Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dress for Success

So someone asked me this week how they should dress for an interview that they're going to on Friday. The interview is with a company in the city centre and it's essentially an admin and support role. The industry is engineering. To me this is an easy answer - wear a suit, shirt, tie and shoes. The answer wouldn't be hugely different (bar the tie) if my friend was female. When it comes down to it, for me you can never be overdressed for an interview. The modern take on things seems to be to lose the tie or possibly the suit jacket but why would you take the risk when the traditional way isn't ever going to cause trouble? If you were going for an interview in a trendy, new media start-up and you positively knew that uber-cool, smart/casual was de rigeur then possibly you'd dress down accordingly. Yet that would be the sort of interview where they'd probably take you for a coffee rather than formally sit you down in the office. The rest of the time, the smarter the better.

I actually put together a tips sheet on this for our candidates. We send it out along with any interview prep stuff and since I started using it I haven't had any complaints from clients about what our candidates turn up dressed in. So I'll transcribe it below and it may be of use to you. Alternatively if you have any other ideas or thoughts on the subject, let me know.

What (or what not) to wear…men

- Do wear a suit. Black, dark grey or navy blue are most acceptable. Suits don’t have to be 3-piece but should be in good condition and clean.
- Do wear a shirt and tie. Although ties are sometimes less prevalent in offices these days it is vital to be as smart as possible for an interview. A tie is therefore a must.
- Do wear a smart pair of shoes. Black shoes should go with your suit. Shoes should be polished and in good condition. Avoid trainers no matter what the circumstances.
- Do present as smart an image as possible. Hair (facial and head hair) needn’t be military style but should be neat and tidy. Nails should be clipped, hands cleaned (for that all important handshake) and as an added extra check your fly before you even enter the building!
- Don’t wear novelty ties, or anything that could be misconstrued as casual.
- Don’t wear white socks. Ever. Unless you’re playing tennis or going to the gym.
- Don’t wear a short-sleeved shirt. They are regarded as casual and particularly don’t look right when worn with a tie. Stick to long sleeves and avoid the desire to roll them up, even when it’s hot.
- Do take something to carry any relevant documents in (job spec, your A4 pad, handy hints from Omni etc). Ideally make it a smart black shoulder bag, briefcase or document wallet.
- Do take your coat off before you enter the building. Under no circumstances go into the interview with a coat on and if for any reason you do by mistake don’t sit there with it on.
- Do check the situation with jewellery (particularly facial jewellery) before you attend. Chances are even in the most forward-thinking organisation a man in earrings, with a nose stud or with an eyebrow piercing will not be regarded as ‘smart’ in the same way that someone without any body ornamentation will be. So to be on the safe side take jewellery off before you attend. Similarly large chains, rings or anything else noticeable should be removed beforehand.

What (or what not) to wear…women

- Do dress as smartly as possible. A trouser suit or skirt and jacket is ideal.
- Do wear a smart pair of shoes but don’t wear the most impractical pair you have. Chances are the one time you can’t walk in your 4 inch stiletto heels will be when you are walking towards a potential employer!
- Don’t overdo the make-up. Avoid large amounts of blusher, foundation or eye make-up as many interviewers would regard this as inappropriate for work (and therefore doubly inappropriate for an interview).
- Don’t show too much flesh. The following should not be bared in an interview: cleavage, midriff, thighs, back. Restraint is the most important thing; if an outfit could possibly be misinterpreted, rethink it.
- Do keep jewellery to a minimum. A pair of stud earrings, an unobtrusive necklace and a ring is more than enough. Large earrings, a variety of chains, bangles, rings and other items are unnecessary and can seem unprofessional. Tongue studs or any other noticeable piercings should also be removed for the interview.
- Don’t try to be the most fashionable person in the room but also don’t worry about being the smartest. You can never overdress for an interview.
- Avoid excessive amounts of perfume, nail polish, lipstick or anything that could distract the interviewer and detract from an otherwise professional appearance.Wear something that you feel comfortable in; it will give you an extra confidence boost and reduce the chance of nervous fidgeting.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I suppose the same goes for work experience. We had someone turn up for work experience at our business last year wearing a top that left about two inches depth of torso and tummy showing (she was female, by the way!) - it wasn't impressive and I certainly couldn't have her accompany me on any client meetings. Oh yeah - and this was in November.