Interview the Best You: Looking the Part
First impressions are everything. We are reminded of that time and time again, and we inescapably prove it to ourselves when we make snap judgments of strangers. It really is inevitable. Even if we refrain from commenting, or work past it to try and see the potential beneath, we pay more attention to appearances first and character second.
This means that, when you're looking for that dream job, your initial appearance can make all the difference. What you wear, how you style your hair, how much sleep you got last night, and even the size of your pupils can dictate a person's first impression of you and alter how they see you for some time.
What to wear
It all depends on who you're interviewing with. Do some scouting of the company beforehand to see what the employees wear on a regular basis. Conservative? Informal? Getting an idea of what the employers will accept is a great way to make a good impression. It will make you appear as if you fit into the atmosphere naturally, as if you belong there. During the interview, it's still important to dress slightly nicer. It's a polite and subtle way of saying “I respect you and take this interview seriously.” The idea though, is to integrate the business into your outfit. If it's more casual, dress more casual. If it's more formal and conservative, dress in darker, tailored outfits.
In this respect, most men have it pretty easy. A simple suit, dark grey, with a tie is formal and can go almost anywhere, but it will still feel casual. The lighter the color of the suit, the less formal. The darker, the more formal. Finance and other high-end office jobs will be better with darker, more traditional suits, while with newer and less conventional companies, it might be best to go lighter, with more color and personality. Shoes should be polished and match the suit. Keep to plainer, more traditional styles no matter where you go (a good pair of oxford shoes should do). Use color creatively and subtlety. Don't be loud with color; use it instead to complement what you want to represent. Blue is good for loyalty, while red can portray ambition.
Women, however, have more of an uphill battle in what is work appropriate. There are more color options, outfit styles, and accessories to worry about. One worry is the length of the skirt or dress. Stick to something that hits the very top of your knees, anything shorter seems suited more for a cocktail party than work, and many longer skirts can seem better for a formal event. The shirts should cover the majority of the body, back and front. In more conservative places, covering up arms is important too. Simple cardigans and blazers give you a clean and sophisticated appearance. Keep colors to a minimum, and make sure they match. Dresses are a simple way to dress nicely, and the same rules that apply for skirts and shirts also apply for dresses.
Some Basic Tips
There are always a few interview don'ts. A big one is NOT wearing denim for an interview. Denim was developed for laboring outside in rough conditions. There is no reason to wear denim for an interview. Avoid overtly summery clothing like sunglasses, shorts, and tank tops. And don't, please don't, wear a t-shirt! Summer clothes can be nice, and a well made sun-dress can be a great statement dress for women and still light and breezy, but it is important to keep the outfit professional and appropriate for the workplace. If men want to go a bit summery, instead of dressing down, wear lighter colors.
Speaking of colors, knowing the different tones can help a lot. Neutrals: browns, greys, and tans; jewels: magenta, emerald, and indigo; pastels: mint green, pale yellow, and pink all convey different meanings and add or subtract from your personality. At places you are not sure about, stick to the neutrals. At places that allow a bit more freedom, add in some jewel tones or pastels to your taste. You want to be remembered more for your personality and competency for the job though, not for the color you're wearing! Make sure to keep colors in a supporting role; they don't belong in the spotlight.
Accessories can add or subtract from an outfit, and for interviews, many accessories can simply be too loud or eye catching. Keep them to a minimum, and let your qualifications do the talking. Men should avoid accessories of any kind, while women should keep arms and hands bare. Keep accessories limited to necessities like medical bracelets, watches, and wedding rings.
How to look good
These are the small details that might get overlooked because they don't have anything to do with your clothes. Take care of yourself, and you should be fine. Make sure to be well rested the night before because your skin is like a beacon and displays every worry you've ever had. Skin repairs itself rapidly while your body is asleep, so a full night's rest will erase most worry (or party) lines. Next, make sure your hands are taken care of, unless your interviewing for a position like a carpenter or construction worker - callouses aren't pleasant to discover in a handshake. Put some lotion on the night before (yes even you men!), and let it soak in overnight. It will heal the same as the skin on your face, and you won't have to worry about greasy fingers in the morning. Make sure your fingernails are clean and well manicured. No broken or chipped nails and no worries about biting at a hangnail.
Don't shower right before your interview. It's nice to be squeaky clean right before you talk to someone, but the wet hair comes across as rushed, not polished. No matter your hairstyle, keep it out of your eyes. Eye contact can convey trust, honesty, and determination, and if the employer can't see your eyes, they can't perceive those things in you. When in doubt, avoid perfume or cologne. The employer interviewing you might have allergies that could cause complications. A nifty trick for this is watching what you eat a few days before your interview. Avoiding strong-smelling food like garlic and onions will ensure that you aren't stinking up a sweat when you're nervous.
These tips and tricks are great for making a good first impression on your future boss. The thing you really need, though, is confidence. Smile, not just with your mouth but with your eyes. Be happy to be there, and thank the interviewer for their time. When you are asked to talk about yourself, be honest. Believe in your ability to get the job and do it well – because no matter what you're wearing, who you are is far more important than the clothes on your back.