It seems trivial, but your outfit can make or break a career opportunity. ‘In a job interview, your attire makes a statement about yourself before you even open your mouth,’ says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert and best-selling author. ‘A scuffed shoe, a messy bag, or a low-cut shirt can speak volumes. You need to wear your “power outfit”.’ As the adage goes: dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
Dress for the environment
Make sure your look is current, even if you’re interviewing for a corporate job. ‘Wearing out-of-date suits shows your lack of willingness to keep informed of the current trends,’ says Ritika Trikha of online community CareerBliss. If you’re unsure of what to wear, chat to someone in the company, or do some detective work – see if the company has a Facebook page with some staff pics. If everyone is wearing jeans and slip-slops, you can dress down a bit, but still keep it professional. Career and executive coach Mark Strong advises dressing ‘half a step up from what the typical daily dress is in your industry’. When in doubt, bring a well-tailored jacket along to formalise your outfit if you need to.
Try on the outfit beforehand and move around in it. Check that your buttons aren’t gaping, you can’t see your bra through your shirt and your skirt doesn’t ride up. Make sure the outfit is well tailored (not too big or too tight) and don’t leave your ironing for the morning of the interview!
Arrive early, but not too early – ideally, 10 to 15 minutes before the interview. Make sure you have everything you need – a printed copy or two of your CV, reference letters (if you have any), your portfolio, as well as a pen and notebook in case you want to take notes. Put it all in a nice folder – you don’t want to have to rummage through your bag to find what you need. Switch off your cellphone beforehand, and ditch the takeaway coffee cup.
During the interview
Let your body language project confidence – greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and make eye contact. ‘When deciding between two equally strong candidates, an employer will almost certainly pick the one who appears the strongest socially,’ says David Press, a chief executive at recruitment specialists Proceed. Also be aware of your posture – don’t slouch in your chair. Be polite and listen carefully. If anything is unclear, ask the interviewer to clarify – you’ll give a better answer. Never assume that they have studied your CV and know exactly what you’re referring to. If you’re asked about something you don’t know much about, don’t fake it. Say something like, ‘This is not my strongest area, but I’m very keen to learn more about it.’
After the interview Shake your interviewer’s hand and thank them for taking the time to meet you. Reiterate your interest in the job and that you look forward to hearing from them. If you don’t get the job, be gracious and polite. If you made a good impression, they may think of you the next time a position opens up.