It might be a cliché, but first impressions really do count – when you walk into the interview room, the hiring manager will almost certainly make an assessment of you and of what your clothes say about your personality.
This doesn’t mean that you need to rush out and buy a whole new wardrobe; in fact, sometimes the opposite is true, and it’s better to stick to tried and trusted staples that you know you feel comfortable in.
So, with that being said, here are some really easy ways to make sure that you pass the first test on your way to your new job!
1. Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail!
Whatever you do, do not leave putting your outfit together until the day of your interview! Finding out that your favorite shirt has a stain on it that you hadn’t noticed will immediately put you on the back foot.
Spend some time a few days before the interview laying out the clothes that you intend to wear, and give them a quick once over for missing buttons, broken zips, stains and tears. If there are any obvious defects (and you’re not able to repair them), immediately put them to one side. Doing this days – not hours – before your big day will give you time to fix things, or if need be, buy or borrow something else.
If you are short on cash, it’s well worth talking to friends to see if they have anything that you are able to borrow for the day. If this isn’t an option for you, thrift shops often have excellent quality clothes at low prices – but again, you really do need to give yourself some time to browse through what’s on offer.
2. Key Phrase: ‘Work Appropriate’
Although dresses are almost always a good option for an interview, it’s important that you are honest with yourself about whether or not the dress is appropriate for a work setting. Steer clear of anything that is more suitable for a night out; this means no sequins, no overly bright acidic colors, no plunging necklines and nothing with a hemline more than a couple of inches above the knees.
If you’re in any doubt, stick to a black, navy or charcoal skirt and a plain blouse – pops of color are usually OK, but if you’re unsure, try to keep it neutral.
Although business dress is usually a little easier for guys, it’s important that you remember that a job interview is not the time to showcase your sense of humor with novelty items. Stay well away from ‘amusing’ ties, socks with cartoon characters or slogans on them, and again, anything that is overly loud. Now is not the time to dust off your lime green Hawaiian shirt!
3. Comfort is as Important as Style
Another key reason for trying on your proposed outfit a few days before the interview is making sure that you’re actually comfortable in it. It’s usually very obvious if someone is super uncomfortable in their clothes, as it usually manifests as fidgeting. Constantly tugging down your skirt, adjusting your cuffs, or pulling at the front of your jacket makes you look nervous, and is distracting for the interviewer.
Try to make time to spend an hour or two just walking around your home in the outfit you intend to wear; do you feel comfortable in it? If it’s too big, too small or you realize that the hemline is so high that you feel self-conscious, it’s back to the drawing board.
This is also very important for shoes, particularly if they are new! There’s nothing worse than hobbling into an interview in agony after discovering that your ‘fantastic’ new shoes actually cut your heels to ribbons.
4. Cleanliness is Next To…
Even if your outfit is theoretically clean but has just been hanging in your closet for a while, it’s worth giving it a quick wash just to freshen it up. More important still, make sure that it is properly ironed or pressed – crumpled clothes make you look like you’ve put in no effort and don’t really care about the job.
If you’re one of those people who just can’t iron like Mom can, consider investing a few dollars in having your clothes properly washed and pressed by a local laundry firm; the cost for this is usually very low if you drop the clothes off yourself, and they smell and look great afterwards.
On the subject of smell – do not drown yourself in cologne or perfume! A small dab on two points (usually the wrists and neck) is plenty. Some people even recommend sticking to a good antiperspirant and passing on strong scents altogether.
5. Instagram Makeup – Best Avoided!
However great you know you look when you’ve got your face fully on, a job interview is not the place to go full Kylie Kardashian. The whole point of Instagram make up is that it looks fabulous on camera, but not so much in person (and even worse under office lighting).
Very heavy make-up can look mask-like and is often perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a symptom of a lack of confidence. Try to keep your makeup light and neutral; avoid things like over-lining your lips, heavy contouring and obviously fake lashes.
Assuming that you do wish to wear makeup but you’re not confident in putting it on, you might want to invest in a make-over at a local beautician…just make sure that they know it’s for an interview and you’re looking for light and natural!
In summary? It really is all about preparation. As long as you don’t leave it all to the last minute and make sure that you’ve given yourself plenty of time to iron out any kinks, just turning up looking neat, presentable and like you’ve made an effort will be more than enough for most interviewers. Putting that extra effort in a few days before should leave you completely free to spend the hours before the interview focusing on what you’re going to say – not what you might look like!