The Just Recruitment Guide to interview dressing

If you’ve been called to an interview for your dream job, you’ll be eager to make a good impression. Here’s how to dress for success

Picture the scene. You’ve walked into the interview room for a job you’re really keen to land, and everyone is wearing a smart suit. Trouble is, you’ve just got a pair of scruffy trousers on, married to a creased shirt with a sweater casually slung over your shoulders.

You probably feel slightly underdressed. And in those precious few moments when you should be gathering your thoughts and taking a deep breath, you’ll be busy analysing the stares of the interview panel, trying to work out if they’re judging you for your sloppy attire.

Now play that same scene over again in your mind, but flip the sartorial balance in your favour. You’re the one dressed up in your best suit, while everyone else looks scruffy and unprepared.

Bet you feel completely in control of the situation, don’t you? And in the worst case, you’ll think that your decision to wear your smartest clothes demonstrates how keen you are on the job. No one’s going to judge you negatively for that, are they?

The point, as Just Recruitment Associate Director Sam Chambers explains, is that there’s no such thing as overdressing for an interview. Go in your best bib and tucker and you’ll never feel anything less than a decent candidate who’s keen to impress.

“Dressing smartly isn’t the same as dressing up,” Sam states. “If you’re going for an interview, you need to wear appropriate clothing for a professional environment, to show that you know how to behave in that world. So while you want to look your best, remember that you’re dressing for business, not for a night out on the town.”

That’s good advice, because it speaks of the need to be relatively conservative in your sartorial decisions before interview.

“If you’re a bloke,” says Sam, “resist the temptation to wear your loudest shirt and tie combination. You may feel it’s a great reflection of your personality, but it could prove a distraction to the panel. Or they may simply think you’re an attention seeker, which could mean they form a negative perception of you.”

Sam suggests that a sober suit and plain shirt are the safest option for an interview, with a tie if you’re going for a job with high professional standing, such as a lawyer or medic. “Look at male politicians and you’ll see what it means to play things safe with your shirt and tie,” she says. “It’s rare to see a politician in anything other than a white or pale coloured shirt, with a fairly modest tie. They don’t want their clothes to be a distraction, but they do recognise the need to dress with style.”

The same advice applies to women, for whom there are more options when it comes to a smarter wardrobe. “You can’t go wrong with a business suit, either with trousers or a skirt,” reflects Ms. Chambers. “But a plain-coloured dress worn with a jacket can also look very elegant and professional.”

As with men, the crucial thing is to keep things simple. Resist the urge to wear ostentatious accessories, such as large rings or earrings, or jangly bracelets. “While you may want to express your individuality with your outfit, you want to make sure nothing detracts from the quality of your answers, and the interviewers’ assessment of your suitability for the role,” Sam advises.

The comparison with politicians is helpful for women as well as men. Sam also says that newsreaders are worth scrutinising if you want inspiration. “A lot of female newsreaders wear very elegant clothing that oozes style, without in any way distracting from their obvious intelligence, or their command of the viewer’s attention.”

That’s pretty much the philosopher’s stone of interview techniques, of course: finding a way to make the panel hang on your every word. And getting the basics like clothing right is a very good place to start.

So the next time you’re preparing for an interview, channel your inner Huw Edwards or Fiona Bruce. That way, you’ll make a great impression right from the word go. 

Posted on Friday Dec 1