How To: Dress for Interview Success

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Dress for Success suits

It’s said that an interviewer will form their first impression of you within seven seconds – that’s likely to be before you shake hands or even have a chance to say a word. With so little time to have an impact, how do you make it count?

The main criterion for that initial impression is the way you look, and that’s why it’s important to dress professionally whenever you go into a job interview.

In general terms, if you dress well, the interviewer is likely to notice but won’t necessarily remark on it. However, if you get it wrong, it can be difficult or even impossible to overcome the initial negative perceptions.

Here are some other tips for both men and women.

Formality

You should aim to dress one level above what you would expect to wear normally in the job you’re interviewing for. As a rule of thumb, it's best for both men and women to wear a suit. If you need something new, remember that RICS members can get discounts on business attire using Benefits Plus.

Comfort

Make sure you choose a comfortable outfit. You don’t want to find yourself squirming in your seat because your clothes are tight or itchy. It may be tempting to buy something new, but if you do, make sure you wear the outfit before the interview to try it out.

Confidence

Looking good and feeling good go hand in hand. Walking into an interview with confidence will help make a good first impression. Choosing an outfit you like or have been complimented on in the past can give you a nice boost on the day.

Heads Up

Your hair and make-up – for women – or facial hair – for men – should be just as clean and professional as your outfit. Take some time to make sure your hair is styled nicely and simply. For women, stick to light make-up and try to play up one feature only. For men, going clean shaven is generally a good idea, but a trimmed, well-groomed beard is fine. Lastly, take off your hat or non-religious head coverings – you want to make sure your face is on show.

Shoes

You want to make sure you look good from head to toe, and that includes your shoes. Comfort is a key factor here as well. You don’t want to wear a pair of shoes you haven’t broken in, or anything you may have trouble walking in, such as very high heels. For men, a clean pair of dress shoes, black or brown, is best, while women should stick to closed-toe flats or mid-heels.

Minimal accessories

While a few pieces of simple jewellery are fine, you don’t want to overdo it. Avoid dangly earrings or distracting ties, and if in doubt about a particular piece, leave it at home. The same goes for your bag. Choose something professional: a simple briefcase is best.

Colour

Many people default to black, white and grey for job interviews, but don’t be afraid to add a splash of colour. It can be a good way to stand out or show off your personality without drawing too much attention. Just be sure to choose something with a single, solid colour as stripes, spots, or other patterns can be distracting. 

If you’re unsure about your outfit, have a look at the checklists below.

Men's interview attire:

  • suit (solid colour – navy, black or dark grey)
  • long-sleeved shirt (white or coordinated with the suit)
  • belt
  • tie
  • dark socks
  • conservative leather shoes
  • little or no jewellery
  • neat, professional hairstyle
  • clean-shaven or with beard trimmed (consider a professional shave)
  • limit the aftershave

Women’s interview attire:

  • suit (solid colour – navy, black or dark grey)
  • the suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably
  • coordinated blouse (make sure your cleavage and midriff are covered)
  • tights
  • conservative shoes
  • limited jewellery (no dangling earrings or arms full of bracelets)
  • professional hairstyle
  • light make-up

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