Guest blog post by Jack Prenter. Jack went to the University of Nottingham and now lives in Toronto, Canada, where he runs KnownMan.com, a publication for millennial men who want more out of life.
The inconvenient truth that many of us prefer to ignore is that we all make judgements of people based on the way that they look. It’s not nice and it’s not right, but we are biologically disposed to identify whether the person in front of you is a threat or not and whether they are a part of your tribe or a stranger.
Elon Musk explained that a company is just a group of people who come together to pursue a single vision for their own benefit and for the benefit of others.
This is very similar to a tribe and is the reason why we have dress codes. If you look at a police man or woman, you know they are a member of the police because of the clothes that they wear. What you wear is an important part of how we identify and it also plays a part in your interview success.
You know this instinctively, you don’t turn up to job interviews in your gym kit (hopefully), instead, you make a conscious effort to dress the part and make a good impression. However, time after time interviewers see poorly prepared candidates and there is a lot that you can do with a little more effort.
The best part is that improving your appearance will not only instill confidence in the interviewer, but it’s also likely to make you feel more confident and this will make you perform better in the interview.
It’s Hard to Overdress
We can all be self-conscious at times and worry if we’re overdressed but can you recall any times when you’ve seen someone look overdressed? It’s very rare and difficult to be overdressed if you know what the dress code is.
However, it’s quite easy to look underdressed. Knowing that, it should be clear that it’s always best to dress towards the upper limit of the dress code. If you do this you can almost guarantee that you’ll be the best dressed candidate at any interview.
This makes you look professional, it signals to the interviewer that you take pride in your appearance and suggests that you’ll take similar care with your work, should you get the job. If you don’t know what the dress code is for the interview, don’t be afraid to send them an email and ask for clarification.
Make Sure You’re Well Groomed
Most candidates dress relatively well and they understand that they need to dress appropriately for the company they are applying to join, but they often slip up when it comes to their grooming.
One story that I’ve heard from multiple recruiters is of candidates with dirty fingernails. When you’re meeting somebody new in a professional environment you need to be at the top of you game and when people spot something out of place they become fixated on it.
You need to make sure that you have had your hair cut recently, your nails must be trimmed and clean and if you’re a guy you should make sure that you’re clean shaven. If you have a beard, make sure it’s neat and trimmed.
Get an electric shaver so that you don’t cut yourself on the morning of the interview and ensure that you’re clean shaven before you head out of the house. Similar, you should clean up the stray hairs of your eyebrows, regardless of your gender.
Take Care of the Small Details
Presuming that the majority of the candidates are dressed appropriately and didn’t come in with dirt on their faces, it’ll be the small details that set you apart from your competition.
Firstly, as we already mentioned, you should try to be the best dressed person in the room and that will usually mean making everyone else look underdressed in comparison to you.
Ladies, it’s important not to wear anything too revealing or too short. A trouser suit or mid-length skirt or dress is fine.
Although there are some exceptions, jewelry should be left at home. Watches and earrings are acceptable, but keep them small and professional.
One mistake that I see younger candidates making over and over again is to wear socks that don’t fit with their outfit. If in doubt, wear socks that are the same colour as your trousers but one shade darker. The idea is to avoid any contrast and by making them darker they are more discrete. So, with black trousers you shouldn’t wear anything other than black socks and with blue jeans you should wear blue socks that are one shade darker.
Finally, it’s important not to wear overpowering aftershave or perfume.
Dressing for an interview doesn’t need to be difficult and it shouldn’t be your primary focus, but to disregard it is a mistake. When there is a lot of good competition, your appearance might be the only thing that makes the difference between them getting the job and you.
Take the time to research the company that you’re applying for and see what their dress code is. Finally, prepare your outfit the night before and make sure that it is clean and pressed. Good luck!