First Impressions Count

Friday, November 9, 2018

If 70% of a first impression is based on appearance and body language, dressing appropriately is of the utmost importance. Remember, you are marketing a product — yourself — to a potential employer. Just as a company aims to package their product as unique in the marketplace, personal branding is much the same. As every job is different, you should wear clothing that is appropriate for the client, the industry and the position you are applying for. Research the prospective employer, they are most likely to have a definable corporate culture. Find out what the corporate uniform is and wear it. The business “uniform” communicates that you are a mature, stable professional and an ideal member of the team. Look businesslike, yet stylish, not boring like a corporate filing cabinet. Attractive but not distracting. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.

General tips:

Look Successful – Buy the best quality garments and accessories that you can afford.

Try on the outfit a few days before the interview – enough time to have dry-cleaning and repairs completed (Check for missing buttons and frayed cuffs).

Everything must be clean, neat and ironed.

No bulging pockets or sagging coat linings.


Wear a two-piece dark grey, dark blue or black business suit. Team it with a good fitting, long-sleeved shirt that is neatly ironed. Ensure the colour compliments your suit, if in doubt, wear white. Unless it’s a heat wave don’t take off your jacket. It is interpreted as less powerful and is less formal.

Choose plain cufflinks and a silk (or silk-look) tie, that should coordinate with your suit. Selecting subtle or simple patterns enhances credibility however, leave the comedy cufflinks and novelty ties at home! Tie pins are best left…in the eighties!

Shoes should be comfortable, black lace-ups if possible, and polished. Shoes that are well cared for, signal “good attention to detail.”

Wear dark socks, black if possible.

Your belt should match the colour of your shoes.

A full-length coat can be worn over your suit, avoid casual coats and sports jackets.

Don’t carry a backpack, books, or “heaven forbid” a plastic carrier bag! A pad or iPad, a pen, extra copies of your CV and letters of reference in a briefcase are all you need.

Personal grooming

Pay special attention to grooming. Make certain your nails and hair are clean, trimmed, and neat.

Ensure beards and moustaches are also neat and trimmed.

Wedding rings are generally acceptable, but earrings or other visible body piercings are not, some more creative roles may accommodate but as a rule the employer is probably looking for something more main stream.

Make sure that you do not have body odour or bad breath, have some mints with you just in case. If using aftershave keep it to a minimum, Brut and Old Spice should only be worn with a tie pin!

And For The Ladies..

A stylish tailored trouser or skirt suit in a neutral colour such as dark grey, navy blue, black or beige will give you a clean professional look.

Wear long sleeves for a take-me-serious look. Sleeveless garments will not portray you as a serious businesswoman.

Skirts should be knee-length, slightly shorter or slightly longer. No mini skirts or floor sweepers if you’re looking for office credibility.

When selecting a shirt avoid transparent materials, tight fits, low necklines and revealing waistlines.

Wear flat or low heeled court shoes in colours that avoid making your feet a focal point. Be sure that they are clean and polished. Nicked heels, scruffy toes, or unpolished footwear scream failure. Avoid shoes that are difficult to walk in or slow your step, they will lose you credibility. Do not wear open-toed shoes and always wear tights/stockings in a neutral colour – carry an extra pair in case of runs!

Do not carry a handbag and a briefcase. Choose one or the other and don’t overload them. Simply carry a pad or iPad, a pen, extra copies of your CV and letters of reference.

The finishing touch

Select accessories, fragrances, jewellery, hairstyles, etc. that do not detract from your professional image. The attention should be focused on what you are saying and your qualifications.

Make sure your hair is clean and neat. A stylish haircut is essential to a professional image, a good hair cut will also save you time as it will be easier to manage. Avoid covering your face or long fussy styles you will want to fiddle with.

If you are wearing jewellery ensure that it is understated. Visible facial piercing should ideally be removed with the exception of a plain set of earrings.

Visible tattoos should be covered to avoid distraction.

Use natural-looking, well applied makeup. Make sure your nails are clean, trimmed and neatly manicured. Again this will reinforce your ‘attention to detail’.

Having given your interview outfit an MOT you can relax, safe in the knowledge that you are projecting a positive professional image. You will look good, feel comfortable and ultimately more focused on getting that job! See Interview Tips