Some of the most common questions we as recruiters are asked are “What’s the office dress code?” or “What should I wear to my interview?”…
We often hear stories from clients that candidates have turned up to interviews dressed too casually or sometimes even dressed inappropriately, and when given that feedback the candidate is often taken aback, unaware of their faux pas.
Now I know you might be thinking here’s another recruiter writing a blog post about what candidates should wear to a job interview, how clichéd. However, it is some of these basic areas where candidates seem to struggle the most or fall down at interview stage.
I’m certainly not saying that what you wear will guarantee you get the job, and of course experience and ability are the most important factors at play. However, your appearance during an interview is often the lasting impression the hiring manager has of you; how you choose to present yourself says a lot about you even before you’ve had the chance to answer a question.
Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to this conundrum, so the best advice is to speak to your recruiter who will have a relationship with the client and be able to provide you with insights into the dress code and culture at a given company. Some organisations are more corporate and require their staff to wear a suit every day, whilst others have a more relaxed, casual approach. Whatever the case may be, you always want to strive to be the best dressed person in the room. It is always better to be dressed too formally than too casually, even in a company with a more casual dress code.
In marketing and design jobs, generally you find the dress code is more relaxed than in other sectors such as finance or law, and hiring managers often expect an element of creativity in candidates’ attire, but there is still a delicate line to tread.
Men generally have it a bit easier, purely because you don’t have as many options as your female counterparts! Having said that, nobody wants to be the guy who shows up to a job interview in a three-piece suit when the entire office is wearing jeans and hoodies! Ask your recruiter for advice on the office culture so you can gauge your outfit appropriately.
Generally speaking, a well-fitting, tailored and freshly pressed suit will always look smart and presentable. Ensure that the jacket and trousers fit you properly, a poorly fitting suit — either too big or too small — will have the opposite effect and make you look scruffy. The same goes for if there are any stains on your clothing or if you’ve not bothered to iron them; the implication is that you don’t care enough to wash your clothes properly. Make sure you pay as much attention to the accessories too; shoes should be polished, laces tied and free of any obvious scuff marks or damage. If you’re interviewing somewhere corporate, ensure your tie is well tied, the correct length and is an appropriate colour or pattern — now is not the time to show off your novelty tie collection!
If your recruiter has advised you that the company you’re interviewing at has a more casual approach and you would probably look out of place in a suit, then smart trousers and a shirt is always a good option. If it’s a cooler day then throw a smart jumper on over the top of your shirt.
Now us girls may be lucky in the sense that we have so many options of what we can wear to an interview, but sometimes too much choice can be overwhelming! A lot of candidates like to express their style and personality through their clothing, but have a chat with your recruiter beforehand to check the outfit you’re planning to wear is in keeping with the company’s culture and values.
As with the men, if you’re interviewing at a more corporate environment, a suit is always the smart option to choose. Smart, tailored trousers or a skirt in a darker colour, paired with an ironed shirt and jacket will never fail to impress. It’s a classic look for a reason. A tailored dress and jacket combination can also work well. Pair with a sensible heel or smart flat shoe and a structured handbag, keeping jewellery and accessories to a minimum. There’s nothing worse than choosing uncomfortable heels that you can’t walk in or that look good but give you blisters; bear in mind they could offer to give you a tour of the office and you don’t want to be hobbling along behind them!
For more casual office environments , a smart dress is the easy way to look put together somewhat effortlessly, or wear a nice blouse with smart trousers or a skirt. In more casual offices, you can experiment more with colour and pattern; but exercise caution, you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons! One brighter coloured or patterned piece is enough to show off your style and personality without overwhelming your look.
Avoid sheer fabrics, anything too low cut or short and tight fabrics which, although they can be stylish, do not come across as professional in a formal interview setting.
An area that, shockingly, can often be overlooked by candidates and is often just as important as the outfit you choose to wear.
Ensure that your hair is neatly styled, for both men and women, in a simple, classic style that won’t distract from what you are saying. It is worth taking a hair brush, comb or styling products with you, in case of an unexpectedly windy day! Although beachy, messy waves are very fashionable, they often don’t translate well in an interview setting, with hiring managers feeding back that candidates looked like they hadn’t brushed their hair. If your hair is on the longer side and prone to looking a bit unkempt in even the slightest breeze, a simple ponytail or bun will help to keep your hair looking sleek and smart.
Hair dye is a contentious issue, some companies will have policies against bright or unusual hair colours, so it may be worth checking this with your recruiter beforehand if your hair is a different colour. If it’s been a while since your last salon visit and you’ve got longer roots than you’d like (no judgement — we’ve all been there!) try and style your hair in a way that minimises their appearance as some hiring managers, particularly in more corporate environments, have been known to look unfavourably on this.
For women, keep make up minimal and classic — avoid going too dark, glittery or bright on the eyes and ensure your foundation is well blended. If you’re interviewing at a cosmetics company and want to show off your passion for make up, then by all means rock a purple cut crease eye look if you can pull it off! Keep a compact mirror, your chosen lipstick shade and powder to hand for touch ups pre-interview, and make sure you check your teeth for the dreaded lipstick smudge! If you’re wearing nail varnish, ensure it’s not chipped or keep nails plain and shaped.
I hope these tips will help anyone struggling to decide what to wear for their upcoming marketing job interview! If you need further advice, always speak to your recruitment consultant as these kind of questions are exactly what we’re here for. You may also want to check out our interview tips section!