Chris Aukland is the managing director of specialist recruitment agency Ambition and is responsible for the growth and management of the Hong Kong business. He has 15 years’ consulting experience in the UK and Asia.
It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed in job interviews
I recently attended an interview for a senior position in a large accounting company. When I met up with my sister for dinner later that day, she commented on my appearance, saying that I wasn’t suitably dressed for such interviews. Although I had thought I was well groomed, wearing a knee-length dress and cardigan, she seemed to think that only very formal wear is acceptable in interviews. How much do the details in an outfit affect first impressions in a high-calibre interview? Do I have to go out and buy some wear suits? Or would a formal dress be acceptable?
First impressions are as relevant today as they have ever been. Even before you have greeted an interviewer, she or he has begun forming an opinion of you based on your body language, appearance, and demeanour. Fair or not, this is a fact and – as the saying goes –“perception is everything”. This is doubly important to remember when preparing for a job interview.
Your appearance goes a long way when attempting to demonstrate how seriously you take the opportunity you are interviewing for, as well as your understanding of the corporate culture of that particular business.
Dressing appropriately immediately demonstrates to the interviewer that you are keen to make a good first impression; turn up in pair of shorts and a T-shirt for a job interview at a bank and my guess is that the interview won’t last too long.
Looking the part is critical for success, so if you dress inappropriately – whether it be too informal (or, in a minority of cases, too formally) you may instantly give the interviewer the impression that you don’t fit in with the culture of that organisation.
During my career, I have seen some of the best- and worst-dressed interviewees. Common mistakes include: outfits that are too casual; shirts that are unironed or stained; skirts that are too short or tight; unpolished shoes; and excessive aftershave, perfume or make-up.
In short, anything that can give a negative perception is not a good idea. These are not difficult details to get right and therefore, in my opinion, there is no excuse for dressing inappropriately for a job interview. It helps to ask a friend or a trusted confidant for an honest opinion on your proposed outfit.
As a rule of thumb, if you are interviewing for a professional role with a large MNC or bank (or in this case with a large accounting firm) a business suit is always the best bet for both men and women. Suits never go out of fashion and – although I cannot guarantee that you will not get the job if you don’t wear a suit – it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as There’s no excuse for dressing inappropriately.