Dress for Success

6 years ago


They say don’t dress for the job you have, but dress for the job you want. This couldn’t be truer for a job interview. You may be the most talented and experienced applicant ever, but for the best chances of success, you also need to look the part. Like it or loath it, humans (and especially job interviewers) can be very visual, judgemental creatures so even if you’re perfectly qualified for a position and nail every interview question, beware you may not get the job if you’re not dressed or presenting yourself correctly.

According to a recent Forbes study, 47% of interviewers said they decided not to hire an applicant based on the unfavourable way they were dressed and 89% said if they had two similar candidates they would always go with the one who “looked the part.”

There’s no denying it, the way you dress and present yourself says a lot about your personality, attitude and outlook. So to get your interviewer’s seal of approval, consider these top tips when choosing your interview “look.”

Be The Best You:

Unless you’re applying to be a roadie on Iron Maiden’s next world tour, most interviewers will expect to see a clean, polished and well put together candidate. If you need a haircut, get one now. Gentlemen, if you have facial hair make sure it’s trimmed and neat. Try and also have a good nights sleep the night before your interview and turn up looking fresh and rested. The tired, hangover look will definitely do you no favours.

Know What To Wear:

A two-piece matching suit is normally the best and safest choice for both men and women. But what if the job is in a totally non-suit wearing environment? Well, even if you could wear shorts and flip-flops for the role, wearing at least ‘business casual’ to the interview shows you take the interview seriously as a professional meeting. Dressing well is a compliment to the people with whom you meet. If in doubt, dress smarter than you think you need to be.

Be Bold:

Navy, dark grey and black were once considered the professional ‘norm’ but times and fashions have changed. Don’t shy away from adding a touch of colour to your outfit. A smart pink shirt or a shocking purple tie can help show off your bold personality. Don’t be afraid to add a touch of colour. You don’t need to look like you’re going to a funeral in dull, drab colours.

Cost v Quality:

You’re not expected to be able to afford a Tom Ford or Channel suit. But do try and invest in quality that will look appropriate during your first two or three years on the job. One good-quality suit is sufficient for a job search if that is all your budget allows. You can vary your shirt/top, tie/shoes and accessories. The high street is full of excellent shops with retail assistants who will help you perfect your look. Ask for their advice, they’re the experts.

Clean and Ironed:

It goes without saying but everything must be clean and ironed. If you’re not the best at these things, take your suit to the dry cleaners but make sure you have enough time to pick it up. Hold it up in the light to check for stains you might not see in your wardrobe. Another good tip is don’t wear your jacket driving to your interview in the car. Hang it up in the back and put it on just before you enter the building. Arriving looking pressed and pristine will make a great first impression.

Check the Stitching:

If you’ve bought a new suit, you need to take the tacking stitches off. Men’s suits typically have tacking stitches to hold vents on the jacket back and on the sleeves. Sometimes there is a tag stitched on the outside of the sleeve that should come off too. If in doubt just ask your retail assistant to do it for you in the shop. Note that stitched up pockets should stay stitched up though. These keep the lines of jackets smart and smooth.

Makeup Check:

Ladies (and any Gents who may add the odd dab of concealer or Man-scara to their beauty regime) the general rule for interview makeup is just to keep it tasteful and conservative. Think of meeting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time. You want to look good but not over the top. Unless your interview is for a job in a nightclub, keep the purple eyeshadows and glittery eyelashes to a minimum.

Nail It:

Whether you’re going for a job as a secretary, a scientist or a shelve stacker at your local supermarket, your nails should be clean and well groomed. Dirty nails show a lack of personal hygiene and no-one wants to work with someone who may have personal hygiene issues. Your hands will also be one of the first things your interviewer looks at when you sit down to chat. Especially if you use your hands when you’re talking as many people do when they’re nervous. You don’t need to have a manicure or anything (although if you can, that would be great) but just make sure your nails are clean and tidy. If you have your nails polished, make sure the colour is fresh and un-chipped.

Shoe Shine:

Just give them a polish the night before and you’re good to go. If they’re new, make sure you can walk comfortably in them too; hobbling in uncomfortable shoes does not convey a professional appearance.

Body Art:

Although over 35% of employees aged 18-35 have tattoos, one survey by Monster found that many employers still have unfavourable views of tattooed individuals and nose, brow, lip piercings. Obviously this depends a lot on the employer’s age, the industry you’re looking to get in and the company policy. If you’re going for a job in a hip advertising agency, they may love your body art. However, if you’re unsure of the company’s policy, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take out facial piercings and cover up the tattoos until you know the lay of the land.

Aftershave / Perfume:

Use perfume or aftershave sparingly. No-one wants to be blown away by whiff after whiff of an overbearing cologne or stale smoke for that matter. However, the worst is overbearing cologne trying to cover up the smell of smoke or bad body odour. You and your clothes must smell fresh and clean but don’t just try and cover any smells. Get your outfit professionally dry cleaned and it goes without saying, practise good hygiene habits.

Portfolios / Briefcases:

It’s always a good idea to bring a copy of your CV, a pen, a notepad and anything else you want to show the interviewer in a smart portfolio or business-like tote / briefcase. A smart leather tote or folder finishes off your outfit and makes you look ready to get to work.


Perhaps the most important thing to wear is a smile when you first meet your interviewer. Not only will a smile endear you to your interviewer, but it will also make you seem more attractive, sociable and confident. A research study conducted by Orbit Complete found that 69% of people found women more attractive when they smile than when they are wearing makeup. People who smile are also 40% more likely to get promoted. So smile away and have a great interview.