Interview Attire 101
Not only do you need to impress your potential employer with your skills and talents, you need to show them that you fit their culture. One of the ways to do that is with your wardrobe.
"First impressions count at a job interview," says Nicole Adolphe, head of style at The Iconic. "If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good you shine from within, showing the best possible version of yourself."
Nina Mapson Bone, Managing Director of Beaumont People, says "You need to dress at least at the same level or preferably a level higher than the culture of the organisation you are interviewing with. So if it's casual - go smart casual, if it's smart casual wear a suit but no tie, and if it's smart, wear a suit and tie."
Casual Interview vs Casual Attire
Start ups are renowned for dressing down and same goes for some roles in creative industries (does a web developer need to wear a tie?). But casual interviews and casual clothes aren't the same thing.
Are you meeting the person in a coffee shop for a chat? Then it's a casual interview, but what you wear is still important.
A rule of thumb with job interview clothes, no matter where the meeting takes place, is to make sure you're at least as smartly dressed as the person who's interviewing you. Checking out their LinkedIn profile can offer a decent insight into their personal business style so take that as a cue - then dress up a bit.
"Every single aspect of your presentation matters, no matter how small" says Susan Wareham, an executive career consultant. "The way you present at an interview is part of your professional brand, and in today’s highly competitive employment climate there are no second chances to brand yourself as the ‘must-have’ candidate."
Law Firms, Finance and Big Corporates
When it comes to job interview outfits at big corporations, you need to look smart.
"HR Managers are looking for a well-briefed, well-prepared and well-presented candidate," says Susan. "Regardless of the position you’re being interviewed for the key words to keep in mind when you’re thinking about what to wear for the interview are ‘professional’ and ‘appropriate’."
Peter Stokes, a document management specialist who has conducted many job interviews says, "I expect a candidate to be professionally presentable without going too over the top. It surprises me when I interview people who look like they are ready for a Saturday night out or for a casual Sunday breakfast. Smart neutral is the key."
"In thousands of interviews over the last 20 years I've only ever known 2 people that were judged badly for dressing up and we've had loads of feedback on those that weren't dressed smartly enough."Nina Mapson Bone
Social Enterprises and Not for Profits
The culture among social enterprises is a bit like start ups in that the dress code tends to be more on the casual end of the spectrum and less about wearing suits.
As part of their business model, Good Cycles in Melbourne ran a program for people with barriers to employment on how to fix bicycles. Luke Wright, co-founder and ex-CEO recalls a candidate who had gone through the programme and loved it so much he wanted to get a permanent position with the company. So one day he turned up wearing a suit – in the hope he'd get hired.
"It was kind of inappropriate for him to be fixing bikes wearing a suit but he'd obviously gone to so much effort to make a good impression, we ended up hiring him," said Luke.
No matter the genre, the rule is still to dress up rather than down, but beware that in some cases formal wear for an interview might be too much.
Creative Industries, Retail and Start Ups
Not everyone at Google wears a t-shirt and sneakers (although some, I'm told actually wear Ugg boots).
"The dress code at Google, Facebook, and other informal tech companies is very similar to a university dress code," says Felicia Daniels in her Tech Lady Haus blog. "The most formal attire is similar to what a professor might wear: a button-down shirt and slacks. The least formal attire is athletic wear. Everything in the middle is acceptable, too."
Nicole has some other great tips: "If it’s a creative job, opt for a pair of cool sneakers or flats rather than a stiletto." The same applies for jobs in retail. "If you can, research the company’s dress code to help give you direction. This season’s bike pants trend won't suit a Real Estate role but may score a fashion gig, if worn right."
The saying, the devil is in the detail sits well when it comes to job interview outfits and how to finish them off. You may have the right clothes, but there's still your accessories to consider.
"Avoid loud jewellery that will jingle every time you make a move," suggests Nicole, "It’s distracting and will disrupt the flow of conversation during the interview. If you are big on accessories, opt for a statement bag."
You want to come off as relaxed and confident and the colours you wear make a difference. According to Nina, "Bright colours may put people off, or really make you stand out, but it's a risk. Most people look good in navy blue.
The whole point of the interview is that you want to land that role, so do your best not to overthink it. Adopt the tips that are appropriate to you, do your company research, breathe and just be yourself.