How to dress
Wearing the right clothes won’t guarantee success. But if you get your interview outfit wrong, then your prospects will suffer as soon as you step through the door.
Go for the safe option
The golden rule when it comes to dressing for interviews is 'smart and conservative'. This generally means a suit, jacket and tie for men and a business suit or skirt and blouse combination for women. That means no scruffy trainers or t-shirts featuring your favourite band.
One recruitment specialist says, "Even if you’re going for an interview at a new media agency where the daily dress code is fairly casual, I would always recommend going to the interview wearing a suit and tie.
"You’ll never really look out of place with a tie on, but if you aren’t wearing one, and your interviewer is, then you’ll come across as scruffy."
Excessively casual clothing for women is also a major mistake, with a number of obvious pitfalls you should avoid.
One HR director said: "The main problem we have is that some women often dress inappropriately for interviews.
"An interview is a formal occasion, so women shouldn’t dress in the same way as they would do for a Friday night on the town.
"Wearing short skirts, towering heels or strappy tops just doesn’t sit well in an interview situation. Wear a sober business suit and sensible heels, and you’ll never look out of place."
Keep it subtle
Colour combinations, accessories and personal grooming also have a vital role to play when it comes to your appearance.
Suits should be in classic dark colours like navy, grey or black while men should carefully co-ordinate tie colours and avoid anything too bright or gimmicky.
One recruitment director said: "A novelty tie is an absolute no-no when it comes to interviews. The secret is to play it safe again and go with a trusted colour combination.
"Stores like Marks and Spencer and TM Lewin advertise their shirt and ties in classic combinations. If you are in doubt have a look there and you won’t go far wrong with a white or light blue shirt matched with an appropriate tie.
"Most offices have someone who likes to dress a bit differently – but that’s after they got the job. You can bet your bottom dollar they turned up for the interview in a classic suit."
Men and women should not wear too much jewellery and should also pay particular attention to their shoes.
Classic black shoes for men are the safest bet, while women should choose dark shoes with an appropriate heel. Don’t forget to give them a good shine either! It takes a few minutes and makes a world of difference.
Polish your look
One HR professional said they always look for things like: "…dirty fingernails, greasy hair, poor grooming and stains on clothes. What that says to me is that this person doesn’t really care what they look like, which would raise serious questions about their suitability for my organisation."
Wearing too much makeup and perfume or aftershave is also a mistake.
Our recruitment consultant advisors say: “The trick again is to keep things subtle. Too much make-up and an overpowering perfume sends out the wrong message.
“Men often over do it on the aftershave – a few dabs behind the ear and on the wrist is all you need. Interviews are nerve-wracking, and people do sweat so make sure you have a good deodorant, and if you are likely to sweat I’d say keep your jacket on – obviously wet armpits aren't a good look so cover them up.”
Getting it right: the facts and figures
The importance of getting your outfit right was highlighted by a recent survey which found that 37% of senior executives had decided against hiring a candidate because of the way they were dressed.
The biggest turn-off was too-casual dress while 36% felt co-ordination of colours and styles was an important indicator of the candidate’s personality.75% wanted clothes appropriate for the circumstances And 33% considered whether the candidate’s style suited their organisation.
Orange was the worst colour to wear at interview, with 95% of executives deeming it unacceptable, with red (84%) and pink (83%) also thought inappropriate.
Our HR advisor said: “We’re looking for someone dressed smartly and conservatively —think more David Cameron than Boris Johnson when it comes to style, though. There’s plenty of time once you have the job to stamp your sartorial style on the office.
“In an interview it always pays to play it safe and go with a classic look.”
Men: what to wear
- Dark business suit
- Black shoes
- White or light blue long sleeved shirt
- Coordinating tie
- Dark socks
…and what not to wear
- Jeans or too casual clothing
- Novelty ties or socks
- Excessive jewellery
- Heavy aftershave
Women: what to wear
- Dark business suit or skirt and blouse with skirt sitting on or just above the knee
- Dark shoes with appropriate heel
…and what not to wear
- Low-cut tops
- Excessively high heels
- Bare legs
- Strappy tops
- Too much makeup and perfume
- Interview questions
- Top 5 interview tips
- Interview checklist
- Find an IT job