. Above all, feel comfortable and be true to yourself, if you pretend to be someone you are not it will show through. Here are some tips:
Dress for the role you want
Dress for the role you want, not the role you have now. If this is a role you are familiar with consider what you normally wear at work, then smarten up your look by one or two notches. For example, if you are a software engineer you might normally go to work in jeans and a smart shirt. However, at an interview, the jeans should be replaced with smarter trousers (which could mean cotton drill or chino trousers) and with a coordinated tie added. If you wear a tie, then be certain to fasten the top button of your shirt! If you are likely to meet clients in your new role, add a jacket. This is more casual than wearing a suit but will ‘dress up’ your look in an interview.
Give particular attention to your personal grooming: a good haircut or shave, neat and tidy make-up, clean teeth and fresh breath, and clean and manicured nails. Spending a little more time on personal grooming on the day of the interview will help you feel more confident, professional and relaxed.
Dress for the culture of the organisation
It is helpful if you can identify the culture of the organisation you are applying to. This will help you pitch yourself in the interview to the mindset of the people within the organisation.
Just a few days before your interview visit the offices of where you will work at around lunch-time. Observe staff going in and out of the office. How are they dressed? How do they seem to behave with each other? If it is a large organisation, you could visit the reception and ask for a marketing brochure to take away with you. How are you treated by the reception staff? What first impression do you get from the look and feel of the offices?
If you have previously worked for a large bureaucratic organisation with formal procedures and processes and are now applying for a job in a entrepreneurial organisation, you might need to change your dress code for a more individual, fast moving, goal-setting culture. In this case it would be best to dress for the interview with a few touches of individualism. This can be achieved easily by concentrating on the style and quality of accessories, briefcase, handbag and shoes, ensuring their colour coordination.
Dress for the interviewer
Just in the same way that you would when meeting a new client, consider who is interviewing you and what they are likely to be wearing in the interview. Dress to make them feel comfortable with your appearance. With the internet it is easy to do a little background research on your interviewer and see how they present themselves. Bear in mind the age of the interviewer; some older people do not feel respected if you are not wearing a suit or smartly dressed.
However, if you are going for a position in a sports and leisure company it is more likely that the interviewer will be wearing casually smart clothes. If either of you are feeling uncomfortable or on edge it is difficult to build up a good rapport and create a good first impression.
Dress to feel at ease
You can usually make a great first impression without losing your individuality. Yes, to make a good first impression you do need to ‘fit in’ to some degree. But it all goes back to being appropriate for the situation and expressing your individuality appropriately within the context of the job you are applying for.
When a decision has to be made about choosing between two suitably qualified applicants, the deciding factor may be influenced in part by the look and dress style of each of the short-listed applicants at the interview. An interviewer is likely to favour an applicant who is dressed in a way which reflects their own culture.
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