3 Tips for Dressing for an Interview

Thursday, December 4, 2014 /

Four candidates competing for one position. Having CV in his hand

It’s the perfect role and you want it. You’ve prepared by researching the organisation, practiced interview questions, you’ve even worked out the commute time and where you’ll be able to get your morning coffee. You want to make a great impression but have you decided what to wear yet?

Think it doesn’t matter? Wrong. In those first few moments of meeting someone the interviewer or panel are immediately forming opinions on you based on what they see (your appearance and body language), what they hear (the tone of your voice) and finally what you say. Based on these factors they are judging whether you are suitable for the role, assessing if you can do the job and will you fit into the organisation.

With so much riding on those first few moments it is important to nail your personal presentation – so how do you get it right?

1. Understand the dress code

The dress code – there is one. Written or unwritten there are guidelines as to what is acceptable and what is not for each industry, organisation, position and client group.

No wonder it can be tricky to navigate the dos and don’ts. If in doubt, it is always better to dress up than down.

Here are some handy hints:

  • Look at your industry, if you work in one such as finance, law, or medicine accepted dress standards are more conservative. There is an expectation of smart tailored attire and a polished finish, usually a suit. At a minimum – smart business is required.
  • If you work in a creative industry it is expected that you will dress with some flair, incorporate current trends and use interesting colours, textures and patterns.
  • If you work in a people focussed industry such as health, education or not for profit it is expected that your clothing is practical, comfortable and modest.

You may be looking at roles in various sectors so remember that you may need to modify your look to ensure that you mirror the organisations dress code. For example if you work in PR and apply for a position with a financial institution your interview outfit would be quite conservative compared to what you would wear to an interview with a fashion retailer.

2. Eliminate the image breakers

An image breaker is something that in your eyes diminishes a person’s character. Sounds harsh doesn’t it? Image breakers impact on the impression that we make on others, especially the first impression. Unfortunately, we are wired to judge others based on their appearance, body language and tone of voice.

The aim in eliminating image breakers is to take away those superficial distractions. So that others see the image that you wish to project and focus on what you have to offer.

It is important to point out that image breakers don’t have anything to do with personal attractiveness, but rather attention to detail, grooming and behaviours. The list is endless (remember we are aiming to be the least offensive to the most number of people) and includes things like poor posture, ill fitting clothes, or underwear on show. For more see Top 10 Image Breakers.

3. Remember the finishing touches

I have seen many a great outfit let down by scruffy shoes, untidy hair or poor personal hygiene. It’s not enough to have a great outfit you need to look at the whole picture from head to toe, front and back. Invest in good quality accessories such as shoes and bags and ensure that you are well groomed.

A great first impression is important but so are continuing and lasting impressions. Always present the best version of yourself.


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