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Dressed for Success

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It’s a new year and you are motivated and excited about finding the perfect job.  You’ve lined up an interview or two, so now what? 

A job interview can be an exciting yet daunting experience. You’ve obviously impressed the powers that be (on paper) to make it to the shortlist for interviews, now it’s time to meet them face to face and demonstrate your employability. It’s hard not to get carried away and start imagining yourself sitting amongst your new colleagues before you even step into your interview, (and in fact a little bit of ‘visualising’ to stay positive and project good vibes your way can’t go astray). But even better is to focus on making a good impression and work towards looking the part and feeling confident and positive during the interview itself.

Being able to impress with your experience, skills and expectations of the role is important, but so too is how you look.  First impressions are critical in an interview, and you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. You want to impress them as soon as you walk through the door. Apparently the first 30 seconds of an interview is critical, as this is when your potential employers are trying to imagine you in the vacant role. It seems unfair, but if you haven’t dressed the part, it may be harder for them to see you in the position. Visually there are a few things you can do to help get them onside before you even open your mouth…

It goes without saying that you want to be looking neat and presentable. But with the stress of preparing mentally for an interview, it can be easy to overlook some simple presentation principals, so here are some tips how to best give yourself the best chance of success at your next job interview.

Tips for Men

Not all job interviews call for a suit and tie, but if in doubt, wear one, even if you are over dressed, it shows respect for your potential employer and demonstrates a professional work ethic on your part. For a professional look, wear a dark coloured suit or pants, opt for colours such as navy or dark grey.

Wear a long sleeved rather than short sleeved shirt and go for a light colour such as crisp white, or another pale colour which compliments your suit – ensure there are no stains or obvious creases. White shirts after a few years of wear can easily look yellowed, so it might be worth buying a new white shirt if yours has seen better days. Places like Kmart, Target and even Lowes have good, affordable shirt options for men for under $30. If this is the only time you ever iron a shirt, its worth the trouble, even an expensive suit won’t hide a crinkled shirt, which gives the impression of sloppiness and or laziness.

A tie is a nice way to add colour and a dash of expression and personality to your look. Go for something to complement your outfit, and stick with a neat and simple design. Do your best to coordinate your belt with your shoes (black shoes means a black belt, brown shoes go for a brown belt).  

A quick buff and polish of your shoes the night before the interview is a good idea and team them with dark coloured socks on the day. Once you have your outfit together, if in doubt ask for a second opinion to check that the overall ensemble looks neat, sharp and flattering.

Despite beards and moustaches being in vogue at the moment, its still best, If possible, to attend your interview clean shaven, but if you do have an attachment to your facial hair, give it a trim, tidy and wash, and avoid the ‘cast away’ scruffy look. A $10 trim at your local barber is also money well spent before an interview to complete your well-groomed look.

Tips for Women

Women usually have a bit more flexibility with outfit options for interviews, with a range of combinations suitable for a formal job interview, from a simple corporate style dress, to jacket and skirt or pants combo. What ever you decide err on the side of conservative, choose something flattering but mature and professional.

For skirts and dresses, keep them to a conservative length, just above or below the knee is a safe zone. Also, dark and solid colours are less distracting and more sophisticated, going for a shade to suit your skin tone. If wearing a blouse or shirt, keep it fitted but not too tight, opting for a colour to complement the rest of the ensemble, something crisp and neat.

Pick shoes which are dressy, but not too high – kitten heels or flats are often a better option than high heels, which can make you a little less stable and you don’t want to be towering over your potential employer. 

Stockings can complete your look of sophistication, go for nude or black, and avoid patterns.

Make up should be minimal and simple, with natural colours to complement your best features. You want to look natural and healthy, so a matte base matched to your skin tone and blended along the neck teamed with lick of subtle lipstick, a coat of mascara, perhaps some neutral eye shadow and a sweep of blush to bring some colour to your cheeks should be all you need.

Tips for Everyone:

It's obvious but worth mentioning - don’t forget to wash, use deodorant, and brush your teeth before you leave home. And when it comes to personal fragrance, remember less is more. You might like to pop a mint into your mouth a few minutes before your interview for a fresh, minty mouth – (avoid gum, as you’ll have to dispose of it or conceal it somehow).

Regardless of what you end up wearing, the best accessory is a smile. When you meet your interviewer, smile confidently, give eye contact when you shake hands and try to stay as present and calm as you can to allow your many attributes shine through during the interview. The most important thing is to feel confident and project a positive and calm persona (even if under the surface you are nervous and anxious), and dressing smartly and taking a bit of extra time to refine your appearance will help you to feel and appear in control and at the top of your game.

After your interview, trust that you did your best, and that if the job is meant to be for you, it will be. If not, it’s still out there waiting for you.  

Good luck!