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Dressing for the Interview

Dressing for the Interview

How can you maximise success with the image you give?


There are so many components to a successful job interview that it’s no wonder this is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.  Job interviews can be tricky – especially if you haven’t changed jobs that often.

So, your résumé has impressed the potential employer and you’re preparing for the formal interview.

Selling your skills is not that different from selling a house.  When a buyer walks into a house with décor dating from the 1970’s, the first thing that pops into his/her head is:  “I’m going to have to replace the appliances, the carpets, do some serious decorating here and that is going to cost me a lot of money.  If they haven’t updated the décor in thirty years, what else have they neglected?   Am I going to need a new roof?  Will I have to replace the plumbing and will the electrics handle all my gadgets?  Do I want to invest the time and money in this or am I just going to look for something more contemporary?”

Employers do exactly the same thing with people.  If your hairstyle or your clothes is out of date when you present yourself for a job, an experienced interviewer will think:  “Chances are very good that their skills are also out of date.  Does this mean that they are resistant to change?  Are they going to have trouble learning our computer system and are they going to be reluctant to learn new things?”

The moral of the story:  Don’t allow your appearance to sabotage your chances towards a successful interview.   When dressing for the interview, aim to look current rather than trendy.  Keep you outfit simple, classic and coordinated.  It is always better to err on the formal side.  If you feel overdressed at the interview you can take your jacket off but always wear it when you arrive.  

Here are a couple of guidelines to help you on your way to a successful interview.

What to Wear


  • Neutral suit in medium to medium-dark colour like navy, grey, brown (make sure collar and shoulders fit correctly and it is pressed)
  • Pastel shirt with a collar that fits
  • Tie that brings together the suit and shirt – not too flashy (ends at belt buckle)
  • Traditional shoes matching the suit (polished and in good repair)
  • Belt in the same colour as shoes
  • Long socks matching both shoes and trousers
  • Briefcase in tone with shoes
  • Jewellery should be limited to a watch and ring
  • Hair trimmed and clean
  • Fragrance should be very light – if worn at all
  • Clean, short nails
  • Contemporary glasses (make sure they’re clean)
  • A smile


  • Neutral suit in medium to medium-dark colour like navy, grey, brown (make sure shoulders, neck and bust fits correctly)
  • Skirts should be knee-length to mid-calf (they pull up at least 5cms when seated)
  • Pastel blouse with a modest neckline
  • (sheer, low-cut, brightly coloured blouses are no-no’s)
  • Closed-toe shoes with heels no higher that 5cms in the same colour or darker than your suit (polished and in good repair)
  • Hosiery in 10-20 denier blending with your hemline and shoes
  • Classic handbag or briefcase in matching colour and quality (only one piece)
  • Simple but interesting earrings to complement your face and neckline (nothing dangling)
  • Bracelets and rings in tone with your suit 
  • Hair in a contemporary style that suits your personality – clean and controlled for the interview
  • Nail colour should be understated if worn
  • Makeup should be flattering and current
  • Go very light on perfume or don’t wear any at all
  • A smile


The potential employer not only assesses whether you are qualified to do the job and have the necessary skills, but also whether you will fit in and will actually do the job at hand.  

Your attitude usually provides the answer to this last part of the question – one of the few things in life that we have total control over. 

Henry Ford said:  “Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are right”
Posture and Movement
The way we carry ourselves and move is a great indicator of our vitality, youthfulness and enthusiasm.  Move with confidence, purpose and energy.  You tell the world that your life has direction, purpose and a calendar full of exciting events.

Facial Expressions and Gestures

The more we mature the less we seem to check our facial expressions and gestures which can often be misread by new acquaintances.  Take care to match your gestures and facial expressions with your words so that your interviewer doesn’t get the wrong message.

Your qualifications and experience speak for itself.  Presenting yourself visually as current, energetic, enthusiastic and youthful communicates that you have what it takes and that you are ready and willing to do what is required. 

Reinvent Your Career would like to thank adage where this article first appeared.

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