What to wear to an interview

Written by Simon Howarth, a graduate from the University of Leeds, writing on behalf of House of Fraser.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re interviewing for a university or college position, or applying for internships and jobs, if your clothes aren’t comfortable it will make you feel uncomfortable. Even the most immaculately dressed interviewee will come across as awkward and ill-at-ease to an interviewer if the clothes they wear are making them feel uncomfortable and fidgety. An interviewer is much more likely to pick a candidate who comes across as comfortable and relaxed, rather than someone who appears awkward and clumsy.

If the invitation to a job interview doesn’t specifically state what the dress code is, don’t be afraid to ask. No one will hold it against you, many potential employers will even see it as a sign of good preparation skills, and showing a desire to comply with the dress code is good manners when trying to integrate yourself seamlessly into the business.

Most job interviews call for formal wear, assume this is the case unless stated in the invitation and you can’t directly find out. For males this is relatively straight forward as it means a suit and tie, a jacket is not always necessary but a shirt, tie, and smart trousers are absolutely necessary. For females there is a bit more room to show off your individual style, but a pencil skirt with neat blouse is classic office wear, or a trouser suit combination.

One item of clothing many young men tend to neglect is the belt. Having low-rise trousers may be seen as fashionable casual wear, but interviewers prefer waistbands around the waist. Smart trousers also seem a little odd without a belt; a simple plain black belt will usually suffice.

This also applies at university or college interviews where the dress code is often smart/casual. For men this can mean a short sleeve polo shirt combined with a cardigan or jumper. Chinos can sometimes be considered acceptable, but if unsure stick to trousers and smart shoes. For women smart/casual can mean a number of things, including maxi dresses and day dresses; when combined with a suitable blazer or jacket they can look both smart and sophisticated.

Unfortunately it may be necessary for many students or recent graduates to purchase new clothing for an important interview, wearing faded or fraying clothes that have been used once too often gives a negative impression. If purchasing new clothes for an interview it is best to try and get high quality as they will last longer and stay in better condition. But don’t pay more than you can afford, the interviewer won’t be checking the labels on the way out. It’s also a good idea to wear the outfit a couple of times before the interview, even if it’s just around the house. This will give you a feel for the outfit and avoid it looking box-fresh. You may want all your clothes looking new when you’re out and about, but turning up to an interview with a shirt still creased from the packaging shows signs of last minute preparation.

Shoes are also very important to get right. Ladies should avoid wearing high heels, they can seem awkward when walking and make standing up a bit of a chore. If the business is very serious high fashion clothing may come across as frivolous and make you seem like you’re more concerned in your clothes than the interview. Remember you want to look smart, but not draw attention away from the reason you’re there, you! A closed flat toe pump looks smart and is most importantly comfortable, but low or medium court shoe in dark or muted colours would be suitable. Obviously wearing trainers is a non-starter, smart men’s shoes should be plain, humble, and preferably leather. Shoes like this in brown or black are suitable for a host of social situations from weddings to, most importantly, job interviews.

Remember the first impression is often the most important part of an interview. So you want to look smart, yet not draw attention away from your personality”.