It wasn’t that long ago when the boardroom was full of men dressed in greys and blacks.
Women were there too but you didn’t notice them. They blended into the background wearing, you guessed it, black and grey.
But thankfully times have changed. Women can dress as women, femininity now has a value.
When it comes to the interview, first impressions are built on appearance and it’s important that women dress for success. But how do you get the balance right? The challenges of self-promotion can be as tricky as the interview itself.
For men, their work uniform is simple. A smart suit, crisp shirt and a not too jaunty tie. Simple. But women have more options, which can be a positive but also a negative. It’s important to project credibility through the clothes you wear whilst also considering make-up, hair, shoes, jewelry and handbag. Too much or too little, and credibility can be lost.
“At an interview, your style is so important to get right” says Distinctively Me Founder Jill White. Before launching her clothing business, Jill was successful in the corporate world of finance and has a wealth of experience when it comes to the interviewing process. She’s seen women pitch their style to perfection but also she’s seen some women way off the fashion mark. “I don’t think you can ever underestimate how important first impressions are. We instinctively look at the appearance of candidates and judge them” says Jill.
In fact, when you first meet a person, they makes a judgment about you in approximately four seconds, and their judgment is finalised within 30 seconds of the initial contact – you’ve probably hardly spoken in that time so your clothes and body language are fundamental to the impression you make.
It’s important that women look at themselves as their own personal brand and let’s face it, we could all use a little help with how we look so here’s our top tips on how to create style credibility for that all important interview.
Present yourself appropriately
Research the dress code and culture of the organisation are you interviewing with or working for – this might be as simple sitting in the reception of their office. Tie your outfits in with that, but with your own personal twist. There is nothing worse than feeling like you stand out like a sore thumb – it will knock your confidence.
Bearing this in mind, if the organisation is formal then go ‘formal’ but with your own style. If you aren’t naturally formal then maybe wear a tailored suit in something other than black, blue or grey – how about burgundy, plum or cobalt blue? Or wear a tailored dress with a boucle jacket – very elegant but the multi colour of boucle can add real personality.
If the organisation is very casual but you aren’t then why not wear jeans, a t-shirt and then dress it up with a blazer? A strong jacket will pull eveything else together and give a polished look to informal style.
Don’t ever let clothes wear you! Whether that’s the style, the fit or the colour, be careful to not let your clothes ‘overtake’. Take time and invest in a capsule wardrobe of staples in neutral colours that allow you to feel comfortable and then pop it with a coloured blouse, interesting jewellery or a funky shoe.
Know your limits
When it comes to revealing too much. Skirts are most flattering when they sit on the knee and tops shouldn’t be too low-cut. It’s not about being too conservative. It’s about keeping the attention on you and what you have to say. See Jill’s case study below.
It’s not just about what you wear. Whilst we’re all judged on what we wear, especially in the job interview, it’s about much more than that. It’s about creating a strong personal brand and that includes far more than your style of trouser. It’s about how you present yourself, what you say, how you say it, creating eye contact. You might have the most perfect manicure but a weak handshake. It’s about getting the balance just right. So stand or sit tall, have great eye contact and above all smile.
JILL’S PERSONAL CASE STUDY
Here’s an example of a dress code issue I had with a member of my team when I worked in the corporate world:
I had a very tall, attractive 20-something in my team. She had had issues with a previous boss who had told her she needed to conform with the ‘corporate uniform’. She rebelled and wore very short skirts and plunging necklines to the office. She was a really smart lady – highly numerate, very innovative in creating business change, but the only thing anyone ever talked about her was the way she dressed. She never really got the credit she deserved for her intelligence because she was judged on her appearance. This frustrated her enormously.
Our discussion revolved around how she could still dress with personal style without feeling like she was wearing a uniform. She was never going to be a trouser suit girl, but tweaks were made to her hemlines (they came down) and her neckline went up. She wore amazing figure hugging dresses and pencil skirts in vibrant colours but they were office appropriate. Her credibility and the respect for her grew exponentially.
If you’ve got an interview coming up or your looking to update your corporate style, get in touch with Jill for a free consultation at her Hampstead Studio.
About the author
Jill White is the founder of Distinctively Me. A successful business women in the financial world, Jill took a career break to work out her next move and it was whilst looking, and failing, to find the perfect pair of trousers that the idea for a made to measure clothing business came to her.
Jill is passionate about helping women build a smart, elegant capsule collection of pieces that make life easier and effortless when it comes to workwear. The Distinctively Me service goes way beyond having the perfect suit made to measure, it’s about giving the professional women the confidence to look great whilst feeling totally comfortable throughout the day and into the evening.