What to wear to a job interview – 5 experts weigh in
If you have a job interview coming up, it’s important that you look your best. But what does “looking your best” really mean? Should you always plan to wear a suit, even if you feel itchy, uncomfortable and “not like yourself” when you wear one? Are there other options out there?
Of course, dressing for the role you are planning on taking is imperative. Working as a retail assistant on a busy shop floor will require a different look to a corporate role where you will be meeting with business clients face-to-face. However, no matter the role you’re going for, there are a few hard and fast rules that apply when going for your interview.
Here Employers Connect spoke with 5 experts on the topic to identify exactly what you should and shouldn’t wear to your job interview. This post was originally published on Employers Connect Blog.
Nicole Williams is a Career Expert from social corporate networking site, LinkedIn. She is also a bestselling author of Girl on Top
According to Nicole, “at a job interview, your attire makes a statement about yourself before you even open your mouth, so a scuffed shoe, a messy bag, or a low cut shirt can speak volumes.” She suggests that you need to wear what she calls your “power outfit”.
We all have these little gems in our closets, whether we are male or female. They’re the clothes that instantly make you feel good about yourself. “Do you have a favourite skirt that always makes you feel great when you wear it? Why not pair that with a blazer?”
Nicole insists that “it’s okay to show off your personality, as long as you aren’t wearing a lime green mini skirt. Stick to business-professional looks.” Showing a bit of your personality can be a good thing, just make sure you do this in moderation, say, by including a unique piece of jewellery, cool watch or accessory.
Chris Smith is Chief Executive Officer at corporate website MyJobMatcher.com.
In his time as CEO and before, Chris says that he has seen quite a few mistakes from both men and women who show up for their first interviews. “Women have the choice of trousers or skirt,” he points out and suggests that ladies can’t go wrong with black. “Navy, brown and, in the summer, a lighter plain colour are also perfectly fine. Patterns should be avoided,” he suggests.
But what about men? Chris says, “Men should wear dark, sober colours and cotton wins over linen, even in the summer.” And he also points out that they should not skip on the little details, such as footwear. “Shoes should be brown or black. Avoid mixing black and brown and always go for leather, not suede.”
By sticking to a few simple rules, he says, you’ll allow the interviewer to focus on you and your skills, not being distracted by a patterned shirt or a really scuffed pair of shoes and dirty fingernails. It’s sometimes the little details that count.
Andy Teach is the author of From Graduation to Corporation. He also hosts YouTube’s FromGradToCorp.
Andy is a bit younger that the rest of our experts and he specifically advises school and college/university leavers to really think about their appearance and image to get ahead in the corporate sector.
“If you watch old television shows and movies from the 1950s, men wore suits and ties and women wore nice dresses pretty much everywhere,” he points out. So is he suggesting a return to the past?
“Over the years, our society has become less conservative when it comes to dress code,” he says, so there is no need to look as formal as people did in times past. “Certain industries still require dressing conservatively,” he points out, “but others have a more collegiate atmosphere and it’s not unusual to find employees wearing shorts, T-shirts, and thongs to work.”
So what should people wear to an interview where they are being scrutinised for the first time? Andy says that male or female, you can probably get away with not wearing a suit these days. “You probably don’t need to wear a suit and tie to a job interview at a laid back company, but that doesn’t mean you should dress too casually, either.” Go for something that is comfortable, but still formal enough to look polished.
Diane Gottsman is an etiquette and modern manners expert. She also owns and runs The Protocol School.
Coming from a very different background, this expert has a more classical approach to dressing for success. “A dark, two-piece, grey, navy or black suit is your best option when interviewing with a conservative company,” she says. But what if you’re going for a role somewhere more casual such as a tech company, start-up or hospitality job?
“If the company or industry is known for its casual work environment, such as a laid back tech company, you may choose to tailor down your look without looking unkempt,” Diane says. However, make sure that your look is always neat and tidy, and that you look like you have made a bit of special effort to present as your “best” self.
Like our other experts, Diane mentions that the little details make a huge difference. “Shoes (are important). A mid heel, closed-toe pump is a safe choice,” for women she says. “Regardless of the current shoe trends, your shoe selection for a job interview should be professional and understated.” This also applies to men.
Lisa Johnson Mandell work with AOL Jobs, a career advice website.
Providing a new take on a classic subject, Lisa suggests that the colours you choose to wear to your interview can make a big impact. So what colour does this career expert recommend?
According to a recent study by CareerBuilder, blue was the most highly suggested colour recommended by professionals who were in hiring roles. 23 per cent of people responded that they actually preferred blue to any other colour. “Shades of blue send the message that you’re credible and trustworthy” according to the CareerBuilder experts.
Lisa says that, “Studies show that navy blue is the best colour for a suit to wear to a job interview, because it inspires confidence,” so stock up on this shade whether you’re a man or woman. “You are more likely to get the job when you wear navy blue to an interview than any other colour,” this expert says.