How should a job applicant dress for an interview?
Whether you’re a man or a woman, before deciding what clothes to wear, you need to play the role of the interviewer. Ask yourself, if you were the interviewer, what kind of candidate would you prefer to see? Nine times out of ten you’d like to see someone dressed for business in a formal and sober way. But the problem with interviews is that, for most people, they’re stressful and this psychological tension can, if you’re not careful, lead you to make unwise choices.
The first essential element is the suit (or, at least, just the coat). Go for dark colours and shades: black, navy, brown or grey, matched with a light-coloured shirt. Don’t be tempted to do any colour experiments and avoid bold patterns or statement pieces. Go with what you already know works for you and think ‘business’. Do not wear tight blouses or blouses with a deep cleavage – even if you have a coat on. Don’t wear skirts way above the knee, jeans or cargo pants. Ladies, avoid very high heels, and gentlemen, always wear a tie – even if you hardly ever wear one!
Some other essential details include making sure you wear very clean shoes (not sandals), tights without holes, have a neat manicure, get a fresh haircut and tie long hair back off your face. The focus should be on your level of education, qualifications and experience; don’t shift the focus onto your exuberant or ‘rattling’ accessories/jewellery and, most of all, don’t play with your accessories – it is a sign of nervousness and lack of confidence. Pick an elegant business tie, in neutral colours or warm shades, not too lush or too bright. And don’t forget to check your attire before you enter the interview room, that way you won’t miss any details, such as an open fly, fluff or traces of dandruff on your clothes.
What makes the interview attire so important?
As you’ve been selected for interview, you have met all the criteria and you’ve qualified for the next stage of the selection process. It’s at this stage that the main differential criteria come into play – the ABC of image: Appearance, Behaviour, including manners, and verbal and non-verbal Communication. In fact, studies have shown that, when it comes to promotions within the company, those employees reflecting a consistent and coherent professional image are 50 per cent more likely to get the job. For a management position, appearance is an important determinant in the decision making process, having an input of about 20 per cent, including the CV. In other words, when you turn up for an interview, your appearance should say that you have already got the job and, in doing so, the interviewer will consider that you are prepared to take this new step toward developing your career.
What is the proper attitude for a job applicant?
The attitude of a winner! And this is where your outfit really comes into play. Knowing that you have chosen the optimum outfit will boost your self-esteem, enhance your self-belief and keep you focused on the content of your message and, subsequently, on the way in which you communicate your strengths. The winner must prove that, under stress and pressure – typical conditions for an interview – she/he is able to remain confident; demonstrate leadership skills and can act as an example to every one around.
How can you positively influence the employer during an interview?
It helps to be a better poker player than the interviewer! And this is not entirely a joke! A good poker player possesses a whole array of gestures and facial expressions that have a manipulative effect on the other players – but you should, first and foremost, be honest, especially if you don’t know the answer. Honesty is always the best policy. In addition, if you can project self-confidence, remain relevant; with not too many digressions or inappropriate jokes, you’ll be more likely to get the job. However, trying to play a role is a common mistake in this situation. Candidates should keep in mind that, in most cases, the interviewer will be a very experienced and subtle person and will detect any attempt at manipulation or any theatrical performance designed to create a feeling of goodwill. Any ‘acting’ is extremely risky. There is only a short distance between this and lying. Remember, no interviewer is expecting an extraordinary performance. They understand a few nerves. The interviewer has already formed an impression, based on the content of your resume and/or of your letter of intent. You just have to live up to that existing expectation.
What are the main image blunders that a candidate can make during an interview?
The main blunder occurs before you even get to the interview: submitting your CV without sending a letter of intent. The covering letter is not just an ornament. It’s a vital part of getting your new job. Simply by sending a covering letter with your CV you have gained an extra point from the potential employer. In writing a letter of intent, you have the opportunity to set out the reasons why you consider yourself to be fit for the position and why you would add value to the department and implicitly, to the entire company. The content of your letter will serve as an example of your verbal skills, vocabulary and quality of speech. Therefore, make sure that you write your own covering letter – if you don’t, the difference between the written and spoken language will become obvious in the interview straightaway.
As for your attire, any mistakes you make will be due to your eagerness to stand out. That’s why it’s often the case that the outfits worn to an interview are excessively revealing, exaggerated, much too elegant or pretentious. Women tend to think that a low cleavage is an asset. To the contrary! Take into account the fact that your interviewer (or one of the interviewers you did not expect to be there) might be a woman as well. In this case, a generous cleavage, fishnet stockings, stilettos or bright red lipstick will NOT make a positive impression on her.
Another hazardous decision is to wear expensive and opulent accessories. The employer might be unimpressed by you wearing a very expensive watch, for example. It could be that he might not be able to afford that watch himself and in this case he’ll see it as flaunting, or he will simply consider your application futile – given that you can afford to spend a fortune on a watch!
One last important detail: the perfume or aftershave! You never know whether the person standing in front of you is sensitive or even allergic to perfume/aftershave. Why risk setting off a coughing fit that will break short your interview? Or, in fact, ruin your chances altogether. Strong scents and employment interviews are two things which do not go together. Of course you can use a small amount of perfume/aftershave, but make sure it is discreet.
Finally, the elements that complete your image and ensure the success of an aspiring professional are not solely your attire, but also your attitude, manners, voice and, most of all your assumed honesty. Good luck!