fashion

Exactly what to wear to a job interview, tailored to every industry.

What to wear to a job interview.

If there was ever a time to put a bit of thought into your outfit, it’s when you’re going for a job interview.

Sure, it should all come down to your talent, your experience and your winning personality, but let’s be real here.

“First impressions count and this is even more so for an interview,” says Annie Sophia, who consults on corporate personal branding. “You may only have a short window of time to create a memorable impression. You have complete control of what you wear, so why not utilise this to your advantage?”

Mamamia asked Sophia and four other experts in different job sectors to give some very specific advice on what to wear – and what not to wear – to that all-important interview.

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Corporate.

It’s not too difficult to know what to wear to an interview for a corporate job. Sophia says the foundation dress code is “business professional”. This means suit pants or a skirt (on or below the knee) plus a shirt/blouse with a suit jacket, or else a tailored dress with a suit jacket.

The suiting should be a block colour (black, navy or charcoal) and the shirt or blouse should be a neutral colour (white, cream or tan). Shirts or blouses in other block colours, such as red, orange and green, might be okay, depending on the organisation.

“For a law firm or finance you may stick to neutral whereas for other industries you could style a block colour,” Sophia explains.

Shoes should be closed-toe with a mid-heel. Sophia suggests adding a “pop of colour” with an accessory, such as a handbag, but says jewellery should be kept to a minimum.

“It should not be distracting or overpowering to take away from your key message,” she adds.

For a digital agency, Sophia says the dress code would be “business casual”. That means pants or a skirt with a coloured or printed shirt/blouse and a blazer, dresses in a range of styles such as wrap dresses (but nothing too unstructured), appropriate statement jewellery, and a wider range of shoes, including flats and open-toed shoes (if the organisation allows open-toed).

Sophia says people should always research an organisation before going to a job interview. Checking out their website and social media pages will give an idea of what their employees are wearing.

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“Dress for the job you want, and the organisation you want to work for,” she says.

Creative.

There are not a lot of rules when it comes to creative industries such as film, music and writing.

“I have absolutely no rules about what someone should wear to a job interview with me,” says Mia Freedman, co-founder and chief creative officer of Mamamia. “People often think that they need to wear sequins if they want to work at Mamamia – I’m not kidding – but no, that’s not a prerequisite. We have people working here in creative areas who wear cut-offs and others who wear sequins and some who wear long flowy dresses and some who like to wear shift dresses with heels and loads who wear jeans.”

However, Freedman admits she does actually have some boundaries.

“Probably not activewear. And nothing dirty. You should look well-presented in whatever style feels right for you. And you should be comfortable.

So you don’t want clothes you can’t sit comfortably in or that make you feel self-conscious. Because in an interview you want to be able to focus like a laser on the questions you’re being asked. Your clothes are literally window dressing, not the main event.”

Retail.

When going for a job in retail, the most important thing is to dress to the brand. That means not just checking out the brand on Instagram but actually visiting the store to see what employees are wearing.

“That client needs to look at you as a potential brand ambassador,” explains Merryn Hailes, director of RECRUIT2retail AUSTRALIA.

Hailes says when it comes to jobs in fashion, some candidates will buy a new outfit from the brand before the interview.

“They’ll rock up wearing a current collection and look fabulous,” she says.

The dress code for an interview depends very much on the retailer.

“If you were going for a job at a jewellery retailer where it’s a bit more high-end and bit more corporate, you could wear a nice black blazer and a nice shirt, things like that,” Hailes explains. “You wouldn’t wear that if you were going for an interview at Bonds. At Bonds, you’d probably get away with wearing a pair of jeans to the interview with some sneakers and a nice top, or something along those lines.”

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Education.

If you’re applying for a job as a teacher, a good general rule is to overdress.

Amy Bushell, a teacher-turned-recruitment-consultant with Smart Teachers, says a school is looking for someone to represent them. Business attire is the way to go for an interview, even for a physical education teacher.

“Putting effort into looking a certain way shows the school that you’re serious and you also have a good understanding of the school’s culture,” she says.

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Bushell advises checking the school’s website to see what other teachers are wearing – but no matter what, still dressing up for the interview.

