Earning a decent, honest living means finding a well-paying job. Of course, this is much easier said than done. It is no secret that almost anywhere you go, unemployment rates continue to mount. Naturally, this is due to various factors, and it is all too easy to get swept up in the shifting tides of the job hunt.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of landing a decent job. Although a degree and some qualifications certainly help, first impressions are equally important.
Making a good first impression on a prospective employer means presenting yourself properly. From your resume to your physical appearance (i.e., the way you dress), every detail needs to be considered if you want people to take you seriously.
Curating the perfect outfit, therefore, is a daunting task. Luckily, if you find yourself uncertain about what to wear to a job interview, this guide will steer you in the right direction. So without further ado, let’s take a look at how to dress when you are heading to a job interview.
Consider the Corporate Culture of the Company You Are Applying To
Different companies have different expectations of how their employees (both prospective and current) should dress. For example, a banking conglomerate may not take your favorite jeans-and-sneakers combo lightly. Conversely, a startup tech firm in Silicon Valley may roll their eyes at your perfectly sensible pencil skirt.
To this end, we recommend trying to get a sense of how the company operates, in particular the attitudes of its employees with regards to dress code. Does everyone wear a suit and tie? Chinos, maybe? If you can, hand in your resume personally rather than digitally in order to scope the place out.
Of course, there are exceptions to the norm in every company. There is generally no harm in dressing up a little if you still find yourself in doubt. The tech nerds in Silicon Valley may scoff at your prim-and-proper attire, but generally speaking, the candidate who cares about their appearance is more likely to make an excellent first impression.
How to Dress for a Corporate Interview
Suppose you are considering applying for a job in any traditional industry (such as banking, finance, or insurance). In that case, you should opt for a more conservative outfit that shows that you mean business. In general, this means wearing a suit and tie for men and a skirt with a blouse for women (though there are exceptions).
Corporate Attire for Men
In general, men have it relatively easy when dressing for a corporate job interview. However, there are still a few key details to consider.
- Your suit should be a solid, neutral color such as black, grey, or navy blue.
- You should wear a long-sleeved white or light button-up shirt.
- Your tie should not attract any undue attention (i.e., stick to tried-and-tested, unobstructed patterns or solid colors).
- Wear a somewhat slim leather belt if you can.
- Wear dark socks and inoffensive leather shoes.
It goes without saying that you should also make sure that your hair has been neatly trimmed and combed. Your nails should be cut short and filed.
Additionally, consider bringing along a briefcase or portfolio to demonstrate your professionalism.
Corporate Attire for Women
Due to the large variety of potential outfits, women may find it more challenging than men to choose the right thing to wear. A pencil skirt and blouse are usually a safe bet, but additional considerations are to be made, such as the choice between pantyhose or bare legs.
Fortunately, most corporate outfits for women can be boiled down to a handful of essential building blocks.
- Consider wearing a solid-colored pants-suit.
- Choose a skirt whose end lies just above or below the knee.
- Coordinate your blouse. White is generally a good option.
- Be careful with jewelry. A stud in each ear is perfectly acceptable, but massive hoops are not.
- Do not apply too much makeup. A basic foundation and delicate blush will serve you well.
As with men, women need to make sure that their nails have been filed and that their hair is neat. We also recommend avoiding overpowering perfumes.
Consider bringing along a portfolio or briefcase as well.
How to Dress for a Casual Interview
If the company you are applying to does not have a strict dress code, there are a few casual options you can turn to. Remember, you can always phone ahead to ask what you should be wearing.
Business casual means that you can hang your suit up for now, but you should still leave the jeans in the closet as well. In general, you should avoid sneakers and anything else you might wear to the gym.
Other than that, business casual is loosely-defined, so you should be in the clear with whatever you choose to wear. Remember, however, to keep your nails short and your hair neat. You still want to make a good impression, after all.
Startup casual is the next step up (or down, depending on how you look at it) from business casual. It means that it may finally be safe to wear your jeans, so long as they are not torn or filled with holes.
Also, it goes without saying that whatever you choose to wear should be neat and clean. You do not want to veer too far into the realm of sloppiness. Try to outdress the people who already work for the company you are applying to.
No dress-code? No problem
If the dress code of the company you are applying to is vague or non-existent, there is no cause for worry. Make sure that your nails have been trimmed and that your hair is neat, and look towards business casual outfits for inspiration.
How to Make a Good First Impression
Once you are happy with your choice of outfit, there are a few other things you can do to ensure that you make an excellent first impression.
- Give your clothes a good wash and iron a day in advance. Let them dry, then fold them up and set them aside the night before your interview. This will ensure that everything from your shirt to your trousers is neat and clean.
- Make sure your clothes fit properly. A suit jacket that is too wide in the shoulders may not seem like a big deal, but your prospective employers will definitely take notice.
- After your first interview, in anticipation of a call-back, be sure to wash and iron your clothes again, then set them aside.
- Lastly, it is always a good idea to polish your shoes the night before your interview. Footwear is often overlooked by candidates but rarely by potential employers.
With these last few tips, you should have everything you need to make a solid first impression when you go in for your interview.
Do not let the drudgery, mundanity, and minutiae of the job hunt get you down. Focus on putting your best foot forward when you step into that job interview, and you will not slip up. So now that you know how to dress for a job interview, get out there with your head held high!