Last year we wrote an article on the psychology of dressing for work, featuring an interview with Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner. As it’s such a fascinating topic, we thought we’d expand upon it and create a graduate guide to dressing for job interviews – in the form of an eBook.
We collated some fascinating psychological studies on the subject and interviewed six industry experts including a Colour Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, two Image Consultants, a Graduate Recruitment Expert and a Fashion Blogger. All of the contributors are highly successful in their fields and their input and insight has been greatly appreciated. Our guide provides graduates and students with some incredibly useful advice on dressing for an interview from a psychological and scientific perspective.
Amongst the many questions we asked our contributors, we asked what advice they would give to graduates. Here are some of the answers:
“Wear something that you feel comfortable in, but dress to impress. No one will ever fault you for being more dressed up or put together, but being under-dressed means you aren’t taking the opportunity seriously. Don’t wait until you have an interview scheduled to buy a suit – it can take a good amount of looking to find something that suits you and alterations can take a week. It’s also best to wear a suit a few times before an event to get used to wearing it and break it in a little. A good fully-canvassed suit gets better the more you wear it and breaks in like a pair of jeans. The more comfortable you feel in a suit, the more confident you will seem when wearing it.”
Daniel Lewis, co-founder of Brooklyn Tailors
“Do your research. Find out exactly what the job requires and the clothing to execute those tasks. Examine the dress code. Identify what employees are wearing, which may require you sit in the parking lot to gather wardrobe intel. Note who your clients are and how you must dress for them in order for them to feel confident in your success. ”
“Overall, your clothing should enhance rather than distract. We would like to believe that our skill level, intelligence and interpersonal skills are enough, and they eventually are, but upon first meeting the external package does carry significant weight. Like an actor using a costume, you must help your future boss see you in the role of his/her newest hire.”
Jennifer Baumgartner Clinical Psychologist and author of You Are What You Wear.
To download the full eBook please click here
“I’m not sure I can contribute to this, because I will be in this position two/three years down the line – I haven’t got there yet, but I think the same rules apply to above as it does your first job, in fact maybe even more so. Hopefully you will have got some work experience whilst at university, so you will have a little ‘work-based’ talk to discuss in the interview, but I think the best advice I ever got (and it’s less fashion-based) was not to describe but to explain why you want it.”
“Don’t say you’ve always loved (INSERT FIELD HERE), tell them why you love it. Why you want to be a ——-. What first inspired you to fall into this career path? What has your experience taught you? Anyone can say that they enjoyed a piece of work experience, and that you’ve learnt a lot. You need to explain what you’ve learnt, and how it helps you become a better candidate for the job.”
Scarlett London, Fashion Blogger
“The first 15 seconds of an interview – the hello, the hand shake, the small talk and the impression your visual presentation makes are vital. Many interviewers will claim that most of the time, sub-consciously, they would have made a hiring decision there and then. Now this is not to be taken literally as they would also agree that anyone who has the skills they need will come to light in the interview – but why not give them the full package from the off? If your presentation is on point, then from the very beginning you would have created a positive vibe that the rest of the interview will play off. Then if your knowledge, delivery and body language impresses then you’re firing on all cylinders. Put it like this: if it came down to you and another candidate who was identical to you on everything apart from the fact they had the edge on their presentation then it’s likely you would get pipped to the post – no one wants to go out like that so don’t let it be the reason!”
Dan Evans, Marketing Manager – Graduate Recruitment Bureau
“Take pride in your appearance – make sure your shoes are clean and polished, no body piercings, and cover any tattoos. Remember that often the interviewer may be older and more conservative. Don’t offend with your appearance.
Play it safe and dress in tailored, structured and classic clothing, unless you are applying for a very creative job. Dress conservatively and understated – this doesn’t usually offend anyone.”
“Choose conservative, neutral colours rather than bright colours – medium to dark colours in blue, grey, black and brown are the most conservative and authoritative. Add small accents of other colours to show your personality. Read the previous information on what colours mean to make your choices.”
“For men, wear a conservative tie, at least for the first interview, in a plain colour that works with your suit. Wear dark socks that match either your shoes or your trousers. Make sure your shoes are clean and polished, and not worn. Don’t wear jumpers or cardigans. Make your tie the right length – it should meet your belt buckle when you are standing straight.”
“For women, wear minimal make-up and no chunky jewellery – keep it understated and minimal. With accessories, less is more, when going for a job interview. Have a neat and professional hair style. Wear light or skin coloured hosiery with conservative shoes that match your clothing, or just plain black shoes. Be modest and wear classic tailored clothing – no plunging necklines, no tight clothing and no short skirts.”
“Remember, these choices are just for the interview and to help you get the job – once you have it, you can dress more to suit your personality and the everyday culture and expectations of your new employer.”
Judy Scott-Kemmis, Colour Psychologist