I’ve been to plenty of interviews in my time and since the early days, when I was an impoverished student wearing ill-fitting pinstripe bootcut trousers (the horror, the horror) and polyester shirts, I’ve learned a thing or two about feeling comfortable and confident in my interview clothes.
Of course, you almost don’t want the interviewer to notice what you’re wearing – the focus should be on what you’re saying, how awesome you are, what great experience you have and how you’d be perfect, just perfect for this role goddammit. But while you don’t want a screamy, shouty outfit, there’s nothing wrong with wearing something that leaves a positive impression – that quietly informs them of how cool, intelligent and on it you are. So...
Structure and Tailoring
I think an outfit looks more pulled together if it has some structure to it rather than being all draped and soft. Just one piece – a tailored blazer or a pair of smart, well-fitting trousers – will sharpen up your silhouette and subtly create the impression that you have your shit together. Or you could go for a full-on suit which doesn't have to look too 'office-y' - my ditsy-print cord trouser suit from Jaeger was one of the best investments I ever made.
I like this Topshop blazer because, while it's tailored, it's not too formal - you can scrunch the sleeves up, leave it unbuttoned, and it still adds a crisp finish to an outfit. As well as being ideal for interviews, you could also wear it over a dress for a summer wedding (I think I actually own an earlier version of this blazer and that's exactly what I did with it at the weekend!)
I have never found a better-fitting pair of trousers than Boden's Bistro crop. I got the black wool pair (which are lined!) in the winter, and they do a lightweight version in the summer, as well as fancy woven jacquard cocktail variations on the theme. They come in a huge range of colours so you can play it safe in grey, black or navy, or go jazzy with red or a polka dot pair.
If you’re wearing any kind of shirt, blouse or top, for the love of God, tuck it in. It’s such a simple, easy, insignificant-seeming detail, but it has an immediate impact. Even a t-shirt, worn under a blazer, tucked in, will look smart. And don’t be tempted to go for the ‘half-tuck’ a la most fashion bloggers – I know even the mannequins in Gap are ‘styled’ this way now, but in an interview scenario, only a full tuck will do.
Uniqlo's new silk shirts are selling out fast, so go in store to track one down or keep an eye on the website - they come in a huge range of colours, are hardwearing and elegantly cut. And this one has been styled just how I like it - buttoned up and tucked in.
A talking point/lucky charm
This may be visible – a quirky ring, or a particularly fabulous bag – that will catch the interviewer’s eye and give you something to make small talk about in the ice-breaking stage of the interview. Mine is always my Paul Smith clutch bag, which is actually a men’s wash bag. It holds my portfolio perfectly and I’ve lost count of the number of interviewers who’ve commented on it - it’s both a talking point and a lucky charm for me.
Alternatively it can be something they can’t see, like a beautiful matching lingerie set, or a necklace you wear under your shirt – just something that reminds you how awesome you are, so you carry yourself with confidence.
Whether you’re interviewing for a role at a fashion magazine, bank or the civil service, the chances are your first hurdle will be the HR lady (or man). They will not be impressed by the fact you managed to get your hands on that awesome Zara skort. Keep dresses and skirts knee-length, anything skimpy is inappropriate.
You will get sweaty. Trust me, by the time you’ve travelled on the tube, rushed to find the right address, and sat in the overheated reception area, you will be sweaty and it’ll be so much worse in non-breathable polyester. Pure cotton or silk is the way to go and as you can see with the Uniqlo shirt above, silk doesn't have to mean pricey.
For crying out loud people, has no-one ever heard of shoe polish or good old fashioned elbow grease? Put a bit of effort in. Whether you’re wearing heels or flats, just make sure they’re in good condition – shabby shoes upset me.