When you’re going for a new job, the first impression you make is extremely important and a few things contribute to this. The first thing you do, the first thing you say and, often the most important part of a first impression, how you look.
It may at first seem superficial to worry about how you look at a job interview, but the details and care taken when it comes to putting together your look says a lot more than you think it might. So no matter how much or little style or fashion matter to you, to pays to put in some effort.
The job, company and industry you’re applying to has to be taken into consideration when putting together your job interview look, you wouldn’t wear stilettos to an interview as a nurse, for example, but there are a few things that are universal. Here are my top tips for looking your best at a job interview.
1. Wash and blow dry your hair
Whether your hair is worn out or up, clean, well-maintained hair will immediately give a better impression. Shiny hair is also a sign of health, and speaks volumes about how you look after yourself and, by extension, your work.
A lot of people will tell you to tie your hair back for job interviews but, unless you’re applying to work in an industry where you need your hair tied back (food, health, etc), I generally think it’s more flattering to have it out, well styled, neat and brushed. Maybe don’t wear it in an afro, but beyond that it should be indicative of how you look.
And if you dye your hair for the love of employment don’t show up for an interview with regrowth. It’s not a great look.
2. Dress professionally
The clothes you select will say a lot about how you see yourself. A lot of advice I’ve read indicates dressing for the level of job (e.g. a receptionist would wear something different to a CEO) but I don’t agree with that. I’ve often subscribed to the theory “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. Within reason, of course – probably don’t apply for a job at McDonalds dressed in scrubs.
My favourite outfit for job interviews is a pair of well-tailored trousers (I’m always more comfortable in trousers than a skirt) and a white collared shirt. It may seem plain and boring, but it’s professional, classic, I can appear neat and well organised and no matter how corporate or relaxed the environment, I will fit in. Other clothing items I would recommend are:
- Pencil skirts (ensure they reach your knee)
- Sweaters (in winter) or cardigans that are professional (read: don’t have flowers and bows or are oversized or too tight)
Don’t be afraid to inject some colour if that’s you (it’s not me). You want to provide the best impression of yourself but remember – it does need to reflect you. You also want to stand out. A good friend of mine (who is very successful) recommends a grey suit (black or navy is too predictable) with a black shirt and red shoes.
3. Let’s talk shoes
If you do a little bit of thinking about the business you’re applying to, this will give you a better indication of the shoes you should wear. Is it a young, fashionable company, or an established, conservative place? Will you be on your feet all day, or sitting at a desk? Personally, for a job interview, I always lean towards heels. For two reasons:
- I prefer to be as tall as possible when I’m in a position of vulnerability.
- Conservative is often better.
Whether you choose flats or heels, the type of shoe should align with the company’s style. If it’s a fun, fashionable company, you may want to be a little more adventurous with your shoes (particularly if the rest of your outfit is very tame). If it’s conservative, stick with a black pump. But it is the safest way to inject some colour and personality into your outfit, especially in a classic colour like red. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could go for something like this:
Personally, I think it’s always a good idea to wear subtle makeup to a job interview. Now probably isn’t the time to do winged eyeliner or bust out the reddest lipstick you own. You want to look polished, neat, professional, and your best. So while some makeup will enhance your features, too much will distract from what you have to say.
If you have the time or money to get your makeup matched to your skin well, this will do you in good stead for the future. It’s especially important to do this with foundation. Your skin should look flawless, not like it’s covered in powder or a different colour to your neck/ears.
I would recommend subtle black eyeliner, skin coloured eyeshadow with some subtle contouring in a darker neutral tone (a slate is my personal favourite), mascara, foundation and the world’s tiniest bit of blush.
5. Watch the details
Is your makeup smudged? Are your nails neatly trimmed, clean and free from nail polish or is your nail polish free from chips? Are your clothes clean, pressed, and free from hair or fluff?
If you’re claiming “attention to detail” on that resume, you need to prove this in more than words.
Confidence is key. Smile, laugh, and appear at ease. Even if you’re not 😉
What tips would you give for dressing for a job interview? Do you agree with mine?
Items in the top picture are: Cue Mini Check Pant $229 / Cue Shaped Waist Pencil Skirt $195 / Country Road Washed Silk Pocket Shirt $149 / Saba Kelly Jacket $299 / Saba Kylie Skirt in cream $149 / Country Road Double Cloth Pant $129 / Wittner Beaker Heels $129.95 / Country Road Letitia Ballet $99 / Country Road Nubuck Letitia Ballet $99 / Shoe Envy Endless Legs $129