As promised,we have the first of a series of career guides and interview tips here for you today at Young Academic. Today’s instalment is regarding the importance of looking the part at your interviews. Whether it is for a work placement as part of your degree or your first graduate job, your appearance is the first thing that your interviewer will notice and is nearly as important as your CV.
Making a good impression at an interview starts the minute you enter the building. Your interviewer is likely to judge you from the first moment they see you and your appearance and image will be the first reflection of who you are and what kind of employee you may be. You may think that making a fashion statement is a sign of creativity, but it’s vital that you’re not remembered for all the wrong reasons. Not only can it be off-putting, but outlandish or scruffy clothing can be distracting as well.
Here are some basic guidelines to consider when dressing for an interview, so that you don’t end up dressing to un-impress.
Savvy suit style
It goes without saying that you should dress smartly, but with the range of men’s suits on offer, you need to make sure you get the right one for your shape. Ensure that yours is well-fitting, without looking too loose – it should be easily buttoned without any tug marks across the fabric and leave a ¼ inch of your shirt cuffs on view when your arms are relaxed at your side. Ensure that there are no worn patches and that your suit is clean, well-pressed and free from hairs or dust – small marks or dirt will make you look scruffy and can be distracting to your interviewer.
Stick to darker shades of suit – generally navy blue, black or dark grey. If you prefer to go with pin stripes then keep them subtle, as bold stripes can look over-adventurous and flashy. A conservative suit is the safest option and will ensure your interviewer judges you for who you are rather than what you’re wearing. If you go for a two or three button suit, never do up the bottom button , it’s a sartorial no no and means your jacket wont hang correctly.
Stick to pale, solid colours when choosing your interview shirt. White or creams are the safest options, although pastel shades are acceptable as well. Again, err on the side of caution and try to avoid shirts that are patterned, striped or have a different coloured collar. Keep your shirt well-fitted but not too tight, you don’t want to be sweating if you’re nervous or warm. 100% cotton shirts will keep you cooler than synthetic materials and, if your interview is in the afternoon, consider changing into a fresh one to prevent looking too creased or dirty.
A tie is essential, as is a fully buttoned-up shirt beneath it. Keep your tie subtle and make sure it doesn’t clash with your suit. Mellow colours work better, but brighter colours can be used here, as long as the pattern is traditional. The knot of your tie should fit well in the gap of the collar, but make sure it is tied neatly and correctly – after all, attention to detail is a skill any potential employer is bound to be impressed by.
And the rest
Make sure that your belt and shoes match. Black will go with all suits, although brown is acceptable as well. Avoid overly large or obvious buckles. Leather shoes are ideal, but make sure they are well polished and unscuffed – again, attention to detail is key here.
For an added air of professionalism, carry any documents or belongings in smart bag, portfolio or briefcase rather than a rucksack or record bag and remove all jewellery except for wedding rings and watches.
Try to ensure that you reach your interview with plenty of time to pop to the bathroom and check yourself in the mirror first. A sweaty bus journey may leave you hot and bothered, so it’s worth allowing cool down time so that you don’t need to worry about your appearance.
Make sure your hair is clean and styled subtly – don’t overdo the wax or gel as this can leave you looking over-styled. Shorter hair generally gives a great impression, as does a well-trimmed beard or clean shave. Likewise, keep your nails clean and well-trimmed.
Socks should be plain – ideally black – and long enough to cover your leg, especially if your legs are crossed.
Be cautious with cologne, or avoid wearing any at all. You don’t want to overpower your interviewer with strong scents, especially if the interview room is quite small.
When preparing for an interview, plan your outfit several days ahead, and make sure you have everything you need well in advance. Always maintain an awareness of what kind of industry you are interviewing within, as some industries are far more lenient than others and may not be concerned with a slight show of creativity in your dress. Remember, it is always better to be overdressed, showing that you are keen to impress, than be underdressed and risk looking slovenly or indifferent.
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