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How to dress for the interview – 20 great tips!

by Kathie Kelly on March 26, 2013

First date and first interview. Two very stressful moments in your life which both require consideration and preparation in the area of what to wear for an interview. I was always terrible at dating (just lucky my husband persevered!), so I’ll concentrate on the interview attire!

Obviously it’s not just what you wear to an interview that gets you across the line, but first impressions are a vital factor in securing your next role. For more tips on interview etiquette, check out my post on interview questions.  It’s a well known fact that an interviewer will form an opinion about you within the first 90 seconds of your meeting. You need to make sure that it’s a favourable one.

An interviewer will form an opinion about you within the first 90 seconds of your meeting

How to dress for the interview

The first step in putting together your interview outfit is to conduct a little research on the organisation. Have a good look around their website especially at their newsletters or staff bios, disregarding the standard stock photos (you know the ones where everyone looks like a model, smiling in grey suits!). If you are going through a recruiter, ask them for guidance. Clearly some industries are more formal than others. But regardless of whether you are an accountant or in advertising, some basic rules apply.

  1. Iron your clothes. Simple but true, you would be amazed at the amount of people who turn up with crinkled pants or shirts.
  2. No denim, no see-through tops. If you would wear it to a club, don’t wear it to your interview (unless it’s in a club perhaps!).
  3. Closed-in and polished shoes. Heels preferred but not too high – keep the Jimmy Choos at home unless you are interviewing in a creative or fashion environment.
  4. Clean hair – styled, if long then pop it into a sleek ponytail – leave the flashy headband at home.
  5. Check stockings for snags if wearing them, if not ensure legs are smooth and not overly fake tanned.
  6. Skirts should be on the knee or just below – not longer or shorter.
  7. Trousers should be on the tops of your shoes, not dragging on the ground.
  8. Ensure tops are not revealing and your buttons aren’t gaping.
  9. Don’t forget to cut the thread stitched over pockets or splits on a new jacket or suit. Check no threads or worse still, no tags are showing.
  10. If you are travelling in a hot climate, or prone to sweating, make sure your blouse is not going to show wet spots.
  11. Keep the jewellery to a minimum – just choose one bold piece that is coordinated with your outfit. Steer clear of too many rings, earrings or bracelets.
  12. Sit down in your outfit and check for gaps or skirts riding up or down.
  13. Be on trend but not trendy – power suits are not necessarily the answer, and you don’t want to look dated. A black pencil skirt worn with a white shirt and coloured fitted jacket can look just as great. Alternatively try a shift dress with a jacket.
  14. Go with muted colours, with just a pop of colour for a truly professional look.
  15. Wear appropriate underwear – make sure you can’t see your bra or knickers, this may be a bit too distracting. You don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reason.
  16. Clean, structured hand bag – don’t carry a large tote overflowing with enough stuff to last you a week. Ensure your bag is not peeling, broken or too flashy.
  17. If you wear glasses, ensure they are clean not streaky.
  18. Keep make up natural looking – leave the red lipstick for the wine bar.
  19. Make sure your nails are clean, manicured and polished. Go for a light colour in most instances.
  20. Deodorant and breath mints – don’t underestimate the importance of both of these, especially if you are travelling a long distance for your interview. Also don’t overdo the fragrance.

Of course there are many different industries and different levels of business attire. However these rules tend to apply in most environments, clearly the more conservative the organisation or industry is, then the more likely it is that the expectation is a suit. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting these rules for what is perceived as a casual job – basic preparation in terms of presenting a polished image is important no matter what type of work you do. Clearly an interviewer doesn’t run through this list ticking each item off, but if you adhere to these guidelines you will present an overall polished impression.

Don’t forget the must have accessory to finish off your interview outfit. A confident smile!

Good luck and let me know if you have any interesting interviews coming up.

Tell us what your favourite interview outfit is and if you have any other ideas for the list.

Kathie Kelly

 Kathie Kelly has spent a number of years in recruitment, workforce planning, business development and community/corporate partnerships. She has taken these skills and founded Square Pegs Consulting to provide assistance to not for profits, businesses and individuals needing help with finding their right fit.

Kathie is also a travel junkie, has a keen appreciation for music, dance and live theatre, along with being a mad rugby league follower. You can connect with Kathie on LinkedIn at

Featured image: Victor1558

Welcome to Leaders in Heels

Kathie Kelly
With a background in both corporate and community organisations, Kathie felt there was an opportunity to use her skills to assist not for profit, charitable and arts organisations reach their potential through providing assistance in raising funds, generating and diversifying income streams. Hence Square Pegs was born - to help identify and connect partners and stakeholders with the aim of building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships. This might be through reviewing or writing grants/tenders/award submissions, developing strategies to attract sponsors, negotiating corporate partnerships or creating fundraising campaigns. All with the aim to help you keep doing the good work you do, but with a sustainable funding base to work from!
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