dress for success

Dress for success at your graduate job interviews

You want graduate recruiters to remember you, not your clothes, so find out what to wear to boost your confidence and create a professional impression at interview.
Different industries have slightly different dress codes, but even so, you need to err on the side of formality.

Making a good impression as soon as you walk through the door will help you to get your graduate interview off to a flying start. People tend to form an opinion of someone new within a few seconds of meeting, so you need to make sure your appearance works in your favour by dressing the part and presenting yourself in the best possible light.

How should you dress for job interviews?

Imagine what you'd wear if you got the job and were going to a meeting with important clients. The safest bet is a business-like dark suit, perhaps in navy or charcoal grey, with a light-coloured shirt.

You want the interviewer to remember you, not your clothes, accessories or scent. This is not the time to experiment with bold patterns, clashing colours, hats or dramatic jewellery, unless you're going for a job where your individual sense of style is likely to be a selling point. Try to look as smart as possible.

Different industries have slightly different dress codes, but even so, you need to err on the side of formality. You may want to be creative, but employers' own likes and dislikes could be used against you. Even in creative industries such as the media or publishing, where day-to-day office dress may be more casual than in finance or law, interview candidates are still expected to dress smartly. For example, don't turn up to your interview in jeans,
even if you know for a fact that everyone who works there wears jeans most days. Dressing smartly shows your interviewers that you will look professional when meeting clients or representing the employer in some other way.

Interview style tips for men

A suit is the rock-solid foundation of your interview outfit. The best colours for an interview suit are black, grey and navy/dark blue. Even if you don’t think it will be necessary, stay on the safe side by wearing a jacket. You can always take it off if you feel it’s a bit too formal for the interview.

Basic colour coordination will help show recruiters that you are organised and professional. Choose a lighter-coloured plain shirt (one with buttons and a collar, as opposed to a t-shirt or polo); either white or blue would be ideal. Shoes and belt should both be either black or brown. Try and avoid mixing the two colours, as it can look messy.

Ties are a must to complete the interview look. Keep ties either plain or very simply patterned; you can probably get away with stripes, but you should definitely avoid any loud prints. Anything one could deem ‘novelty’ would be unwise. The same rules apply when it comes to socks.

Don't turn up in jeans, even if you know for a fact that everyone who works there wears jeans most days.

When it comes to hair, neatness is key. The clean-shaven, short-haired look may be your safest bet, but recruiters will not mind facial hair as long as it is neat and clean. Similarly, if you have long hair you may want to tie it up or back. Don’t let your hair get in your face and distract from what you will be saying.

Interview style tips for women

Keep make-up low-key and natural and make sure your clothes aren't too revealing: low-cut tops or ones that don't completely cover your midriff are a no-no. If you go for a skirt, it should be knee-length and it's best to wear tights (you can always go for thin black or neutral-tone tights if the weather is on the warm side). A smart trouser suit is also acceptable.

Opt for understated, classic jewellery rather than big bangles and jangly earrings. Where accessories are concerned, if in doubt, leave it out.

Hair should be under control and off your face. If it's long or unruly you might want to tie it back or put it up. Don't fiddle with it during the interview.

Shoes should be appropriate for the office. Go for the conservative option: peep-toes may show off your pedicure but an interviewer might not think they look professional. You want to be remembered for your obvious suitability for the job, not for the colour of your nail varnish.

Extra tips for interview style success

Be comfortable in what you are wearing. At the end of the day, if you feel comfortable in your outfit you will likely appear more confident to your interviewers. It’s not a good idea for the interview to be your first time wearing the outfit. If you do buy new clothes for your interview, try and find an hour or two to wear it the day before the interview. The same goes for shoes – you don’t want to find out that your shiny new shoes give you blisters, especially if the day will involve a lot of walking. You could ask a friend to take a full-length photo of you in your outfit and see if there's anything you could change to create the impression you want to make.

Make sure that everything is clean and is good condition. You don't have to forge a long-term commitment with your iron, but while you are attending interviews, make sure you wield it regularly! Small touches like a crisp shirt and clean shoes can really boost your confidence and help you feel the part. Check that everything fits properly and that there aren’t any holes in your smart trousers or that your favourite shirt isn’t missing a button or two.

Dress in layers; be prepared. Your focus during the interview should be on showing that you’re the best choice for the job, and not on worrying whether you are visibly shivering/sweating. You won’t be able to control the temperature of the room, but you can control what you are wearing. Bring along a jacket or a light jumper that you can put on/take off if it gets too chilly/warm.

Make sure any bags, coats or other accessories fit the professional image that you want to project.

Interviewers will not be able see the labels. You want to look good for your interview, but it’s not worth spending hundreds of pounds on designer clothes. From the recruiters’ point of view, as long as you look the part, a £50 suit will function much the same as a £400 suit. Keep in mind that if you’re applying to a fashion magazine or a similar organisation, recruiters may be paying extra attention to your outfit.

Sell the entire outfit. You’ve prepared a snazzy interview ensemble, so don’t let the side down with a grubby rucksack, a broken umbrella or a tattered raincoat. You’re dressing to impress – make sure any bags, coats or other accessories that you take along with you fit the professional image that you want to project.

Don’t be afraid to ask. If you are really unsure as to what would be appropriate interview wear, you can always contact the recruiter and ask. That way you can be absolutely certain as to what the interviewers will be expecting.