Choosing what to wear to an interview is important because first impressions are key. Interviewers are looking for clues as to whether or not you will be a good fit for their environment. Your personal appearance gives them those first clues.
There are some basic interview attire “DO”s:
DO research the culture to determine the most appropriate outfit and accessories. You want to look slightly more “formal” than the interviewer, but in a similar style. The message you hope to send is, “I am familiar with this environment and I will fit in here”. If you choose to wear a three-piece suit to apply for a job as a salesperson at Hot Topic, you send a big signal that you are unfamiliar with the company’s brand, and are probably not a good fit. By the same token, wearing jeans and sneakers to a grad school interview could be interpreted as a lack of respect for the institution.
DO be clean and well-groomed. Everything you wear should be free of stains, holes, wrinkles and signs of excessive wear. This includes your shoes. And your nails. You want them to see that you made an effort to look nice. It’s a sign of respect.
DO make sure your hair is not hanging in or covering your face. Your interviewer will definitely be looking at your face. You don’t want to seem like you are hiding. Absolutely no hats.
And some basic interview attire “DON’T”s:
DON’T wear perfume or cologne. Some people are very sensitive to certain smells and have an immediate negative reaction to smells they don’t like. There is NO scenario where I recommend wearing a scent. Even if you are applying for a position in the perfume industry. You can talk about your favorite scents. Just don’t wear one.
DON’T wear new shoes. New shoes often hurt feet. The last thing you will need is a distracting pain in your feet when you are trying to be upbeat and positive.
About makeup, jewelry, tattoos and piercings: For most positions and programs, you will want to minimize all of these. However, there are certain situations where this is not the case, so I can’t make that a hard and fast rule. Usually, less makeup is better than more. But if you are applying for a position as a make-up artist, you probably need to demonstrate your skills with your own makeup application. Same goes for jewelry. And in most cases I advise covering up piercings and tattoos. Unless you are a piercing or tattoo artist.
Like everything else you do when you are applying for a job, be intentional in your choice about what to wear to an interview. The image you present should tell the interviewer that you know who they are and that you will be a great fit for that company.
For more information about how to prepare for your next big interview, check out my other free tips here.
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