“During a first impression, others only see a little sample of you, a little percentage of your life. For them, this represents 100% of what they know about you. In other words, it is more likely that people believe that the first things they see about you are the truth.” – Demarais & White
I love this quote, because I believe it emphasizes the importance of your image. It also emphasizes how wearing the right outfit is a concept that goes much deeper than wanting to make an impression. While it is important to make a good impression in everyday life, it is even more important to do so during a job interview.
Let’s face it: often, people who select personnel have to choose between countless candidates who, most likely, have written a good curriculum, just like us, who state that they possess great skills, just like us, and who want to make a great first impression – just like us. This is why it is really that important to present yourself as well as possible. Where do you start from? From acting! What? Yes, you have understood correctly. As Pirandello stated, each of us is playing a role, and yes – you will need to play your role on the day of the job interview. Don’t you think that’s right? The world of work is rarely just. Therefore, it does not really matter if your tie always has a crooked knot, or if you keep a pen in your handbag, together with your son’s dirty bib, or if you are more or less organized, tidy, or self-confident: for an hour, or possibly less, you will have to convey self-confidence, and your clothing will necessarily have to help you to do that.
I will not dwell much on stating that your appearance generally needs to be well-finished, tidy and secure.. but maybe I should.. your clothes must be clean and perfectly ironed, with perfect hems. The heels on your shoes must be new, your winter jacket will not have hairs on it (so, avoid wearing angora sweaters). Do not show off logos or brands, as this is bad taste. Wear minimal mounts of perfume or after shave, please have plain manicures, as opposed to flowery ones, and avoid crystal manicures and any other manicure that your beautician may consider. Even your make-up must be natural and have neutral tones. Turn off your mobile phone (yes, turn them off…even just vibrations can be annoying), spit out your chewing gum, keep your shoulders straight, give a firm hand shake, look the person you’re talking to in the eye, do not make the face of a person who is being accused of something : this is a job interview, so please ask a few questions (sensible ones…yes, prepare some appropriate questions before hand), control your gestures, do not touch your hair or chin, and please do not crack your knuckles. Where can you put your hands? Keep a copy of your CV or a pen in your hands and clear your throat before speaking (especially if you have trouble controlling your voice).
After my list of general advice, let’s discuss the actual clothing: there is a psychology of colours, as Americans have known for a long time (which is why Father Christmas’ outfit was changed from green to red) ; here in Italy, we are a bit further behind, but let’s not despair. Business colours have always been blue and grey, as they are cold colours that ensure and transmit authority. You cannot go wrong if you wear a main item of blue or grey clothing. Neutral colours are also alright,as long as your total look is not beige, greige (Armani), white, black, brown (in very dark shades). Pastel colours are also okay, as long as you do not abuse them; even green (the colour of self-confident, trustworthy people).
What colours should you avoid? Yellow (which is not considered to be a colour to be taken seriously), orange (which is considered to be an insolent colour), brown (in its warmest shades, it is not considered as being suitable for urban settings), purple if you are applying for a job as a part of a team ( it is considered to be a presumptuous and egoistic colour).
Ok, we have the right colours now. What about the rest? A lot will depend on the type of company and on the position for which you are applying. You would definitely not show up at an interview for a secretarial job carrying a Birkin, as you would not wear ripped jeans to a meeting for the Google team (…yes, this really happened). If the company is informal, you would not wear a tie; but your look would remain sober. If you have a creative job, you will have to make your personality emerge with the right accessories and colours, but without exaggerating.
Men may wear coats, ties, trousers (long socks, preferably ones that match the trousers). Their belt must always match their shoes, blue or stripy shirts (which must always be long-sleeved) . Men must avoid squares, as they look a lot like picnic blankets, as well as button down collars (the ones with little buttons are sporty).
Some consider suits as being for old ladies, but suits are always a good choice for women. The success of the Armani suit in America was caused by the fact that career women of the time considered it to be their uniform, so you should use it; with a skirt or with trousers, choose it with a modern style; even mismatched suits are okay; but the advice is to not abandon the blazer, not even in the summer. Even feminine skirts, blouses and waist-length blazers are okay; skirts should always be above the knees. Avoid skirts that are too flashy or that have flower prints; avoid shiny material; instead, wear single colours, avoid lace and ruches, fur, flashy jewellery, noisy bracelets and all excesses in general.
Your handbag: I will never tire of saying that it is often one of the accessories that attracts the most attention. So, choose it well. Choose a leather one preferably (they are a bit more expensive, but they last forever) and a medium-sized one (avoid studs, rhinestones and Mia Bag-style fringes). Your handbag will be absolutely tidy (even if it contains your son’s notorious dirty bib). Put your pen and tissues in an easily recognizable pocket.
With regards to shoes, the ideal shoes are court shoes with medium-height leather heels, so that you feel comfortable with them. If you are not used to wearing heels, leather brogues are also okay. Do not forget your watch; it indicates that you care about punctuality, even though everybody knows that you look at the time on iphones nowadays.
Well, now you are ready. Take a deep breath, look at yourself in the mirror: do you have any doubts about an accessory? Take it off. “Less is more!” Are you not sure if the company is as informal as you were told? Make your look more formal. I’m sure that you have done your best. The fact that you bothered to have the right image makes you better!