Going to a Job Interview
It’s the new year! A time for change, and for many people that can mean re-evaluating your job, and maybe looking for a new one (If any of my bosses are reading this, I am not one of these people. I’m very happy! And writing this in my own time!)
I have, thankfully, not had to go on TOO many interviews in my life (so far…) but I have been on my fair share. I’ve also been on the other end of the table, interviewing potential candidates. There are probably a million sites (actually, Google says 55,300,000 results for this title) that talk about this topic. I’ve visited a lot of them in my day. Most are good, but some miss some key things, which we’ll touch on below.
Many will emphasise the need to look professional. They’ll urge you to buy a suit, not to wear anything to flashy or revealing or distracting (or fun…). It’s not that this advice is bad, per se. It just doesn’t take into account certain conditions.
Do some sleuthing and find out what the other people in the office (and in your desired role or similar) wear, and then up it a notch. If it’s a jeans and t-shirt kind of place, maybe go for nice jeans with a sweater or plain t-shirt with a blazer or the like. If it’s a business casual sort of place, look a touch more elegant than your average work wear. Show that you’ve done your research, and put some thought into your apparel. If everyone in the office is wearing jeans and you show up in heels, stockings, and a suit, they might wonder how you’re going to fit in. It’s a cliche for a reason – first impressions matter.
Along those lines, know your profession. If you’re interviewing for a charity working to prevent the exploitation of workers, maybe make sure your clothes are ethically sourced (which we should do anyway, but I don’t always practice that so I won’t preach). Maybe they won’t notice – but if they do, it’s another easy point for you. If you’re interviewing to be a bartender in a heavy metal bar you should dress differently than if you were interviewing to be a bartender in five star hotel bar. If you’re trying to get a job in a clothing shop, wear their items.
Another thing to consider – wear your glasses. We may not want to admit it, but apparently most of us think that people who wear glasses are smarter. I can’t bring myself to suggest getting fake ones (unless you like the look, then go for it, I guess) but if you, like me, alternate between glasses and contacts, make your interview day a glasses day.
Don’t wear something brand new. Maybe that dress looks smart and sophisticated in the changing room – but then you realise when you sit in it it rides all the way up. Maybe those shoes are just the perfect height and colour, but they have a horrible squeak once you start walking in them. Give the outfit a test run (this is actually something you should do when travelling as well).
Finally, when in doubt, go neutral. I don’t necessarily mean black and grey – colour is good (though I would argue against neon or anything too loud, unless of course, that’s the sort of place you’re trying to work in). I mean neutral cuts – shift dress, well cut trousers, blazer and shirt, etc. Again, a lot of places advise against anything too flashy, but I think one statement piece is worth doing. Conversation starter, etc.
The most important thing is too look well put-together and to be comfortable and happy with how you look. Let your clothes give you confidence, and let that confidence exude in your interview. If you never wear a suit, and will never have to wear a suit in the job, why wear one in the interview? You won’t be comfortable. They won’t be comfortable. It’ll be a disaster. But find the perfect balance of looking your best AND feeling comfortable, and you’ll be that much closer to nailing it.
*Bonus, non-sartorial advice –
- Don’t show up too early, unless you’re specifically asked to (for filling out forms, etc.). 5 minutes is a good rule of thumb. Not every place has a reception area, and if you show up 20 minutes early they have to figure out what to do with you, taking time out of their day. This is especially true if you’re interviewing with someone senior – as someone who worked as a PA for many years, I can tell you that their schedules tend to be VERY regimented.
- Ask questions. Just search “What questions to ask” at an interview if you’re stuck. Even if you think they’ve told you everything you want to know, show your interest by asking more. Always ask why the last person left.
- Research, research research. Know the company, their competitors, their reputation.
- If it’s not within walking distance, and you don’t drive, take a cab. It’s worth the extra money. Even if you think you’re too broke, figure out a way. It takes the stress of public transportation and allows you to keep your composure. And even though you shouldn’t show up to the actual interview too early, make sure you allow plenty of time and go to a nearby cafe or just take a stroll.