How to dress for an interview

 15 November 2012

How should you dress for an interview for a job in the creative industries? Sarah Leeds offers suggestions on behalf of fashion website ASOS for different types of interview.

It can be hard to decide what to wear to an interview when the dress code is
It can be hard to decide what to wear to an interview when the dress code is "smart casual".

When it comes to interviews, preparation is important. But it's not just about preparing your answers, planning for possible questions and researching your prospective company. You also have to pull off that first impression.

It is suggested that on average we are judged within the first seven seconds of meeting someone, so for an interview, it helps to get your outfit right first time.

Dress codes in creative workplaces

In the creative industries, interview attire may be different from what you might wear to a typical corporate style interview.

Creative jobs often allow you to dress in your own way, giving references to your personality and style whilst retaining your professional appearance.

Creative jobs often allow you to dress in your own way, giving references to your personality and style whilst retaining your professional appearance.

But it's important to keep in mind that although the attire may be a little more casual than your standard professional look, presentation is still important.

It's unlikely that you'll make a good first impression to an employer if you turn up in tracksuit bottoms, a hoodie and trainers.

Keep abreast of what your prospective company’s dress code is, and tailor your outfit to represent them. If you already look like you work there, your assessor will be able to envisage you fitting into their business more easily.

Formal creative industry interviews

If you're in the running for creative jobs in sectors such as journalism and architecture, or non-entry level creative management positions, you might want to differ a little from the typical formal interview attire.

‘Traditional with a twist’ is one way you might go about this. This might consist of:

  • a fitted two-piece suit in a dark colour like grey, charcoal and navy blue. If you're not being interviewed for law or accountancy, it's worth considering avoiding black so your look isn't too conservative.
  • a light coloured shirt to complement the suit, fitted with a narrow tie that reaches the top of your trousers. Shoes should be dark, smart and worn with matching socks, but leave cufflinks at home. 
  • a pencil skirt with a light coloured blouse to go with it. Skirt length should probably reach the knees. Wear a smart jacket to complete the look. 

This might sound extreme for a creative industry interview, but on the other hand these types of jobs will require you to meet people and future clients. You need to show the interviewer that you can step up, represent the company’s values and look the part when required.

The 'business casual' interview

'Business casual' interviews are often for creative jobs in new media or design. The dress code may well be more relaxed than formal, but will probably still require you to look smart.

You may have more options than for a formal interview, such as:

  • a suit without a tie, as this interview is more relaxed. A shirt with a collar should still be worn to keep your professional edge. You can be more adventurous with your shirt choices here – choose a different fabric or a printed shirt pocket. 
  • a suit dress in a bright colour, or a casual day dress in a soft print can be dressed up with a smart jacket or blazer to retain the tailored look. 
  • less formal footwear – you can be a little more stylish, and can probably get away with loafers or boat shoes, or low heels in an interesting colour.

Accessories such as interesting brooches or coloured handbags are a great way to personalise your outfit, but as the interview is still relatively formal, don’t overdo it. You don’t want the interviewer to be distracted by the twenty bangles round your wrist! 

Interviews in informal settings

If you've applied for jobs in the fashion, music and PR industries, you might find your interview is quite informal. You'll get more of an opportunity to display something of your creativity, personality and style in your image as you walk through the door. As these meetings are about showing your personality and style, tattoos and piercings are more likely to be accepted.

"Don’t overdo your accessories. You don’t want the interviewer to be distracted by the twenty bangles round your wrist!"

Separating yourself from the other candidates visually is important, but again, keep the balance between casual and smart. At the end of the day, you're still applying for a position and need to give your best impression.

If applying for a fashion role, remember that your knowledge of the industry, and possibly also current trends, will be reflected in the way that you dress.

However remember that in any interview, it's usually safer to avoid wearing jeans and trainers, refrain from showing too much skin, and dress in clothes that fit you well.

While the look might be casual, your aim is still to look like you take the interview, and the job role, seriously. 

For example:

  • when it comes to choosing trousers, rather than jeans, try khakis or chinos. Rather than a t-shirt, try a smart polo shirt and knitted cardigan.
  • rather than trainers, stylish boat shoes and loafers can be worn, but make sure they don’t look too casual.
  • patterned fabrics, less tailored styles of dress cut, and subtly printed trousers all work well. Alternatively, wear an item that would usually be traditionally tailored, like a pencil skirt, in an unusual fabric such as velvet.

The importance of confidence

Although what you wear to interviews is important, it will only get you over the first hurdle. The rest is up to you.

Remember to smile, be confident and make eye contact with your interviewer. With these things alone, you’ve already made those first important steps to securing your interviewer’s approval.

Besides your image, you need to be passionate about the job. Make sure you really sell yourself.

Written by Sarah Leeds on behalf of ASOS

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