“Even a school where teachers tend to dress more casually I would still go in formal attire,” she says. “You could go in smart pants, a simple white blouse, maybe a blue blazer and court shoes. I think a classic blue blazer can go a long way in making an outfit feel really professional but also quite soft as well.”

Bushell suggests that teachers can show their individuality with an accessory that isn’t necessarily expensive but looks “high end”, such as a necklace, earrings or a scarf.

She says brightly coloured clothes are best avoided, with the safest colours being navy, white or cream, black and camel or tan. Shoulders should be covered, skirts should be at least mid-length and shoes should be closed-toe.

One big no-no? Jeans.

“Any sort of denim I think comes across as really informal and casual.”

Healthcare/social work.

A suit may not always be the best thing to wear if you’re going for an interview for a job in healthcare or social work. Chloe Barton, health and social care consultant at Beaumont People, says it depends on the customer base and the work environment.

“For instance, if the role is working in a homelessness shelter, with the interview being held on site, you may want to think about not wearing anything too formal so you don’t stick out too much and that you will be relatable and non-threatening to people with complex issues,” she tells Mamamia.

Barton says at a job interview, the look to go for is “smart, tidy and professional”. If it’s a managerial position, a suit might be the right thing to wear, but it needn’t be bland.

“Don’t be afraid to add a splash of character,” she says. “Think adding a bright coloured shirt, scarf or statement jewellery.”

Barton says generally, people are able to show their character and personality in the community and healthcare sector.

“Often, the hiring managers who I’m working with to recruit positions for their teams are the ones with coloured hair, tattoos and quirky clothes.”

But she does have one no-no for job interviews: “Never wear thongs!”

Job interview hairstyles and makeup.

There’s a basic minimum standard for hair and makeup in job interviews, no matter what the industry.

“You need to look presentable and clean and tidy,” says Deborah Francis, talent acquisition specialist at Mamamia.

Francis believes makeup isn’t essential for all job interviews, so if you don’t normally wear it, don’t feel you necessarily have to.

“People have different views on that, but I think you can look put-together without wearing makeup,” she explains.

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However, Francis says makeup would be expected when doing an interview for a corporate role in a corporate business.

“Those would be the places I’d recommend maybe putting on some lipstick and making sure your hair is back,” she says. “If it’s super-corporate I’d go way over the top and basically look like a flight attendant.”

As well, for any roles that are client-facing, such as receptionist, Francis says candidates need to look “extremely presentable”.

When it comes to interviews for jobs in retail, Hailes says makeup should to be matched to the brand. For example, someone going for an interview for a job in a jewellery store where they would be selling $30,000 diamond rings would need to make sure their grooming was “exceptional”.

“They might have more sophisticated minimal makeup, as opposed to if you were interviewing at Dangerfield, where you could probably wear some quirky eye shadow or something along those lines,” she explains.

Francis says one thing to avoid is the “night-time” makeup look.

“Don’t do big smoky eyes or overdramatic makeup,” she explains.

The safest colour of lipstick is one that comes close to matching your natural lip colour. Bold lip colours are best avoided unless they’re right for the particular workplace and you feel very confident with them.

“Don’t try something new in a job interview,” Francis advises.

As for hair, it’s about looking neat.

“Messy buns aren’t a good look, particularly for corporate,” Francis explains. “It’s about looking like you’ve made an effort, not like you’ve just rolled out of bed.”

Sophia thinks it could be worth spending a bit of money.

“I suggest, if it is an important interview, invest in a blow dry at a hair salon or up-style.”

She says it’s important that hair shouldn’t be distracting for the interviewer or the person being interviewed.

“How many times have we been consumed with how our hair looks – whether it’s the cut, it not sitting right, the colour, the style? If you have all these thoughts going on in your head during the interview, then it could possibly derail you.”

Finally, don’t forget the little details, like using deodorant, making sure your breath doesn’t smell of coffee and checking that your nails look neat.

“For example, if you’re wearing open-toed shoes, you’ve got to make sure your toenails look nice – that you haven’t got chipped polish,” Hailes says.

“You need to think about your appearance as a complete package.”

Feature Image: Instagram / Showpo.

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