Imagine you’re an employer and your job for the day is to interview a group of highly qualified applicants. You’re excited to call the next person in – their application looks promising. They’re experienced, have a professional resume and cover letter, and sounded great on the phone. But, as they enter the room, the first thing you notice isn’t their friendly smile – it’s the grumpy cat declaring he hates Monday’s emblazoned across the front of their shirt.
Being able to dress appropriately for any situation is a skill – one that’s actually not too difficult to master. There are social guidelines for how to dress for specific occasions – you wouldn’t wear a ball gown to the beach – and similarly there are rules around how to dress for the work place.
First impressions matter
Employers can make up their mind about whether they like you or not within the first thirty seconds of meeting you – and the way you present yourself plays a major role in this decision. For this reason, it’s important to put some effort into your appearance before you head into an interview.
There’s no need to give yourself a complete makeover, but putting in the extra effort doesn’t go unnoticed. Make sure your hair is neat and styled – especially facial hair, guys. If required, wear simple, understated makeup.
It’s also important to be aware of other senses, such as smell. Taking a shower before your interview will help you feel calm and refreshed and, if you’re a nervous sweater, it might be a good idea to carry some deodorant with you just in case.
Dress one step above what employees wear
What you wear is equally as important as grooming. This may take a bit of research and planning but aim to present yourself as if you’ve already got the job. Try looking at the company’s website or social media page to gain insight into what the employees wear. You should aim to dress to a similar standard, if not higher. Subdued colours are a good idea, with possible exceptions being when interviewing for quirky, laid-back, creative companies.
You should also pay attention to your accessories and footwear. While you may put little thought into the types of shoes you wear or how clean they are, employers may see them as an indicator of your level of attention to detail.
Gain an edge by appearing professional and polished
Dressing appropriately is a powerful tool, and you should use it whenever possible. In recent years, Australia has experienced a relaxation of business attire standards. There is more freedom in how you dress, but be aware that there are still unwritten rules – and like it or not, your appearance is a defining factor in someone’s first impression of you.
Interviews aside, try to present yourself well when doing anything that may connect to future work. For example, have you ever thought about how you present yourself when you hand in resumes or attend networking events? If not, now’s a good time to start.
You only get one chance at a first impression. Knowing how to dress for different occasions is a skill – use it.