How to dress for success for a job interview

Do's and don'ts to dressing for a job interview - because it does matter what you wear.

By Angela Cameron
It's a fact. You can be the most talented, the most able and the best-suited person for a role, but if you aren't dressed in an 'acceptable' manner, you run the risk of not getting the job offer.
Surely this is unfair? Perhaps. But in 15 years of recruitment I have seen employers overlook the best person for the role because they weren't the best 'fit'. To appreciate this situation, you need to understand where an employer is coming from:
  • They're under pressure to make an assessment about you and your suitability for their role.
  • They've only got a short amount of time to do this (i.e. the interview).
  • Often – they're under a huge workload and/or have minimal experience or capability with assessing people.
  • The reality is – they just want their recruitment pain to go away and for the role to be filled!
So, when an employer is having to hire under these conditions, how you are dressed becomes crucial. What you wear will be used by this employer to decide if you get the job. Or not.
Here's my no-fail guide to dressing for an interview irrespective of the role:
Angela Cameron is managing director of recruitment firm, Consult Recruitment

What you wear must convey that you understand their business and you will fit in

It's a fail to wear your corporate suit to your retail assistant interview or to wear jeans and sneakers to the insurance company meeting. Make it easy for the employer - you've got to look like you already work in the organisation.

Dress tidier for the interview then you would in the day to day role

This shows respect for the interview process and the person you are meeting – it is also an easy way for the hiring manager to assess whether you have common sense and social intelligence. Showing that you know what is appropriate but that you have made an extra effort tells an employer you understand them and the occasion.

Be clean and well groomed

Most would say that's a given, but you'd be surprised. For some employers it's all about nails, for others it's your shoes. This may seem superficial but turning up with chipped nail polish and dirty shoes may indicate to some employers that you won't care too much for your job.

If you are unsure on what to wear do your homework

This means checking out their website, asking your recruiter what's appropriate, or in the worst case scenario scoping the place out before the interview to see what current employees are wearing. Again, if you haven't done your homework it indicates to a hiring manager you don't care too much about them or their role.

If in doubt, overdress

You have to be an absolute superstar to pull off the "I'm so cool I turn up uber-casual" interview look. Most of us mere mortals would just be perceived as full of ourselves or lacking in care. If you get into an interview and realise you are overdressed, mention it in the interview. Something like 'I know I am overdressed but I am very interested in this role so wanted to make a big effort for this interview' will be more quickly forgiven than being too casual.
What you wear to an interview can be the difference between a job offer and being relegated to the 'no' list. So in this case it definitely is worth obsessing over what you're going to wear.