The way you present yourself is often the first impression you make with a hiring manager, so it is important to make an effort. “When done right, your look isn’t the first thing your prospective employer notices,” says Dena Giannini, the style director for British Vogue. “They just notice that you are polished and possess an air of quiet confidence.”
Plan ahead when thinking about how to dress up.
Picking what to wear to an interview shouldn’t be a last-minute decision. Make time to give it some consideration and preparation—particularly if your favorite shirt is at the bottom of the laundry basket or needs ironing. The goal is to feel great and look put together, but understated, so that your interviewer can focus on your qualifications.
Start with some self-care.
The most important thing to ensure when getting ready for your job interview is that you are clean, neat and polished. Looking ungroomed can be a distraction to an interviewer. To achieve this, pay attention to your hair, skin, nails and teeth. If you have been meaning to get a haircut, style, beard trim or shave, now is the time. Make sure your face and hands are clean and your nails are on the shorter side. If you use nail polish, choose neutral tones, like nude or gray—or subtle red tones.
“One of the biggest mistakes people can make is to apply a one-size fits all approach in the way that they dress for an interview.” — Tessa White, The Job Doctor
If you wear makeup, keep it natural and choose something you have used before. Now is not the time to try a new eyeshadow or a lipstick that could end up all over your teeth. Speaking of teeth, brush them thoroughly and don’t forget to floss. Style your hair so that it looks neat and doesn’t get in your face. Avoid perfume or cologne in case your interviewer is allergic or averse to a particular scent. However, if your interview is remote, and you have a perfume or cologne that you love and puts you in a good headspace, go for it.
Self-care isn’t vanity. Looking after your appearance boosts your confidence and self-worth, helping to ease anxiety about the interview.
When choosing which outfit to wear, go for neutral, classic, clean, comfortable and well-tailored.
As long as it is clean and well-kept, you don’t need expensive clothes to look great for your job interview. Instead, if you have the money to spare, invest in getting your clothing tailored so that it fits your body perfectly. “Fit is literally everything,” says Ms. Giannini. For job interviews, stick to classics that are well-tailored, and that you feel comfortable in, she says. For a formal look, you can’t go wrong with a tailored suit, Ms. Giannini says, either worn with a shirt and possibly a tie, or over a white T-shirt. Make sure your shoes are clean, closed and comfortable. If you decide not to wear a suit, try to go for something structured. A jacket over a cardigan with a well-fitted pair of pants or a skirt is one option. A structured shift or A-line dress is also a good choice, but avoid anything too short or revealing. For a business-casual outfit, Ms. Giannini recommends a classic black or camel-colored blazer over a T-shirt, and a pair of pants.
Consider appropriate interview attire for each specific job.
“One of the biggest mistakes people can make is to apply a one-size fits all approach in the way that they dress for an interview,” says Tessa White, a career navigation adviser and founder of The Job Doctor. She recommends studying up on the company culture so that you understand your audience, and play within that space. While wearing a suit or other formal attire to an interview is common, it isn’t always the right choice. You can also try talking to a current or former employee of the place you are interviewing, or study the website or its social media for clues on how progressive they are. Your goal is to dress appropriately for the environment you want to join. “You don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb,” Ms. White says.
- Stick to a neutral color palette. If you want to wear color, just add a pop.
- Keep it classic. A suit, blazer, structured dress or button-down shirt often work well.
- Comfort is important. Whatever you wear should feel comfortable and easy to move in.
- Think about the fit. Make sure your outfit isn’t too loose or too tight.
- Be authentic. Strike a balance between looking neat and feeling comfortable in your outfit. Your clothing should empower you rather than distract you.
- Clothing must be clean. Garments should be free of wrinkles, stains, snags, loose buttons and lint.
“Clothes are our armor and protect us in both literal and figurative ways,” says Ms. Giannini. “Make sure your armor is in good shape.”
Bonus tips for virtual/remote interviews:
For virtual interviews, think about lighting. Good lighting on your face can help accentuate and soften your features in all the right ways. “If you have beautiful window light, use your beautiful window light,” says celebrity portrait photographer Mark Mann. Otherwise, you could invest in a ring light that plugs right into your computer, he says. If your computer’s webcam isn’t high-quality, consider using your cellphone for the video call. Set it up at eye-level and put it in a cradle or prop it up. If you use a laptop, place it on some stacked books for a more flattering angle.
Don’t forget to dress your background. If you have a bookcase, use that, but make sure the lines of the wall behind you are all horizontal and vertical, with no distracting angles. “Simple, simple, simple,” says Mr. Mann. “What you don’t want is people looking around your room and not focusing on you.” Mr. Mann also recommends avoiding “gimmicky” virtual backgrounds or face filters for serious interviews.
Source: Deborah Acosta, The Wall Street Journal