|Karl Lagerfeld, Net-a-Porter|
The question of how to dress for a job interview seems apropos in these days of redundancy and generic all-round panic about losing your job, your mortgage, and your mind. Of course, you might be one of the many who look at this article and say, “Job interview? What job interview?! *Add suitable expletive.* I’ve applied for a hundred and twenty-seven jobs found on Gumtree, Craigslist, Monster, TotalJobs. I spend all my time on these sites, twitching like a crazy person on amphetamines. The incredibly complicated application forms fill me with fear and loathing. And I haven’t been invited to one single job interview!!” In that case, what are you doing here? You need to read How to Get a Job Interview, and also perhaps The Twelve Step Plan to Ending Your Addiction to Applying for Jobs.
Here are some general rules for what to wear and how to look when you’re applying for a job. Remember, in the end, these are just rules. Feel free to ignore them all. If you’re Lisbeth Salander, do go in with punk haircut, gothic make-up and a tattoo on your neck. If you’re Dr Gregory House (why has that show come to an end?! Why God, why?), then go ahead and be rude to everyone you meet. But unless you’re the bee’s knees of your profession, you can’t afford to do that.
Dress for the job
Imagine this scenario. You’re interviewing to be a fashion blogger at a trendy start-up and you show up in a black pin-stripe suit, black pantyhose, neat pumps, and a briefcase. You may lose them even before you’ve started. You could carry off a vintage suit (ideally some crazy colour, in velvet), with cream-coloured polka-dot tights, and kooky sandals, but a conservative outfit here won’t really work for you. Same if you’re applying to be a customer-facing secretary in the City, and you show up in jeans. Guys, a fitted suit work best. So, think about the job you want. And that may be the only rule you need to follow.
If you’re determined to wear that pinstripe, say, you’re a banker or an accountant (get a different job! Just kidding…), then add a personal touch. An oversized necklace, colourful pumps, a colour-block dress, a cool tie – do something that doesn’t look like you’ve just stepped off an assembly line in Canary Wharf. That assembly line exists, I tell you. You just have to travel on the Jubilee Line at rush hour to see its produce – everyone looks exactly the same. It’s like being in the Matrix.
Talking of over-sized necklaces, avoid clunking it up. Bling is not a bad thing, but you don’t need the necklace, the dangly earrings, the chunky bracelets, the too-cool anklet you picked up in Rajasthan, and the three rings on each finger. Choose a signature piece of jewellery, and keep the rest understated. And I’d avoid the anklet, in any case. It wouldn’t work with your polka-dot panty-hose. (Wait, I’ve lost track of which outfit we’re discussing here…)
Avoid the Katie Price or Lil Kim look, please. This is true about all times, and not just for job interviews. Be clean. Take a shower. Please don’t look orange from your cheap tan. And don’t do too much make-up. A little foundation or powder, a bit of mascara, a light layer of eye-liner or eye-shadow, lipstick that’s not drawn outside your own pair of perfectly beautiful lips (oh, and ideally one that doesn’t cake and give you lipstick globules), that’s all you need. Don’t weigh down your face. Keep it groomed and radiant. Do your usual eye-brow wax or whatever, so that you’re not trying to cover up your moustache with your soy latte the whole time. Guys, keep that facial hair under check.
Avoid flyaway, frizzy hair. Avoid hair extensions. Avoid home-grown bleaches. Comb and condition your hair so that you don’t have a spontaneously-erupting dreadlock sticking up at right-angles to everything else. Keep it clean, keep it looking organized. Avoid running in, looking sweaty, red and out of breath. Don’t do the over-gelled look, boys, please. And please look for dandruff on your shoulders. Keep it low maintenance when it comes to hair, in case you don’t get the chance to do the last minute run to the loo once you’ve arrived for your interview.
You can get away with bare legs if the weather is really, really hot. Otherwise, a nice pair of translucent tights works well. Keep an extra pair in your bag in case of accidents. Boys, avoid bare legs and pantyhose. For shoes, pumps are the usual favourite. Open-toe is acceptable. Boots can work depending on the job and the weather, but pumps, or loafers (for men), are better. Don’t go in with scruffy shoes or smelly feet.
Can you be sexy?
Unless you’re interviewing to be a hostess at a gentleman’s club, the answer is no. No peeking, frilly bras or overbearing cleavage. No itty-bitty skirts. No see-through tops or shirts whose buttons pop open if you breathe. Try not to cross and uncross your legs the entire time. Don’t lean over and fondle anyone. Don’t keep licking your lips and playing with your hair. This is a job interview, not a seduction.
Other than that, wear some light deodorant. Be friendly, polite, honest and confident. (Unless you’re Lisbeth Salander – in which case, I love that you’re reading my article.) Always, always arrive a few minutes early.
Published on The London Word