The question of how to dress for an interview seems apropos in these days of redundancy and generic panic about losing your job, your mortgage, and your mind. Of course, you might look at this article and say, ‘Job interview?! I’ve applied for a hundred-and-twenty-seven jobs. I’m always on job sites, twitching like a crazy person. The incredibly complicated application forms fill me with fear and loathing. And I haven’t been invited to one single interview!!’ You need to read How to Get a Job Interview, and The Twelve Step Plan to Ending Your Addiction to Applying for Jobs.
Here are general rules for how to look when you’re interviewing for a job. Remember, these are just rules. Feel free to ignore them all. If you’re Lisbeth Salander, go in with punk haircut, gothic make-up and a tattoo on your neck. If you’re Dr. Gregory House (why has that show come to an end?!), then go ahead and be rude to everyone you meet. But unless you’re the bee’s knees of your profession, you can’t afford to do that.
Dress for the job
Imagine this. You’re interviewing to be a fashion blogger and you show up in a black pin-stripe suit, black pantyhose, neat pumps, and a briefcase. You may lose them before you’ve started. You could carry off a vintage suit, with cream-coloured polka-dot tights and kooky sandals, but a conservative outfit won’t work. Same if you’re applying to be a customer-facing secretary in the City, and you show up in jeans. For men, a well-fitting suit is always the best. So, think about the job you want. And that may be the only rule you need to follow.
If you’re determined to wear that pinstripe, say, you’re a banker or an accountant (get a different job! Just kidding…), then add a personal touch. An oversized necklace, colourful pumps, a cool tie – do something that doesn’t look like you’ve stepped off an assembly line in Canary Wharf. That assembly line exists, I tell you. You just have to travel on the Jubilee Line at rush hour to see that everyone looks exactly the same. It’s like being in the Matrix.
Talking of over-sized necklaces, avoid clunking it up. Bling is not a bad thing, but you don’t need the dangly earrings, the chunky bracelet, the too-cool anklet you picked up in Rajasthan, and the three rings on each finger. Choose a signature piece. And I’d avoid the anklet. It wouldn’t work with your polka-dot panty-hose. (Wait, I’ve lost track of which outfit we’re discussing here…)
Avoid the Katie Price look, please. (This is true about all times, and not just for interviews.) Be clean. Take a shower. Please don’t look orange from your cheap tan. And don’t put on too much make-up. A little foundation, a bit of mascara, a light layer eye-shadow, lipstick that’s not drawn outside your own pair of beautiful lips (ideally one that doesn’t cake and give you lipstick globules), that’s all you need. Keep your face groomed and radiant. Do your usual eye-brow wax or whatever, so that you’re not trying to cover up your moustache with your soy latte the whole time. Boys, keep your facial hair under control.
Avoid flyaway, frizzy hair, hair extensions and home-grown bleaches. Comb and condition your hair so that you don’t have a spontaneously-erupting dreadlock sticking up at right-angles to everything else. Avoid running in, looking sweaty, red and out of breath. Don’t do the over-gelled look, boys, please. Keep it low maintenance when it comes to hair, in case you don’t get the chance to do the last minute run to the loo once you’ve arrived for your interview.
You can get away with bare legs if the weather is really hot. Otherwise, a pair of translucent tights works. Keep an extra pair in your bag. Boys, avoid bare legs and pantyhose. For shoes, pumps are the usual favourite. Open-toe is acceptable. Boots can work depending on the job and the weather, but pumps, or loafers (for men), are better. Don’t go in with scruffy shoes or smelly feet.
Can you be sexy?
Unless you’re interviewing to be a hostess at a gentleman’s club, the answer is no. No peeking bras or cleavage. No itty-bitty skirts. No see-through tops or shirts whose buttons pop open if you breathe. Try not to cross and uncross your legs the entire time. Don’t lean over and fondle anyone. Don’t keep licking your lips and playing with your hair. This is a job interview, not a seduction.
Other than that, wear light deodorant. Be confident and friendly. (Unless you’re Lisbeth Salander – in which case, I love that you’re reading my article.) Always, always arrive a few minutes early. Take off your iPod earphones…
Image by quinn.anya courtesy of Flickr