Got an interview coming up and wondering what to wear? You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so get it right by following our style tips, courtesy of Joy Venner on behalf of ASOS UK.
The prospect of an interview, especially if it is your first, is daunting. It is important to prepare as much as possible. This means researching and reading up on the industry, the company and the role that you’re going for. You may have heard the phrase, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” and nowhere is this more true than a job interview. How you look may seem a minor point compared to what you say and how you say it, but personal appearance can influence the outcome – positive or negative – of the interview. An invitation to interview is unlikely to include dress code (assessment centres which include an overnight stay, may be the exception) but if in doubt, always err towards a smart rather than a casual look.
Depending on the sector or industry, interviewers may emphasise and prioritise different qualities in interview candidates. There is probably less variation in preferred interview attire, but there are some subtle differences and the following suggestions offer some guidance to help you ‘dress for success’.
When going for an interview in the finance industry it is advisable to wear a conservative outfit. Go for dark tones – charcoal grey, black or blue. A suit is advisable for both men and women, preferably a skirted suit for women – although a well cut trouser suit is probably acceptable. Light touches of colour such as a tie or earrings are ok, but make ‘subtle’ your watchword. It’s always best to play safe and avoid anything bright or flamboyant for an initial interview. These industries look for smart professionals – make every effort to be perfectly presented reflecting how seriously you take the role.
Appearance matters in this industry. Law is conservative like accounting and finance. It is not acceptable to attend the interview in casual attire. Again, for women, chose conservative shades of blue, grey or black. A smart dress or skirted suit is formally the rule although a smart trouser suit may be acceptable. Skirts should fall below the knee and be worn with a blouse or smart top and blazer. Keep jewellery very simple – small pearl earrings or stud. The same applies for other accessories, including shoes. For men a suit is preferable. Smart trousers, shirt and a tie would be acceptable, but keep to darker shades. Never wear casual shoes, novelty socks/ties or overt accessories.
Media & creative industries
Don’t make the assumption that because you’re applying for a more creative role, that it’s acceptable to be equally creative with your interview clothes. Yes, you are there to sell your creativity but you do this through your ideas, not your clothing. You still need to impress on a professional level so avoid anything that screams casual or hip. Although this industry is not as conservative as law or finance aim to impress with professional, smart trousers and a shirt, a skirt or a smart dress. You can probably afford to take a few more risks and inject some colour – perhaps with a brighter coloured shirt for women, or a snappier tie for men. Think ‘traditional with a twist’…but with the greater emphasis on traditional.
Your appearance is important and you should aim to look sharp and professional. Remember, the interviewers need to be able to visualise you representing the school so the impression you make is vital. It doesn’t have to be a suit but trousers and shirt (and probably a tie for men) or skirt and shirt combination would be best. Again, smart shoes, hair and accessories are essential.
At the assessment centre
If you are going to an assessment centre that includes dinner and an overnight stay, the dress code for the evening event is likely to be ‘smart-casual’. This is notoriously difficult to get right and is open to interpretation but it certainly isn’t an invitation to reveal your inner fashionista. I think a safe bet would be ‘separates’ for men: normal (not ‘suit’) trousers with a less formal shirt, but probably still a tie – if in doubt, keep one in your pocket just in case. Definitely no jeans or trainers. For women you could opt for a maxi/knee length skirt (leave the minis at home), or well-cut trousers with a silk/print top, or stylish knitwear. Again, it’s much better to be a little overdressed and feel a bit uncomfortable than it is to misjudge it and interpret the ‘casual’ label a little too casually!
Top tips for interview wear
- Always dress smartly rather than casually. And make sure all clothes are neat, ironed and well-fitting. If you’ve bought new clothes in readiness for your interview, make sure you iron out all creases and folds before the day. You don’t want to feel embarrassed on the day when you realise your clothes look crumpled or untidy.
- Trainers, converse and casual shoes will not impress anyone and will undermine your attempts to appear credible and professional. Little details like ensuring your shirt is tucked in, buttons done up, shoes are clean, and hair is tidy can make all the difference. In particularly conservative, traditional sectors like law and finance, it is advisable for men to be clean or – at the very least – close shaven. And remove any overt facial piercings – an interview is not the time to assert your individuality.
- Dressing smartly conveys that you are serious about the job. You don’t need to spend lots of money but remember that you are selling the whole package and a great ‘verbal’ performance could be easily compromised by a weak ‘visual’ one.