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What to Wear for an Interview

Ah, the sartorial crisis: its interview day and you’re in your underwear staring at your wardrobe in panic. As more and more offices adopt relaxed dress codes, it makes it a whole lot more confusing for us interview candidates.

Should you play it safe in black business attire, but run the risk of coming across distinctly unmemorable? Or cringe with awkwardness as you rock up to an interview suited and booted to be confronted with an office of jean wearers? On the other hand, how casual is too casual? And can I wear jeans?

It goes without saying, what you wear to an interview is important. Whether you like it or not, what you wear will have some bearing on whether the interviewer thinks you are right for the company. Think of interview wear as army get up; get it right and it’ll camouflage you enough to look like you belong in their working environment.

Looking the part (and looking good) will give you that crucial boost of confidence to weather whatever they throw at you.

So what should I wear then?

First of all, work out the dress code at the company. As a general rule of thumb, law firms, banks and other big companies will all expect business wear. You can usually get an idea of the expected attire from company websites (cue stock photos of smiling, suited and booted folk) or they might even specify what you should wear to the interview.

You could always call up the HR department and ask. Alternatively (and you didn’t hear it from us) some people have been known to hang around outside an office at the end of the day to see what employees are wearing; just make sure no one sees you!

Here’s a rough idea of what you should be wearing for conservative and non-conservative companies. Obviously it varies with every company, so don’t take it as gospel…

Conservative companies…

E.g. Law firms, banks and huge corporations.

Guys

You really can’t go wrong with a well-fitting business suit (no trying to pass off your manky old school trousers as a suit) in blue, black or grey; paired with a non-garish, well-ironed shirt and a simple tie (no ‘comedy’ ties…who laughs at them anyway?) for a classic, timeless look.

Top it off with smart leather shoes, buffed up with a bit of polish and a pair of matching, neutral coloured socks. It’s best to keep those novelty Homer Simpson socks tucked safely away in your sock drawer.

You might also want to think about having a shave and giving that mane a trim. We don’t want to nag, but a well turned out candidate makes a fantastic impression. It shows you are motivated, conscientious, organised and take pride in what you do.

Above all, make sure your clothes are clean, well-fitting and show you mean business. In the words of Dizzee Rascal: “Fix up, look sharp.”

Girls

Girls are hampered with almost too much choice and consequently, there’s far more room for sartorial errors. So we’ve come up with a few top tips to keep those fashion faux-pas to a minimum:

Should I wear a skirt, trousers or a dress? Pick whatever you feel most comfortable in. You might want to go for a trouser suit or skirt suit in neutral colours with a blouse or shirt. Alternatively, you could go for a formal work dress (high necked shift dresses always look good) in blue, black or grey, paired with a tailored jacket.

Footwear… Don’t go too high, you don’t want to be tottering about like you’re just about to hit the clubs. Try mid to flat heeled, clean and polished, closed-toe formal shoes.

Don’t flash your bits… If you’re wearing a dress or skirt, make sure it doesn’t ride up when you sit down. You don’t want to be surreptitiously trying to tug it down during an interview. Watch for ‘boob flash’ and keep that bra firmly tucked out of sight. High necklines are always the safest bet. You don’t want the interviewer to be so dazzled by your “fiery biscuits” that they don’t listen to a word you say.

The great tight debate… As a general rule, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wear black or nude tights. Some interviewers are inexplicably offended by the sight of bare pins.

Keep make-up to a minimum; resist the urge to go all The Only Way is Essex and shovel the slap on. A sheer foundation, brown eyeliner, nude eye shadow, tinted lip balm or inoffensive lipstick and a smattering of mascara should do the trick.

Accessories… Avoid anything too garish, chunky or dangly, which might distract an interviewer.

Make sure your clothes are clean and well-ironed. Think organised, neat business woman, not schlubby student.

READ MORE: UNIVERSITY INTERVIEW DRESS CODE
READ MORE: TIPS FROM JACAMO'S HEAD OF DESIGN
READ MORE: INTERVIEW NERVES

Companies with a more relaxed dress code…

E.g. Advertising agencies, publishing houses and design consultancies.

For any interview, the general rule is to err on the formal side. Even for creative roles, you should probably be thinking classic attire with a twist. After all, it’s possible to dress smart and still look fashionable; formal isn’t synonymous with frumpy. Never ever wear jeans; it’s not worth the risk.

Guys

You have several choices: a suit might be far too formal so you might want to try separates. You could wear:

- A smart shirt, no tie and tailored trousers.

- Tailored trousers and a thin knit jumper, paired with a smart coat rather than a jacket.

- You could go for a buttoned up fine knit cardigan as an alternative to a jacket.

- You can wear colour, but make sure it isn’t distracting.

Think clean, smart and classic with a twist.

Girls

A tailored jacket is a useful item to have in your interview clothing repertoire. It smartens any look and rarely goes out of trend. If it makes you look over-smart it can be whipped off sharpish. Opt for a smart dress, skirt or tailored trousers.

There are plenty of shirts and blouses on the high street, particularly silk ones, that don’t look too corporate, otherwise you might want to lose the shirt for a simple top that isn’t too low-cut. Top this off with a pair of smartish, heeled shoes. You can wear colour, but make sure it isn’t distracting, avoid wearing too much jewellery and go easy on the make-up.

The main thing is to try and gauge the mood of the company and dress accordingly. No matter how achingly cool the company is, it’s still a place of work, so you’ll want to showcase your inner professional.

But don’t fret too much, clothes aren’t the deal-breaker; few people solely get hired on their dress sense. After all, interviews are nerve-wracking enough without having to worry about what you’re wearing.