How to dress for a job interview

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I have always thought that dressing properly for an interview is the least of my worries. After all, my credentials and skills are what the interviewers will be looking at. But did you know that being the right “fit” for the company can be more important? A large part of determining fit is the visual perception that you make during the interview. By looking at you, can your prospective employer imagine you being part of the team?

Your goal is to project a professional image that coincides with the prospective company’s culture. Wearing the appropriate outfit is part of this. It also shows respect for the company and its employees. Besides all these, looking good and feeling comfortable in your clothes can make you feel confident. Here are a few tips:

The basics: Do some research

To know what constitutes “appropriate clothing” for your prospective company, research before the interview. Check out the company’s website or news items with photos to get an idea about how the employees are dressed. If they have a dress code mentioned on the site, even better. After knowing what they wear, dress a notch above the typical outfit. This will ensure that you will conform and at the same time be a cut above the rest (just don’t go overboard).

For jobs where dressing down is the norm (for example artists/graphic designers, copywriters, or video game creators), stay on the conservative side. Don’t wear t-shirt and shorts, instead go for a dress shirt and slacks for guys; dress or a skirt/slacks and blouse ensemble for ladies. If you are still confused about what to wear, there is no harm in asking. Contact the HR person and ask about their dress code.

What you should go for: Looking clean and neat

  1. Your clothes should be washed and neatly pressed.
  2. The colors of your outfit and accessories should not be too loud and distracting.
  3. Don’t wear too many accessories and too much make-up. Often times, sporting a watch would be enough. Bring a neat portfolio case or a document folder for your resume. Don’t forget to bring a pen.
  4. Wear polished and comfortable shoes.
  5. It is recommended that men get a haircut. If possible, get it a few days before the interview.
  6. Do a test run to see how you look and how you feel in your clothes. Try and walk about and sit down, to check if you will be comfortable in them.
  7. Mind your personal hygiene. Make sure to shower and that your breath smells fresh. Check your teeth for food or lipstick stains for that perfect smile.

To see sample outfits, as well as for other tips, watch this video from Monster UK & Ireland:

Some specific concerns

  1. Don’t put on perfume or strongly scented lotions or deodorants. Many workplaces in Manitoba are scent-free in deference to employees and customers with fragrance sensitivity or allergies.
  2. No suit? No worries. There are many agencies that can help you get free or reasonably priced clothing (check the Community Resources section below).
  3. Mind the weather. In winter, you may have to bring another pair of shoes for use indoors if you are wearing boots. You may need to bring an extra shirt if you are taking the bus or walking to the interview in summer.

What’s appropriate for a Skype interview?

It would be wise to treat a Skype interview as if it is a face-to-face interview. Take note and follow all of the tips above. Wear a complete professional attire, meaning tops and bottoms, even if you expect to be sitting down the whole time (you might have to stand up, you never know). Avoid clothes with bold patterns and colors because they are distracting on screen (especially houndstooth). If you have time, do a test run. Put on the clothes you intend to wear on the interview day and see how you look like using Skype’s video preview (go to tools>options>video settings). For more tips on Skype interviews read How to have a successful phone or Skype interview.

A few final reminders:

  1. There is no sense in wearing a great outfit and then getting lost and being late (and looking disheveled because of panic) on the interview day. Know the exact location of the interview before the day itself. Use Google maps or check the company website for a guide. You can even go to the place before the day of the interview (especially for newcomers) to minimize worries about getting lost.
  2. If you are planning to commute, always check the bus schedules for the interview day. There may be schedule changes so be mindful of them.
  3. Arrive 15 minutes early on your interview day. This will give you time to go to the washroom, shed off your winter coat, scarf, hat, fix your hair, retouch your makeup, and compose yourself.
  4. Remember to set your phone on silent mode or turn it off before the interview starts.
  5. The best part of your outfit is your smile. Don’t forget to be cheerful and greet everyone you meet.

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Community Resources

Ask for help from the following places:

You can also choose from high quality, gently used clothing from thrift stores such as the Salvation Army, The Goodwill Stores, and Value Village.

If you need help for your interview dry-run, get pointers from the experts at English Online (employment workshops), Manitoba Start, or your regional settlement service provider.

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