Dress advice for interviews

My daughter is about to graduate from university and is starting to attend interviews. As her dad, in his 60s, I am the least qualified person in the universe to offer advice. What advice on dress would you offer her?

  • Keith

    | 10473 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    18 Feb, 2017 15:07

    It depends on the type of job.

    Any sort of office based job then business suit, smart dress/jacket - better to be over dressed than under dressed.

    Where the organisation may be more casual then either above (over dressed than under) or "smart casual"

    With dress you want the interviewer not to really notice that much beyond being smart and appropriate- you want them to remember you for what you have done and said. So generally tone down a little any personal eccentricities (unless its highly suitable for the role). For example I tend to wear very bright socks but wouldn't wear my prize winning pairs to an interview (but wouldn't wear black either)
  • David Perry

    | 5015 Posts

    Chartered Member

    18 Feb, 2017 17:28

    Mmmmm? Difficult one.

    1. No thick layers of obvious make up with tons of extras - (the sort of make up some wear on dates and nights out with the girls)

    2. She is not going on a date, or a ball. Just the sort of decent clothes she might actually turn up in may be a good idea. As Keith said; "Smart Casual"

    3. Oh, and after having a waitress in a decent restaurant drop an enormous eyelash onto my table,...................
  • Hi Paul,

    If she needs to go out and buy something, I cannot recommend a simple smart black dress enough. This is the most versatile business item in my wardrobe.

    It is also the easiest to dress up or down depending on the business eg suit jacket for an accountancy firm or a cardigan with a less formal SME. Also gives more options for shoes than having to worry about what works with the length of trousers!
  • Hi Paul, wishing your daughter the very best of luck. To add to this very good advice: I would suggest she has a set of clothing 'dedicated' to interviews so she'll always have something cleaned, hanging up and ready to wear. Also it's important she wears something previously worn so she doesn't end up with scratchy labels or stiff material which doesn't move easily. If her clothing is comfortable it won't distract her from focusing on delivering an excellent impression.
  • Hi Paul

    Good luck to your daughter. I regularly interview students and recent graduates and I know that they probably wont have suits but as long as they turn up, smart casual I am ok with that. A while back I interviewed a graduate who had a lot of bracelets on and then rested her arms on the table. The constant clanging was a bit distracting and she seemed embarrassed but kept her arms on the table. My colleague made a comment (light hearted) and she did take some off and put them in her bag. We did hire her but other interviewers who may be a bit more set in there ways may have been put off and distracted from what she was saying.
    Don't forget to remind her to turn off her phone and keep it in her bag, I am amazed at the amount of people who leave their phone on the table in interviews and leave it switched on.....
  • Teresa

    | 353 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    20 Feb, 2017 14:00

    As someone who once had a very lovely light grey suit, which had lovely mud marks on the knees after I tripped up the kerb on the way into the building, I would second Catherine's suggestion of having wearing black or very dark clothing! (I did get offered the job though, partly because they liked the way I powered through in a muddy suit and grazed palms)
  • Joanne

    | 146 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    21 Feb, 2017 16:48

    What might help is to ask whoever has invited her for the interview what the dress code for the company is and then take that up a notch in terms of smartness.

    A simple dark outfit will never go amiss and I remember reading on the communities a piece of advice for workwear which has stuck with me:

    If you can see up it, down it or through it then it is not suitable for work!

    Good luck to your daughter
  • May I second the comment about ensuring the outfit is comfortable? And that should include shoes too: if she's concentrating on having to walk in them, she won't necessarily be concentrating on the interviewer or on presenting the most confident version of herself!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 414 Posts

    22 Feb, 2017 09:18

    What kind of job?
    If a suit isn't appropriate or she doesn't want to spend money on one if she's unlikely to wear she gets a job then I would suggest some smart trousers or skirt (at least knee length) & a blouse/ shirt. A smart coat can replace a jacket. If she's applying to be a solicitor/ accountant then there would be an expectation for a suit probably & I have found that people applying for graduate schemes tend to wear a suit. Other than that, suit not required.
  • Sarah

    | 56 Posts


    22 Feb, 2017 10:17

    Hi Paul, lots of great advice here. I'd suggest that she also considers what she would wear again, i.e. get a black dress that's office appropriate but that she'd also wear when in the job. I normally wear a pair of slim black trousers and a loose blouse for work, it's easy to dress this up with a smart blouse and a matching black jacket for interviews/meeting externals, etc.
    You didn't mention what industry she's in, but even within an industry some organisations will expect you to show more or less personality. Have basics that she's comfortable in and look smart means that she can accessorise it to match the settings. As Catherine said, smart jacket, pared-back jewellery and a structured bag for a very formal organisation, or an on-trend it-jacket or shoes for a more trendy start-up.
    A lot of the highstreet do a decent tailored line now, including H&M, Zara, etc.
    Hope this helps and good luck to her!
  • Linda

    | 6 Posts


    22 Feb, 2017 15:41

    I haven't read these discussion boards for some time, and I acknowledge many of the responses so far as from our seasoned and well respected HR professionals. However, I am struggling to comprehend why we are offering advice on what someone should wear to an interview?

    Surely an individual should wear whatever they feel appropriate, be that a dress, suit, skirt, trousers, jeans or swimming costume - although if someone turned up for an interview for an office job, I would worry they may get cold in the latter!
  • Keith

    | 10473 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    22 Feb, 2017 16:25

    In reply to Linda:

    Because inevitably (and interviewers only being human) there are judgements made about candidates at all sorts of levels. Much of the literature says we make some judgements in 10-30 seconds. What someone wears therefore is an important part of their first impression.

    If a candidate did turn up in a swimming costume then its highly unlikely in 99/100 workplaces they would be starting on a level playing field.

    Is this right? Well that's probably a subject for an interesting essay but does it happen? Certainly. So whilst as a HR practitioner I might want to be training out unconscious bias and designing schemes to minimise it, as a candidate or as a dad of a candidate taking some simple steps seems eminently sensible to me.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 414 Posts

    23 Feb, 2017 10:04

    In reply to Linda:

    Don't think Jean's would impressive anyone!
  • Amy Humphreys

    | 11 Posts

    Community Manager

    23 Feb, 2017 11:20

    In reply to Linda:

    Couldn't agree with you more Linda, I'm also baffled as to why the amount of makeup a person chooses to wear to an interview would make a blind bit of difference, but maybe that's just me...
  • David Perry

    | 5015 Posts

    Chartered Member

    23 Feb, 2017 12:13

    In reply to Amy Humphreys:

    The clue is in the question Amy. "Make up" = invent. Like Keith we make judgements - thats what interviews are for.

    It might not be right but thats how we judge people in interviews. By how they dress/look, behave, speak and reply to questions.

    Perhaps it may be better if we all wore Chairman Mao suits? ;-)
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