How to dress to impress in your next interview

There are a lot of things about preparing for an interview that can make the process nerve-wracking, but one of the most important is deciding what to wear. It’s such a crucial part of the process because it will heavily influence what they think about you. Although your qualifications and experience should matter more, first impressions play a powerful factor in most areas of life, and interviews are no different.

With the modern working environment changing, it can be difficult to know what to wear, especially if you are looking for a job in a creative industry. For the generation before, it was fairly simple. An interview meant you wore a suit and that was that. However, with many employers now encouraging a more laid-back approach to work, it can be hard to know what you are supposed to wear come interview day.

You don’t want to come across as though you haven’t made an effort, but you also won’t want to be overdressed either.

Here are some tips for how to get it right, and ensure you make the right impression from the second you enter the interview room:

Look at the job description/interview invite
It may seem obvious, but the first place you should look for guidance about what to wear is the documentation you have inviting you to the interview. The email – or even letter – will give you details about where, what time and anything else you will need to know about the interview.

If you’re confused about what to wear, it’s likely that they will tell you to dress either ‘smart’ or ‘smart casual’. Although these terms can vary, the first means you probably need to wear a suit or smart, tailored dress/skirt to the interview, while the latter allows you to be a little more relaxed. If it invites you to wear ‘smart casual’ a shirt and smart trousers are the preferred option for many candidates, as it still looks professional but is a little more comfy than full suit attire.

It may not say anything about dress code on the interview invite. If this is the case, look at the job description as it will usually give you a good idea of what tone the interview will be. If in doubt – and unspecified by your potential employer – always go for smart rather than casual.

Consider the job you are going for
Applying for a role as an accountant is very different to going to interview for a games designer role and, as such, the rules for what to wear are likely to differ between the two industries. This can be another way to ascertain how your potential employer wants you to dress for your interview.

More traditional roles – like accountants, lawyers, teachers – are almost always going to want you to wear formal attire. However, creative, digital and technology sectors are likely to be more relaxed when it comes to what is considered appropriate business attire.

If you are interviewing for a role in the latter industries – and have no clue from your potential employer – stick to the rules of smart casual but add a little personality to your outfit. For men, this can be with a boldly coloured shirt – think rich blues and greens not lime greens or anything too heavily patterned – while women can experiment with statement necklaces. If you’re not that bold, a scarf can be a fantastic way for men or women to make an interview outfit a little more exciting without worrying about offending,

Above everything else, be clean and tidy
Of course what you wear matters, but turning up in a dirty suit or with messy hair won’t impress even the most relaxed of employers. As well as making sure you are wearing clean clothes, and appear well-kept when you turn up for your interview, it’s important to follow a few more traditional rules.

Tattoos should be covered and you also need to make sure you don’t smell of cigarettes. If you smoke, it’s good to carry some mints or chewing gum with you. Men should also go to an interview clean shaven, while women should make sure their makeup isn’t too heavy.

Also, go steady on the aftershave or perfume. Applying too much can be offputting and may mean your potential employer is more focused on how you smell that what you have to say.

These may seem like very conservative rules that are out of date for the modern workplace, but you’ll be surprised by how many employers still care about these sorts of things. And, as with most areas of interviewing, it’s better to be safe than sorry.