What you choose to wear to any interview will be a statement of how well you match the prospective employers ‘vibe’, and so it is a tricky field to navigate. Paul Roberts, a Senior Procurement Professional, has lent his insight into interview wear and pointed out that it is changing: “Lots of companies now see their dress code as an extension of their desired work culture and ethos. Marketing and tech companies in particular tend to favour dress-down as part of the more ‘social’ work experience.”
The easiest way of avoiding sour regrets is to do research on the place you are interviewing for. It’s an idea to hunt for the director or CEO of the company with a Google or LinkedIn search and see what they typically wear as this will tend to give an idea of the company.
Face to face interviews for graduate schemes may vary depending on the sector, but will tend to require the top level of formal attire as, often, this is the last stage before getting the job. Aim high—a well fitted suit is preferable for both men and women, in a dark hue. Avoid odd patterns or material, cotton creases less and is a better option than linen; aim for Wall Street rather than Anchorman. If choosing a skirt suit, it’s always good to use the ‘biro rule’—the skirt length shouldn’t be any shorter than one biro length above the knee. A great place to look for inspiration is the wardrobe of Rachel from Suits, with her usual look of a shirt and pencil skirt. Lighter coloured suits are easier to pull off in the summer, but a rule of thumb is that black is best. Heeled shoes are a good move but is always based on the wearer’s ability; the most essential point is to make sure that they are polished. Black shoes for grey to black suits, and dark brown for blue. The consensus is that plain white or very neutral shirts are best, and that it is all in the small details, i.e. pay attention to your choice of socks.
This curveball is best approached with the mindset that blankness is best: always err on the side of caution and wear dark formal trousers or a skirt with a shirt, blouse, or smart jumper, overlaid with a blazer. Pattern, again, is best avoided unless it is very subtle or if the company seems more edgy. Jobs which require a test of your fashion sense such as creative jobs or work in the fashion industry are probably most easily attended in something simple and balanced with one bold piece; think of the outfit as three components, top, bottom, and shoes, and allow a proportion of one item out of the three to be bolder. The main point for smart casual is that it in some way reflects your personality.
Depending on the course and place of study, this could be either as formal as a graduate scheme or it may lean more towards smart casual. Often you will want to provide an example of work such as a portfolio, so it’s worth thinking through how to carry this with a smart looking bag. I once failed to consider this, and had no choice but to take my large Adidas rucksack to an interview as it was my only method of carrying large things. It did not draw any comment, but I consciously regretted my bag not matching my smart casual clothes.
The rules for a part time job interview wear are more flexible than the formal expectations of graduate roles; it pays even more to research the role and place of work. By matching this, you are subliminally telling your interviewer that you fit in well within the team. For jobs that require uniform, such as food outlets or retailers, it might best to go for a smart casual look. For jobs in bars in the Northern Quarter or independent retailers, a showcase of individuality is more appropriate, and scoping out the people beforehand is a good shout; if in any doubt, black clothing is a reliable friend.
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