The struggle of retaining talent is at its highest. However, this current state of a candidate driven employment market should not be viewed by job seekers as an easy ride, whereby employers are settling for second best. On the contrary. It should be seen as a possibility of giving oneself the best chance to choose between jobs that are truly worth embracing, when taking the plunge of changing one’s job. This means that we should project our potential in areas which are in our control, starting from the covering letter, resume, application process and finally how we present ourselves at the interview stage.

How you present yourself during a job interview is crucial and while I appreciate that there are a million and one questions that plague our minds prior to a job interview, the question “What should I wear for my interview?” should not be seen as trivial. People might argue that your skills, experience and capabilities should ultimately tilt the scale in your favour and win you the job. While I agree this is a valid argument, you cannot ignore the fact that the way you present yourself can ultimately have a big impact on the final decision made by the hiring manager.

Remember, you only get one chance to make that all-important ‘first impression’ so make it a positive one: smile, make eye contact, strong handshake, shoulders back and emit confidence, while presenting yourself in the most adequate attire you have and let your appearance be the reflection of your level of professionalism. Show you are taking this opportunity and the time invested in you seriously. Make sure you are dressed adequately and do not look scruffy: avoid an unshaven beard, greasy hair, heavy make-up or chipped nail polish. Opt for a sharp look that will put you in good stead, and let’s not get creative with any unpleasant body odors!

The business world has changed on different levels in various industries. The days where a suit was considered a universal mandatory armour in the workplace, is now history. Every company wants its unique overall branding in the fight of retaining employees (but let’s save this topic for another time), thus what might be seen as professional in one company might be seen as too formal and not fitting, in another. This takes us back to the question highlighted earlier, which is now evidently far from a silly or easy question to answer: “What should I wear for my interview?”

Some startups are famous for having a more lax atmosphere, whilst others are still inclined to adopt the professional approach. Not all companies within similar industries adopt the same approach. Some companies work in a very corporate environment, whilst others work in a very casual environment, so be sure to do your research on company environment and ethics before you turn up for your interview. So what is the difference between a Business Professional and Business Casual? Just how casual is ‘casual’? Ultimately, you are not expected to create a ground-breaking fashion image in the business world but simply choosing the right style that fits the atmosphere and most importantly, your body shape.

Below is a table to help you break down the dress codes:

Business Professional

  • Suits are the standard
  • Women wear skirts or trouser suits, with dress shoes
  • Men wear blazer or suit jackets, button down shirts, suit pants, ties and dress shoes

Business Casual

  • Forget the suit look
  • Women wear conservative dresses or a blouse/sweater look, with dress pants or skirts with dress shoes or boots
  • Men wear slacks or chinos with a button down or polo shirt, a belt and dress shoes

Casual

  • Hold off the jeans and flip flop look till you get the job
  • Women wear collared shirts with pants or a pencil skirt/work dress
  • Men wear long sleeved dress shirts, khaki pants, belts and dress shoes

It is important to look polished and professional at all times. From surveys, the preferred colours by employers are blue, followed by black brown and grey - you can’t go wrong with neutrals. Hold back on the perfume, cologne or aftershave (people might be sensitive or allergic and your smell might be a distraction).

The war for retaining talent is higher than ever, but this does not give any candidate the right to be blasé about showcasing the best of himself or herself. Various dilemmas are top on the list when job hunting, therefore stay focused, be prepared at all times and do your homework. Research the company before the interview and get a feel of the culture. Use social media for reviews to identify if you know anyone personally who works at the company and through whom you could get some internal insight. Feel free to call or email the HR department to get the right guidance on the appropriate dress code. If still in doubt steer towards the formal style. In general, I would advise you to take things one step up to the daily dress code of the company, and go dressed relatively smart. Also, you should consider keeping a last minute emergency pack that may include mints, a comb or brush, and a needle and thread.

Finally, it is important to take into account that having a professional style that is different to your social and personal one is absolutely fine. This does not make you a fake individual. It makes you a balanced individual.

Don’t be afraid to make use of all the right ingredients to create the best recipe for a positive and successful interview outcome. Make the right choices for yourself and enjoy the journey to new pastures. Good luck and should we never cross paths thank you for taking the time to read this article. I truly hope you found it helpful in some shape or form.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Edel Bonello

Generalist Recruitment Specialist

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