It only takes a few seconds for an interviewer to decide how they feel about you. No matter how much experience you have or how refined your interview skills are, you should never underestimate the importance of your interview outfit.
The global pandemic has seen an influx in new ways of working, with hybrid and remote working models taking up a much greater market share of the working environment. With many employees having worked from home at some point over the last two years, work attire has been limited to clothing that offers comfort over professionalism.
So what's the best outfit to wear to a job interview? We explore some of the measures you can take to ensure your outfit makes the best impression during a job interview, no matter the role.
Do your research
When you’re applying for a role, it’s advised to research the company to understand the ethos, ambition and culture. The same can be said when trying to gain an understanding of the office attire, so you can dress appropriately for your interview.
If you’re looking for inspiration, the company’s website and social media pages can be informative tools. Looking over their digital channels could give you an insight into the office dress code and help you plan your outfit.
You should also consider the industry and role you're applying for. An office job will usually require you to wear business attire, while casual employment opportunities tend to be slightly more relaxed, with managers and employees preferring to wear business casual that's in line with the company ethos.
If you can't determine the organisation's dress code, consider reaching out to the team in charge of hiring new employees – usually the human resources team. Explain that you have an interview with the company and want to know if there is a dress code. Their response will help you determine what to wear.
Making sure you look your best shows the employer that you care enough to give a good impression to those responsible for hiring.
A move towards business/smart casual
Due to the evolution of working models, the UK business landscape has seen an increase in business casual and smart casual attires across a breadth of sectors and industries. Even though many businessmen and women still wear suits, there is a preconceived notion that the suit is now deemed too formal. In March 2022, the men’s suit was removed from the basket of goods used to calculate the annual inflation rate by the Office for National Statistics.
The suit is often seen as a signifier of success, but with the rise in eminent business leaders including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Susan Wojcicki opting for more relaxed attire, the full suit no longer appears necessary.
So what is business/smart casual?
The terms business casual or smart casual refer to a workplace dress code that involves wearing clothes that lean towards a modern and casual style, rather than strict and traditional. These attires still look and feel professional, neat and appropriate for the office environment.
While a business professional dress code includes a suit and tie, business/smart casual is less formal and can include:
A jumper or jacket with a shirt or blouse
Dresses with a blazer
A polo, button-down or collared shirt
A smart pair of trousers, chinos or a skirt
Pumps, flats, low heels or lace up shoes
Many professional industries have moved towards business/smart casual attire in the workplace, helping to increase employee comfort in the office. During your interview, the employers will want you to feel comfortable, so try choosing an outfit that helps to reflect that business/smart casual look and feel.
Be confident with your choice
No matter what, you need to be confident with your choice of attire. You shouldn’t rush this decision. Start by gathering a selection of options from your wardrobe and lay them out so the full look is visible. You could try mixing and matching pieces to try and determine what looks the best.
To test your choices, try a dress rehearsal in the mirror or simply recreate the job interview setting at home. This will help you to make a decision based on your appearance, the outfit’s comfort, as well as allowing you to see if your personality shines through.
Once you are happy with your choices, try them on and decide which outfit you feel not only looks the best, but which feels most appropriate for the role. Even if your interview is taking place virtually, you still want to portray to potential employers that you’ve invested time in making sure you look professional.
What to avoid
Alongside knowing what to choose for a job interview, it’s also worth noting some clothes that are best to avoid, no matter the formality or informality of the business that’s hiring. This includes if the interview is virtual or in person – your outfit choice should be the same for both.
Dressing appropriately for a job interview, especially if it shows care, time and effort, is going to be appreciated by the interviewer. Showing that you’ve done your research and know what to wear can also improve your chances of getting hired.
To make sure that you dress in a suitable fashion, it may be worth avoiding the following items:
Short skirts and dresses
Shorts, casual t-shirts and vest tops
Sweatshirts, leggings and pyjamas
Joggers, tracksuit bottoms and ripped jeans
Unsuitable footwear including sandals, trainers and flip-flops
Even though your interview attire depends on the role you're applying for, you should attend the interview looking tidy, neat, and well-dressed to give yourself the best possible chance of making a lasting first impression.
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