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5 minute read

Stressed About Interview Outfits? Here’s Your Step-by-Step Guide to Dress and Impress!

Choosing the right outfit for a job interview can make or break your prospective employer’s first impression of you.

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Let’s be honest, no one likes to be judged solely on how we look, especially in a work setting. My ability to do a job right isn’t about whether I look the part, right? The reality is: first impressions do matter. Researchers from Princeton University found that it only takes one-tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger. So, yes, the right interview outfit can affect a job offer.

Whether through face-to-face or online, job interviews are how employers find out if an applicant is the right fit for the role and the company. You need to make the right impression — and that starts with how you look. In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Miya Toh from Robert Walters said that formal business wear is still the preferred choice, even for online job interviews. “Your outfit demonstrates how serious you are about the job,” she said. 

How can you make the right impression at an interview and are there any rules of thumb to follow when it comes to picking the right interview outfit? Let’s address these here. 

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1. Find out what “office wear” means to the company you’re interviewing for. 

It’s important to find the appropriate dress code of the company or industry you’re applying for as it can vary across work cultures. Toh suggests candidates do some research on the company and culture before choosing their outfits. You could check the company’s website and social media pages to understand what is suitable. Also, consider the position you’re applying for. If it’s for a corporate position, formal business attire is best. And that means a suit complete with a tie for men. And for ladies? A skirt suit, tailored trousers with a shirt and blazer, or a formal dress.  

2. Stick to safe, office-appropriate colours.

Think white, black, navy and grey – even if you’re applying for a creative position. These classic colours are best to let your “self” shine without distracting the interviewer. A study found that people made assessments of others within 90 seconds of their first encounter, and colours influence at least 62% of these judgements. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t have colours at all. You can let your personality show with pops of colours using bold accessories, suggests Angela Neo, talent manager at publishing company Honeycombers. But remember not to over-accessorise so that you don’t distract from your qualifications and abilities. 

3. Be well groomed. 

Your face will be the first thing the interviewer sees the moment you walk through the door so make sure you leave a good impression. Being neat and polished shows dedication and professionalism. This includes keeping your hair and nails clean and neat, so remember to get these attended to ahead of time. For ladies, avoid excessive make-up. Leave the shiny eyeshadow or bright lip colour behind and go for a fresher, more natural look. 

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4. Go for comfortable and simple footwear. 

In a business setting, it’s crucial to wear elegant shoes that are comfortable and professional. This often means closed-toe shoes like loafers, pumps, ballet flats or dress shoes. Be sure that they are clean and free of dirt. Like the rest of your outfit, go for safe, neutral colours. For ladies, if you choose to wear heels, avoid wearing too high heels – the last thing you want is to accidentally trip or stumble into the interview room and be remembered for the wrong reason. Flip-flops and sandals, no matter the brand or price, are not acceptable under any circumstances as they are overly casual and unprofessional. 

5. Avoid overpowering perfumes and colognes. 

While it is important to look and smell clean, it’s equally important not to overdo scents that are overpowering. When it comes to choosing the right scent, go for something softer and subtler. This is also to make sure that the perfume or cologne you choose won’t irritate anyone’s nose – you wouldn’t want to go for an interview and realise your scent just caused the interviewer’s allergies to act up. If you’re not sure which bottle of perfume is suitable, opt to use deodorant instead for a softer, fresher scent.

When it comes to choosing the right interview outfit, it’s important to exude professionalism and not wear items that will distract your interviewer. You want your prospective employer to know you, and your capabilities and see why you are the right fit for the job. It’s important to prepare your full outfit the night before so you have time to put together a look that can give you confidence. When in doubt, the classic office look will never go out of style.

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