What your look says to your interviewer

The right clothes can get you any job; the FT recently reported on the embarrassing case of a large investment bank hiring (to a very senior position) a man with no experience of investment banking. One could argue it was his falsified CV that got him the job, but it was his bespoke dark blue (investment bank blue, it has been called) suits that kept him in it for six months without anyone noticing.

We are at the time of year when interviews for both internships and graduate schemes are underway. So just what should one wear to an interview – be it banking, business or advertising? Firstly, and most obviously, dress for the company. The careers service will always tell you to phone ahead and ask what to wear; but a suit will, in almost any circumstance, carry the day. Furthermore, the person answering your questions probably won’t tell you the office etiquette on pocket squares or shoe colour.

The difficulty is not in wearing a suit, but in what to wear it with and what colour to go for. Black will be too harsh and you risk looking like an undertaker. A light grey with brown loafers, dark grey with black shoes, or dark blue might be better. Avoid floral print suits or anything outlandish – the corporate world is boring and you want to convey just how reliable and smart you are, and how well you fit in wearing a well cut, single colour suit. It is unlikely you’ll need to put as much thought into your suit as Bill Clinton; he came under fire for wearing an Armani suit rather than an American designer when he was President. Perhaps if a fashion label is interviewing you this attention to detail is appropriate, but nowhere else.

Neckwear is your next most important choice. A tie is a safe bet, though perhaps not necessary if you’re going for a ‘creative’ role. No ‘novelty’ ties either. Homer Simpson will not impress your interviewer. Cravats generally should be avoided; it screams ‘I dress like an old man to cover for my lack of actual qualifications’ and no one wants to dress like someone twice their age. The same goes for top hats –  just no.

Watches and pens do matter; men are judged on their accessories and your interviewers and assessors will look at your wrist when you shake their hand. Time to upgrade from that Casio G-shock to something better. Don’t go and buy a diamond encrusted Rolex though. Not only is it tacky, no one likes a show off.

Your interview clothes must fit the role. Primarily you need to demonstrate how well you fit into the current system of the employer and the right outfit and accessories will take you a long way to achieving that. Statistics about pre-judgement aside, you must be comfortable enough to exude confidence and the right suit is the easiest way to do this.

Alastair Irvine

Image:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eton_Jacket_(PSF).png