Preparing for a job interview after a hiatus from work is stressful. You need to have answers ready for all possible questions that might be posed to you. You need to make sure your resume is up to date and formatted correctly. And you need to look your professional best as well.
(Want to learn about how to format your resume correctly? Read more here)
While the resume you present to the interviewer serves them with a first impression of your skills and capabilities, the clothes you wear to the interview reflects on your understanding of the company’s culture and your own personal aesthetic. Looking polished and professional can be a great confidence booster and can set the stage for successful interview.
Striking the balance between your personal style while staying within the boundaries of what is deemed appropriate for the company at which you are applying to can be tricky. While there is no longer a “universal standard” for interview-wear, doing your homework before going in can help you dress the part for the job. Here are some tips that can help you dress for success every time:
Read up about the company: Spend some time reviewing the company website and other social media. Do they have photos up of current employees, or company events? These can give you a good idea as to what the dress code looks like. The website design itself can convey a “vibe” about the company culture. While dress codes have relaxed over time, it’s never a good idea to dress too casual. If you are in tech, you can safely assume that most companies are traditional in their idea of constitutes good interview-wear, and industries such as finance and law still adhere to the old “suit and tie" formula.
Ask questions: Your job of figuring out what to wear can be made infinitely simpler by just asking your recruiter/interview coordinator what the interview dress code is. Is it Business Professional? In that case pull out the suit gathering dust at the back of your closet, and pair it with some sensible heels or shoes. Is it Business Casual? Go with slacks or a skirt and a semi-formal shirt if you are a woman, and trousers and a button-down shirt sans tie if you are a man. Is it Casual? While shorts and flip-flops are still a no-no, a casual dress-code gives you a little more flexibility and comfort. Opt for a simple work dress and low heels, or pants and a nice top. While staying casual is important, you want to still appear polished and professional.
Don’t overdo the perfume or jewelry: Flashy jewelry or overbearing perfume can be extremely distracting and will take away from what you are trying to bring to the table. Strong perfume can trigger headaches in many people, so keep that in mind and stick to a lightly scented deodorant.
Keep makeup minimal: Don’t apply heavy eyeliner, too much foundation, or bright lipstick. Choose light makeup that will enhance your features, without serving as a focal point to your interviewer.
Attention to detail is key: Pick an outfit that is simple and free of distracting colors or textures and is fairly conservative. Don’t go with something that shows too much skin or is too flashy. Make sure the outfit you have chosen is free from stains and is well ironed and crease-free. Your hair should be clean and neatly groomed, and your teeth freshly brushed. You want your interviewer to focus on your skills and not be distracted by your appearance.
Dressing well for your interview conveys effort put in on your part, and respect for the company and your interviewer. While it may seem tedious, showing up professional and polished will ensure that you are taken seriously and will boost your confidence and chances for success.
(Read our comprehensive Woman Returnee Job Search Guide)
What are your personal tips on looking interview-ready? Comment below!