How to dress for an interview

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change

Apr 29
Woman at a job interview

I’m delighted to welcome guest blogger Nicola Davis. Nicola is a multi-award winning colour and style consultant. Her professional background includes interviewing, and she knows what impresses employers. Read on for some terrific advice from Nicola on how to dress for an interview, and for a promotion!

Nicola Davis - Style Consultant

Nicola Davis

Like it or not, people form instant opinions about us based on how we look. Given my background in human resources and sales management, I know first-hand how true this is when it comes to interviewing candidates for jobs.

A survey conducted by The Ladders management careers company found for senior executives conducting interviews, 37% had decided against hiring a candidate due to the way they were dressed. Therefore to maximise your chances of getting the job you need to make sure you dress appropriately for the role and the company.

Research the company

When deciding what to wear for your interview, research the company to gain an understanding of its dress code. If possible, get along to their premises when you can see employees coming and going and take a look at what they’re wearing. At the very least, check out the images on their website. Are staff conservatively dressed in suits? Or, does the dress code appear to be more relaxed? If in doubt, always err on the side of caution and go for a formal, tailored look.

In any event, an interview is not the time for high-fashion or quirky statement dressing – unless of course you’re looking to work within the fashion or creative industries. You want the interviewer to be focused on you, not distracted by what you’re wearing.

Go for smart colour and style choices

A classic dark suit (navy or charcoal are good options for most people) teamed with understated accessories suggests authority and professionalism whilst a touch of red (perhaps in a tie or blouse) gives an impression of confidence and dynamism. Less structured clothes in softer colours tend to look less professional but could be appropriate for those seeking work in areas where they need to look approachable and empathetic. On the whole though, it’s safest to avoid pastels and florals for interview, unless teamed with something dark and tailored to add some gravitas.

Whatever the role you’re applying for, your clothes should be clean, current, well-fitting and appropriate. Good grooming is also essential. Surveys consistently show that women who wear make-up are perceived as being more professional and in control of their lives than those who don’t, so even if you don’t normally wear make-up, applying a little mascara, blusher and lipstick for the interview is worth considering. Do make sure you practice applying and wearing it well ahead of the interview day though to avoid last minute panic and disaster!

Dress for a pay rise with personal touches

Once you’ve got the job and demonstrated your competence in the role, you can afford to express more of your personality in the way you dress, whilst still adhering to any company dress code. Indeed, as Fortune Magazine noted “Personal style has always played, and still plays, a crucial role in the career trajectories of leaders’’(March 2015) Similarly, injecting some colour into your working wardrobe could enhance your career prospects according to an article in The Telegraph (November 2015) – “Colourful clothes lead to pay rises and promotion.”

The key to dressing for business is to convey the right sartorial messages whilst remaining true to your innate personal style. This can be done by adding personal touches to your professional “uniform”. For women this might be wearing your signature red lipstick or statement earrings or carrying a brightly coloured bag, whilst for men it might mean wearing a natty waistcoat or bow tie or perhaps using a messenger bag instead of a formal briefcase.

Seek advice on career and personal style

Finally, if you (or your boss!) really feel that your personal style is at odds with the company dress code and culture, you may well find that this is not the right organisation for you. In which case, I would thoroughly recommend that you get advice from Felicity regarding the type of work and style of company which will suit you best and enable you to fulfil your true potential.

If you would like to find out more about how to dress in a way that is flattering and appropriate and also reflects your style personality, I would be delighted to help. Please email or visit my website

Nicola Davis, 2016

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About the Author

Felicity is a career coach. She help people who want to change career, start a freelance business, or build their confidence. Felicity writes about career and business development, leadership and personal effectiveness.

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