What to wear at work or for interview to make the right impression

Jeans-and-NavyI read this article the other day about how what your wear can affect what people believe your role is. https://about.me/dbakevlar

People are biased, have preconceptions and a whole load of baggage that affects the way they react to you before you even open your mouth.   You can’t change them but you can decide what you want them to see.

When you arrive for an interview or meet new people, say in a new job or at a meeting they will decide who you are from what you look like. So…

What job do you want people to assume that you do (or can do)?

You need to understand what people in different roles and levels of seniority tend to wear in the industry and sometimes the individual organisation you are working in or meeting with. Look on their website, try to attend an employer event or go past their workplace / offices and look.

At interview it’s difficult to reflect the industry too exactly because you are busy looking smart.

  • Find out what people normally wear in your role if you can.
  • If they normally have a dress down policy – find out what they would wear to an important meeting with clients.

You want to aim for smarter than normal work wear and if it’s a role where you could be meeting clients then I’d go for the business attire. ( It proves you have it anyway!)

On your first day. I’d aim to make a good impression (you may be introduced to senior managers) but you could observe or ask what normal office attire is.  E.g. you could say – “it’s my first day so I thought I better dress to impress but what would you suggest is normal office attire.”

At work You may decide you want people to react to you in a certain way.

  • If the dress code is fairly casual it may be hard for customers or external clients to spot that you work there. How will you stand out?
  • If you don’t want to be treated like the office junior (even if you are) you may need to smarten up a little. How about a  smart jacket, or a more formal shirt?
  • In meetings you may want people to realise that you are the expert or are in charge, so dress for the role. It might not mean a power suit it could just be adopting the norms for that role. Do people in technical & creative roles dress differently to those in sales or finance?

Tattoos, piercings and funky hair

They are part of who you are and I’m not going to say you should tone it down or cover up.  BUT… just be aware of other people views and how that may make them react to you.

If you have a snake tattooed on your head ( yes I know someone who does) then it’s likely that you may not be the type to want to go into a more conservative profession. Again you need to judge the industry norms.  It’s about the face the company or organisation wants to present to the world. For some jobs a cool, edgy look might be just the thing for others they will expect you to keep that for the weekend

So to take a less extreme example you could decide that for an interview you might remove a few piercings and style your hair differently. I’m not saying go bland and boring there is a middle road you could take; once you get into the job you may find you can show your style more.  It’s just getting a foot in the door.  But it’s your door – you choose what’s right for you.

See also


BBC News Should tattoo discrimination be illegal

To Beard Or Not To Beard? That Is The [Interview] Question.




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