Everybody and their aunt has advice for how to make a good impression during an interview. People recommend all sorts of wild things from extra-firm handshakes to power plays like waiting for the interviewer to talk first. It doesn’t take a genius to realize those are probably the kinds of moves that will make you stand out in a bad way. In reality, your visual first impression can be almost as important as anything else that happens in your interview. So how do you dress for an interview to impress?
Well, here’s some insider tea from the hiring manager side of the desk: it can be hard to remember which candidate was which after a day full of interviews and you’re more likely to recall an interviewee for a negative reason than a positive one. It’s the guy who came in doused in aftershave and wearing a yellow bow tie that kept referring to themself as a “real go-getter” who’s going to have the hiring committee laughing over lunch. The funny thing is, that’s the candidate who’s going to forever be referred to as “yellow bow tie guy.”
Few people realize how much simple things like good grooming and a professional appearance can make you a more attractive candidate. The goal for your interview attire should be to stand up to the interview process, not so much to stand out. Be the person everyone has nothing negative to say about when the hiring conversation begins, the person that makes everyone take a second look at your resume. If your interviewer isn’t being blinded by the loud floral print trousers you’re wearing, they’ll be paying more attention to what you actually have to say.
What to Wear to an Interview:
Try not to wear anything with large contrasts in color, or anything that makes your outfit standout more than you do. You don’t need to avoid color, just be a little subtle with it. Pair your stunning royal blue blouse with soft grey trousers rather than red ones.
Avoid Loud Prints
An outfit can beautiful and tasteful, but totally inappropriate for an interview. This is a time to let your skills shine, not your wardrobe. If you want to wear a print, that’s fine, just stick with low contrast color tones in tried and true business patterns like small florals, tweeds, herringbones, and pinstripes.
Even in an office with a business-casual dress environment, nothing says you’re serious about your work like a tailored blazer. If you can only afford one item to invest in for your business wardrobe, it should be a jacket. Tailoring is often far less expensive than people think. Check with your local dry cleaner if you’re not sure where to go to have something tailored, often they can do it for you.
And you don’t need to pay top dollar for a jacket either! Consider designer second-hand stores or high end department store discount outlets to pick up a nice piece and then have it custom fitted to you. Quality and fit are going to go a lot further to make you look professional than buying the latest piece off the runways that has a cheaper look.
Presentable, well-maintained shoes are a particular sticking point for a lot of Baby Boomers, so this is one item you don’t want to overlook. You don’t have to break the bank, but you need a nice pair of dress shoes. Whether they’re pumps or flats, the key is to make sure they’re polished and have no visible scuffs. If your budget is tight, check consignment stores for quality shoes that haven’t been worn much.
This should be a no-brainer, but you might be surprised. Some people do need a reminder to be well groomed for an interview. There’s the obvious grooming advice like shower, do your hair, brush your teeth, but there are a few things that may be less obvious to some. For one, be sure to break out your lint roller and check for things like pilling fabric or stray cat hair. Another thing to be sure of is that your nails are very clean and well groomed. And always sneak into the bathroom to take one last look in the mirror to make sure you don’t have anything in your teeth or (yikes) in your nose.