The following is an extract from “The Career Doctor” a book by our Managing Director Eoghan McDermott.
‘You only get one opportunity to make a first impression.’ It’s an awful cliche. And like most awful cliches, it has a grain of truth in it. In the case of the job-seeker, it has a lot more than a grain of truth in it.
People employ people who they think will do their company credit. If you arrive into the interview wearing ripped jeans and a T-Shirt, the interview panel doesn’t think, ‘He only looks like this at the weekends and probably has a wardrobe full of business suits that he’ll wear as soon as we give him the job. ‘They think,’He’s a scruffy fellow.’
They also, perhaps subconsciously, feel that wearing this outfit is disrespectful to them, suggesting that you can’t be bothered to scrub up for an interview they regard as extremely important.
Sometimes, job-seekers take the attitude that they are so patently the right person for the job that clothing and grooming are side-issues. Sometimes, job applicants get selfrighteous about it and opine that the interviewers should be able to see past the peripherals and focus on the realities. Either is the wrong attitude to take and can do enormous damage to your chances of employment. You are putting an unnecessary speed-bump in the path of your own progress.
The bottom line is that you’d better be dressed and groomed to the nth degree when you go to a job interview. You need to present the best of yourself at any interview, just as being in time is important, in the message it sends to a prospective employer. So is dressing as if you value the opportunity to lay out your wares for a future (you hope) employer.
The best pieces of advice my company always gives are simple. Not easy, but simple:
l. Dress how you’d like to be perceived.
2. Dress for the job that you want, not the job that you’re in.
Even if you discover that the corporate culture of the organisation in question doesn’t major on formal clothing, you will never lose by erring on the side of formality. It shows respect for a potential employer.
When you are deciding what to wear, don’t forget the following dos and don’ts.
Do ask for advice. And not from your mother or your partner. If possible, try to ask someone who specialises in clothes. For men and women there are specialist tailors you can go to. Alternatively, all the big department stores have advisers.
Explain what you want to achieve by wearing the clothes you are seeking to purchase and the chances are that you will get good advice from them.
Do coordinate your outfit. Even though you may love a certain tie or handbag be sure it matches the rest of the outfit and doesn’t distract.
Do underplay your clothes. You need to be remembered for what you are, not what you wore. I have heard of interview panels where, at the end of a long day of interviewing, the board members have referred to individuals encountered during the day as, ‘Your man with the shocking tie,’ and, ‘Your wan with the canary-yellow dress.’
Don’t fiddle with cuffs or edges or jackets or jewellery during an interview. Get in, sit down at the back of the chair, do any arranging of your person that you need to and from then on forget your clothing.
Don’t wear distractions. Distractions are ties with crazy designs on them or jewellery that moves.
Don’t wear anything louder than yourself. Your clothes are background music. You’re in the foreground. They must remember you, not your wardrobe.
Don’t spend all your time worrying about clothes. A client once told me they had been agonizing for days over which of two suits to wear to an interview. I had a look at them and told them to flip a coin and to get back to preparing for her interview.
Clothes and appearance are important. Important in the same way wallpaper is important if you plan to hang a good painting on it. It should be clean, unobtrusive and without distracting bubbles, in order to serve as an appropriate background for the painting. Clothes and grooming, similarly, are background.