If you manage to score an interview based on your resume, you’re already half way there. You look good on paper and are sure that the job is yours only to find out that your interview was unsuccessful. You can’t help but wonder what went wrong.
Maybe this is what happened. You spent so much time updating your resume, assembling your portfolio and thinking about all the right answers and questions to ask that you missed something. You relied so much on your resume that you forgot about your appearance.
People make rapid judgments of others based on their look, so don’t let your outfit coast you a job. So, whether you agree or not, your outfit can make or break your career. Communication is fast and first impressions are formed in less thann 30 seconds.
What can you show in 30 seconds? The first thing that your potential employer will notice is your posture, your tone of voice, handshake and, of course, your outfit. This means that appearance and attitude play an important role when it comes to first impressions.
Originally, clothing was used as a barrier between the skin and the environment to provide protection from the cold, heat and injury. With time, clothing evolved from simple protection to become one of the most common forms of non-verbal communication. Clothing can tell sex, age, ethnicity, social status, occupation, habits, personality, beliefs, lifestyle, self-image and more. Sometimes your clothing says more than you do, so be sure the message your outfit is sending about you is a good one!
Dressing for an interview is very tricky. Each work environment has different rules. Depending on these rules, companies may have a traditional dress code of suit and tie or a very laidback dress code where jeans and a shirt are accepted. However, no matter how traditional or laid back a company is, there are some universal rules.
- Never show too much of anything (too tight, too short and too sheer don’t scream professional);
- Avoid anything you can wear to a nightclub;
- Don’t be a walking billboard by wearing clothes with huge logos;
- No gym clothes—unless your interview includes jumping jacks and push ups.
Your clothes should say: I’m trustworthy, organized, responsible and professional. Stained, wrinkled clothes say: I don’t care about my appearance. How can someone who doesn’t care for themself care for work?
Job interviews are stressful enough, so try not to make it any harder by wearing uncomfortable shoes or clothes. If your clothes make you feel comfortable and confident, you will act the same way.
There is a connection between clothes and our emotions. Our brains link clothing with certain attributes, so wearing clothes associated with specific attributes will help you to identify with them. That’s why, for example, wearing a suit makes you feel more powerful, intelligent and confident.
Beside the general dress code that applies to all companies, there are a lot of other rules that vary from one company to another. Before you put together your perfect interview outfit, do a little research about the company you will be interviewing at. Dressing according to the company’s dress code creates a strong impression as it’s a way to show that you respect the environment you are in and that you want to fit into the company.
Depending on how strict or liberal a company’s dress code is, we can divide them into three categories of work wear: formal, business-casual and casual.
Formal Work Wear (Business Professional)
Two words: Power Suit.
This can be a pants suit or a blazer with a skirt. No matter what you choose to wear, the most important thing is that it's perfectly tailored to fit your body, but not too tight.
In particular, pay attention to the length of the trousers and the sleeves of your blazer. Sleeves should be wrist length and trousers should hit the top of your shoes. Skirts should be knee length or a maximum of three inches above them. When it comes to colors, try to keep the palette neutral and stay faithful to black, navy, grey and cream.
Pair your power suit with a buttoned up shirt in cotton or silk. Shirt colors can be lighter like baby blue, lavender or light pink. If you are unsure about colors, choose a classic white. You can never go wrong with this one.
Shoes should be perfectly polished and comfortable but stylish. Similarly, your heels shouldn’t be too high. If you are not used to walking in heels then switch them with flats. The best color choice is black or nude as they go with everything.
Companies with formal work wear are not fashion-friendly environments, so you will not have a lot of space to express your personal style. You can try to compensate with stylish details and accessories. Adding a silk scarf, pearl necklace or small elegant earrings will complete your outfit.
Compromise between formal and casual or, to phrase it better, formal with some street style elements. It’s a little bit more relaxed than formal attire, but don’t relax too much! This doesn’t mean that anything goes and jeans and sneakers are definitely out.
Business casual environments offer more flexibility in choosing your ensembles.
Instead of wearing a traditional suit you can pair your trousers with a blouse or sweater. The range of acceptable colors is wider and subtle prints are welcome as well. You should still avoid vivid, neon colors and very loud prints—everything in moderation. Dresses are also a good idea, as long as they’re not too tight or too short.
Casual Friday every day. Really? Many companies, even the most successful ones, have this very casual, laidback dress code. If you get a job in one of these, consider yourself lucky!
Casual work wear has endless possibilities. Almost anything goes. Keep in mind that your choice of outfit will be fine as long as you follow these three rules: appropriate, clean and put together.
You can wear jeans and a t-shirt on a daily basis; for a more polished look, you can choose skirts and dresses. Colors, prints and different accessories allow you to add your personal touch to your outfit.
When it comes to shoes, beside ballet flats and classic heels, there’re a lot of options: oxfords, boots, ankle boots, loafers, wedges and, in some offices, even sneakers.
What is your idea of the ideal interview outfit? Sound off in the comments section below.