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No matter what your pursuits - a great job, impressing powerful people or taking over the world - the way you dress might play a huge role in whether you succeed. First impressions matter, and the reality is people who dress sharp seem to have an edge over those who don't. But don't panic; this doesn't mean you need to blow a month's rent on a new Hugo Boss outfit to look good. Simply putting in a bit of effort with your style could get your nose out in front, particularly with potential employers.
Dressing for an interview
Before you utter a single word, your outfit will make an impact on your interviewer. Whether you like it or not, what you're wearing will shape their initial thoughts about you as a member of the team. (It's called 'unconscious bias' and most of us will experience and be influenced by it at some stage.) Every company has a dresscode, however, for the interview you could follow these suggestions:
- Never dress down for an interview, so always wear a suit - jacket and matching pants/skirt, dress shirt and dress shoes. Dark colours are your best option.
- Wear something comfortable and that fits. If you're still wearing your Sunday best from three years ago, it's time to invest in some new threads.
- Basic hygiene. Ensure you shower, apply deodorant and brush your teeth. You'd be surprised how often this step is skipped.
- Keep your hair neat and clean. If you're rocking dreadlocks, that's ok, but tidy them before you show up. Same goes with beards and moustaches; trim them before the interview.
- Don't go overboard with cologne or perfume.
- Keep jewellery to a minimum and shoes not too flashy.
Dressing for day-to-day work
Once you land the job, you should keep up a professional appearance. No one gets to keep their job if they show up in track pants and old T-shirts covered in paint. You should dress similarly to how you looked for the interview. Your initiation should include a run-through of the general attire expectations and, if it doesn't, feel free to double-check with the HR team. Remember to keep your personal effects, such as a bag, in good order as well. Don't over-accessorise or wear extremely bold colours - it could be distracting and might put people off.
You should avoid wearing jewellery that makes too much noise. Your bangles might be Kate Spade, but some could find it annoying to listen to when they jangle.
Keep your facial hair in order. Some men just can't pull off a beard. If that's you, you might have to face up to that and get rid of it. Rule #1 of quality beards - don't just let it grow. Manscaping is the mot du jour. Rule #2, No goatees. It's not 1995.
The obvious 'no' list
We all have enough sense not to wear three-quarter corduroy pants and a singlet to work, but here's a more comprehensive list of the absolute no-nos:
- Anything with an elastic waist.
- Leopard print.
- Short shorts.
- Tops that show bra straps.
- Sports gear.
Take pride in how you look. While you're finding your feet - whether you're in the interview phase or a new role - dress conservatively and similar to how you see others attired. Once you have built up some confidence in your situation, that's the time to start playing with your work fashion choices. Keep to the basics - wear a suit, groom yourself - and you can't go wrong.