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In the approach to an interview, there are many worries that can keep replaying in your mind - how early should you arrive, how do you shake their hand, what interview questions will they ask you? These are all important questions but one of the most important questions I always ask myself is “what should I wear to my interview?”. There are so many possibilities for what would be deemed an appropriate choice of attire for a first interview, and there are many factors that can affect the final decision.
You should think about what type of company they are: is it a corporate environment or is there more of a laid back vibe?.
When it comes to the question of “what to wear”, I would argue that there is no wrong answer, it all depends on the environment. The most important thing is to wear something that you feel comfortable and confident in.
You’ll already have a good idea of what the company does because you’ve bagged yourself an interview, so use that knowledge to help you work out what to wear. For example, a tech-savvy startup or marketing agency is more likely to have a more informal approach to dress code than an investment firm or bank. It would be useful to do further research into the company by looking at the about section of their website and their social media to see if there are any photos of people in the office or at work events. If you know someone who already works at the company, it would be a good idea to reach out and ask them for advice on what the company dress code is. Common sense would say that opting for a smart outfit is a safer bet than turning up in jeans and a t-shirt. If you aren’t sure what side of smart you should go for, smart casual is always a good bet as it’s a nice balance between formal and informal. If you still aren’t sure, always opt for something on the smarter side of the spectrum. This avoids that awkward feeling of being the most under-dressed person in the room. It would also leave a great first impression as it shows you made the effort.
Tracksuits, jeans, hoodies and some trainers are a big no. They just don’t create a professional persona, so I would avoid going to an interview in anything too casual. My advice would be no to running shoes, but a smart suede trainer could work well. Black or dark coloured jeans paired with a smart shirt also looks professional. Also, try not to wear anything that has words or logos written boldly across your t-shirt, but wearing a subtly branded tee could be ok. A heavily branded outfit could be distracting for your interviewer. You want them focusing on you, not your clothes.
One thing to remember is to play it safe, but not to the extent that you forget to show your personality. Smart casual outfits with some colour and low-key branding could show the interviewer your individuality, so try to look the part whilst also making sure to add your own subtle hints to stand out.
For my current apprenticeship, I went for a full smart outfit - smart black trousers, a shirt, blazer and black brogue shoes. Although I was familiar with the company, I was unsure of what the dress code was. This speaks volumes as it shows that even though you may be aware of what a company does, you may not be aware of what their office environment is like. Wearing standard corporate colours (i.e. black, grey and white) is the best bet. Smart suits, trousers, skirts and dresses are most common, with the hope of making it look like you put effort into dressing up. I chose to opt for a smart outfit over a casual one to try to make the best first impression on my interviewers. It takes only seven seconds for you to make an impression on someone, therefore opting for a smart outfit will instantly tell your interviewer that you are a serious candidate, and are in it to win it.
I have had past interviews for retail jobs, where I chose to wear more casual outfits. I felt that jeans and a nice shirt or T-shirt was suitable, especially as they weren't in strict corporate environments. The type of outfit you wear to an interview is hugely dependent on the type of company.
I have been in situations where I was the only person dressed in a casual outfit, and everyone else was in smart attire. It made me feel uncomfortable and out of place, therefore my rule now is always to overdress rather than underdress, especially if a dress code wasn’t stated. It’s better to stand out in a suit as opposed to standing out in a tracksuit or jeans.
Overall, the question of “what to wear to an interview” should always be considered when attending a job interview but always remember the thing they’re really interested in is who you are, which you can show them through your answers to their interview questions. The clothes you choose to wear are just the outer layer.