First impressions count and are formed in the first 90 seconds of an interview and the saying ‘you only get one chance to make a good impression’ is very true. Research shows that 55% of a first impression is based on your appearance, 38% on body language and just 7% on what you say. In an increasingly competitive market place, if two candidates are equally matched on experience and skills, your image could be the thing that sways the decision in your favour.
How you come across is more than just clothes - don’t forget that shoes, teeth, hair, skin and coat/bag count too. Be smart, clean and tidy and wear clothes that make you feel good and are comfortable.
Dress appropriately for your audience and be yourself – fit in but retain your individuality. It’s important to have your own sense of style, but err on the side of caution/smartness. “Good clothes open all doors.” Thomas Fuller.
Remember to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This also applies to everyday work, not just interviews.
Make sure that you get to your interview with 15 minutes to spare so that you have time to visit the bathroom and do last minute checks e.g. that you have no spinach between your teeth.
Here’s a checklist of tips from Judi Bitel, an image consultant, based at 1 Harley Street with 20 years in the fashion business:
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before your interview and avoid a hangover as you won’t look or feel your best
- Before you leave home, have a final check looking in a mirror from the front and back to avoid mistakes such as VPLs, your flies being undone or a stain/chewing gum that you’re not aware of
- Give your jacket a shake in case of dandruff
- No mad ties or socks for men
- Choose the top/shirt under your jacket carefully in case you get hot and need to take your jacket off in the interview.
- Don’t wear clothes that are too warm as people tend to get hotter when they feel nervous
- Make sure that your clothes/shoes are well maintained; reheel and clean your shoes, sew on buttons, ensure there are no frayed cuffs etc
- Wear subtle jewellery and don’t overkill on the perfume/aftershave
- Use anti-perspirant deodorant to avoid wet patches under your arms
- Clean your teeth, use mouthwash and take some mints with you
- Keep your nails tidy and clean
- Take a smart bag/briefcase not a carrier bag to the interview
- Ensure that your bag/briefcase are tidy as rummaging around through old sweet wrappers etc won’t present you at your most professional
- Women – wear earrings and subtle makeup even if you don’t normally. Remember that research shows that women who wear makeup earn 15% more than women who don’t
- Be nice to the receptionist – they are sometimes asked how candidates came across
- Look at yourself objectively through someone's else’s eyes and pay attention to detail e.g. the coat that looks smart on the outside may have a tear on the lining underneath which, if you asked to give in your coat at reception, may make you feel embarrassed – not the best start to an interview
- Dry clean your coat and any suits/jackets in advance so that your clothes are pristine and you look smart
- Keep your hair clean and tidy and ensure it is not hiding your face
- Choose a pen that says ‘good quality’ – a chewed Bic pen doesn’t cut the mustard
- Invest in a new suit that makes you feel good. If you are short of cash, remember you can get some great bargains in dress agencies and second-hand shops, especially in upmarket areas
- Women – don’t wear anything too short or too tight and avoid displaying your midriff – celebrate your femininity, but don’t flaunt it. Even if you are not into wearing skirts, make the effort and wear one for your interview
- Piercings are a no-no, except in your ears if you are a woman
- Avoid wearing new shoes as you don’t want to hobble into the reception if they prove to be uncomfortable
- If you want to convey authority, wear colours with a deep contrast e.g. white and black; if you want to convey approachability, wear clothes with a slight contrast, e.g. lemon and khaki.
- Take an umbrella in case it rains as you don’t want to look like a drowned rat and ruin the effect of your efforts and planning of how you look
- Men – avoid pockets overstuffed with change etc as they ruin the line of your suit/trousers and don’t juggle your change
Judi Bitel says that when a person is badly dressed you notice the clothes. When a person is well dressed, you notice the person. Good luck and remember how you look on the outside will affect how you feel on the inside.