What To Wear For An Interview

There are any number of sites offering advice on what to wear to an interviewed.  They range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

So there’s the very helpful don’t wear overly loud combinations to a serious role as they might create unhelpful first impressions through to avoid wearing yellow because it is not a colour that engenders trust.  Blue apparently is the colour that is most likely to engender feelings of trust.

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However, what if you are not the one being interviewed but are instead one of those doing the interviewing, not least if it is for a senior role?  It seems to me that clothing helps to shape first impressions.  So in the same way that the interviewee might need to give some time to his interview suit, the interviewer might also wish to do the same.

For a senior role interviewees are seeking to discern whether they wish to come work for your organisation as much as you are trying to work out whether you would like to recruit them.  So what should one wear for an interview?

As it happened I’ve just spent the last 36 hours in interview mode and been reflecting on just that question. Speaking in the broadest terms there seem to be three approaches.

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Some will wear whatever they normally wear in a professional context. For many this may be the fairly formal and common suit and tie. For others this is a more casual affair reflecting their professional norms.

A second approach is to dress down a little in the hope of appearing slightly less formal and thus slightly more approachable. An alternative approach is to dress up a little, seeking to signify that the interviewers take the process as seriously as the interviewees. You might be able to hazard a guess which is the approach to which I am most naturally inclined.

Over the last couple of days my colleagues represented the full range of approaches, from pretty formal to pretty casual representing personality types, personal preferences, and a range of norms of professional dress.

My own view is that as with all situations one’s dress should be appropriate to the context. That is the point of a 5YP: to build a wardrobe of sufficient depth and breadth that you have appropriate clothing for whatever context in which you find yourself.

How's this for an idea of interview dressing?
How’s this for an idea of interview dressing?

So if the interview is for a very junior or disempowered role one may feel it inappropriate to engage in a bit of Power Dressing. However, for a senior or key role, in which the boundaries between who is actually interviewing whom are rather more blurred it might be very appropriate.

So for my money, especially if interviewing for senior or key roles, approach the question of what to wear with nearly the same care as if you were the interviewee.

Think about what you plan to wear and what it might signal about you and your organisation.  Be reasonably confident that you are happy with those signals. Whilst you can’t control how other people will interpret your signals you can certainly control what signals you send.

Nonetheless, there have to be some limits.  No matter how much you might fancy it, wearing a monocle and a watch chain hanging from your waistcoat, you probably should resist the temptation…. Unless you work in astronomy.

Sir Patrick Moore

Patrick Moore RIP.

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