The pressure is on. You’ve found your dream job and landed yourself an interview. Your new task? Impress the interviewer and prove you are worthy of the role. Easy? Not so much.
Interviews are intimidating. You’re sat in front of people whose sole purpose is to judge you and your abilities. Unplanned questions, spontaneous testing, unfamiliar faces, indistinguishable rooms — the whole process is unpredictable. Preparation may be the key to excelling in an interview, but with so many uncertainties, it can feel like you’re entering a minefield.
Thankfully, there is one thing you have complete control over: your look. ‘Dress to impress’ or ‘dress for success’ may seem like tired cliches, but like all good cliches, they are grounded in fact.
Dress for success: the facts behind the cliche
First impressions are important. An average interview may last around 30-45 minutes, but your interviewer will have already made their initial judgements about you within the first seven seconds. It may sound unlikely or unfair, but it’s the way the human brain functions. We’re a visual species. Have you ever come across a dark alley and immediately made a detour? Or decided against buying that Gucci watch from a market stall? We all use visual appearance to make snap judgements.
Your interviewer is no different. They will base their first judgements on your immediate appearance. A dirty, ill-fitting suit suggests that you’re lazy and disorganised, whilst a sharp, tailored suit suggests that you’re smart, well put-together, successful — regardless of if this is true or not.
Remember: you only have one chance to make a first impression. The rest of your interview will be an opportunity for an interviewer to test their judgements. It’s far easier to reaffirm positive assumptions than to try and disprove negative ones. Don’t believe it? In a survey by Adecco, they found that 75% of hiring managers identified bad fashion choices as the top mistake made in interviews.
Fake it ‘til you make it: the lab coat effect
Would you feel more comforted by a doctor wearing a lab coat than a hoodie? Or feel more safe with a policeman in full gear instead of jeans and a t-shirt? You’re not alone. Studies conducted in the 20th century found that certain clothes inspire trust and faith in a person’s ability. Clearly, fashion informs our perceptions of intelligence, capability and reliability. But, did you know that your fashion choices can have the same positive effect on you?
A study at Northwestern University found that when people wore a lab coat, they performed better in science tests, and when donning an artist’s smock, became more creative. The conclusion? Our clothes change our perceptions of ourselves. If you dress like a boss, you’ll trick yourself into feeling like a boss. Asserting confidence and assurance is essential in an interview. So, try faking it ‘til you make it!
Interview clothes basics: 6 fail-safe fashion tips
Every interview is different. We no longer live in a time when a black suit is the only appropriate outfit to wear for an interview. Tech companies and start-ups have changed business fashion. So, it’s important to take the time to do the research and find out what the company’s dress code is.
Still, there are a few fail-safe tips that you can apply to any interview. Follow these six steps to give yourself the best chance of nailing your interview and getting your dream job:
- A suit is a safe bet: Whether you’re going for a job in a law firm steeped in tradition or a social media company, you’ll never be out of place in a suit. Suits are malleable — two-piece suits or three-piece suits — and you can customise your suit to fit the setting. Try wearing a tweed suit or worsted wool suit for a timeless and classic look.
- A tailored suit is the only way: A poor-fitting suit is never a good look. If you’re buying your suit from a one-size-fits-all high street shop, chances are it doesn’t fit properly. You don’t have to go to a tailor or spend a fortune; there are cost-effective online tailors to check out. Invest in a suit that really fits and you’ll always look your best.
- Breathable fabric: No-one blames you for getting flustered in an interview, but no-one wants to see sweat stains. Invest in a good shirt made from a breathable material like wool or cotton to keep those sweat patches at bay.
- Colour code: Bright, garish colours belong on the beach, not at an interview. Keep it simple with neutral colours: white shirts, tanned shoes, understated trousers and jacket. Remember, you’re the main show, not that statement shirt.
- Get grooming: No matter how dapper your suit or how polished your shoes, dirty nails and scruffy facial hair will leave a bad taste in the interviewers mouth. Before an interview, go for a haircut at a trusted barber, clean shave or tidy up your facial hair, cut and buffer your nails. It’s the small things that count.
- Make it your own: Accessorise your outfits. You need to stand out from the crowd in an interview. Simple accessorising is the easiest way to do this. A smart tie, customised cufflinks or a leather watch will add a unique flourish to your look.
Stay calm and collected. Follow these steps and remember the rule: ‘dress for success’.
Anthony Horner is the director of Empire Outlet: a luxury menswear company that provides high-quality suits and accessories for affordable prices that will not break the bank. Empire Outlet operates online and serves customers around the world.