How to dress for a job interview

Clothing options hanging in a closet.

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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 even more important? A large part of determining fit is the visual perception that you make during the interview. Put plainly, by looking at you, can your prospective employer imagine you being already part of the team?

Your goal then is to project a professional image that coincides with the prospective company’s culture. Wearing the appropriate outfit shows that you mean business. It also shows respect for the company and that you pay attention to detail. Besides all these, looking good and feeling comfortable in your clothes contribute a lot to your confidence. Here are a few tips:

The basics: Do some research

To know what constitutes “appropriate clothing” for your prospective company, do a bit of 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).

But what about graphic designers, copywriters, or video game creators? For fields where dressing down is the norm, it would still be safer to be 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 person requesting the interview with you and ask for guidelines on the 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. It would also be good to 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. For guys, it is recommended that you 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 the 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. And for that perfect smile, check for lipstick stains (or other foreign objects) on your teeth!

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 in Manitoba 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. In summer in sunny Manitoba, you may need to bring an extra shirt if you are taking the bus or walking to the interview.

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’ll never know). Avoid clothes with bold patterns and colors because they are distracting on screen (especially houndstooth). The best thing to do is to 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. So know the exact location of the interview before the day itself. You can 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. And since you’re early, you have time 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. So don’t forget to be cheerful and greet everyone you meet.

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Community Resources

You can 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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How to dress for a job interview

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