Interview Presentation 101

1510943_10151892851773297_1424363034_nInterviews can be a tricky meeting to prepare for! You have your research and prep to consider. You might even start drafting some common interview question responses, to be double prepared. With all that going on, it’s no wonder the question of  ‘what you’re going to wear’ becomes a consideration at the very last minute.

There is plenty of information around on how to prepare for interviews regarding ‘what to say’, including some of our recent blog posts.  However, do you take the time to think about appropriate attire?   And before you head on over to your wardrobe to dust off that suit of yours, ask yourself, “What is the company culture?”

Before you know the answer to that questions, don’t start preparing your interview attired just yet.  A suit is not necessarily the best option each and every time.  For example, a colleague of mine had to interview for a round of store workers for a logistics company and had 5 candidates to meet that day.  From those interviews, she had one candidate sticking out in her mind after the interview rounds (but not for the right reasons).  Let’s say his name was ‘Bill’ for this example.  Bill turned up to the interview 15 minutes early, was polite and performed moderately well during the interview questions (similar to the other four candidates), however Bill turned up to the interview in a full suit and tie ensemble.

Once the core of the interview was over, my colleague did a walk through with Bill through the factory floor.  She did this with all candidates to show them where they may, potentially, be working; so they can get a full picture of the company.  Please note: My colleague had in fact mentioned this to each candidate prior to the interview, as closed shoe footwear is a must during any walk through.  The candidate clearly looked uncomfortable in his suit as they did the walk through.  He was presented well of course, however did his unmatched attire indicate he did not have a thorough grasp on what the company did? Would he fit the culture of the workplace? Was this a ‘fill in’ role for him whilst he found his ‘ideal’ role? These were some of the questions going through the recruiters mind.

We are not suggesting in the above example that you turn up in dirty work clothes to show that you are a ‘worker’.  However, researching the culture of the company, understanding what  the role is and where you will be working, can all provide good clues on suitable interview attire.  The other candidates had turned up in neat jeans, a clean, collared polo shirt and steel cap boots.

General presentation rules regardless of outfit choice:

  • Shoes should be clean and appropriate (as indicated above). Dirty or flawed shoes are an indication of lack of attention to detail and professionalism (I had someone turn up for an interview with the sole flapping away each time they took a step).
  • Hair should be neat, clean and trimmed. This includes facial hair. For women, preferably tie hair back rather than extravagant, glamours hair styles.  This will also avoid ‘hair playing’ during moments of nervousness.
  • Sunglasses.  Put them away.   Sunglasses pushed up in your hair looks unprofessional.
  • Avoid cologne and perfume.  In some workplaces cologne and perfume are banned due to open space office these days.  At the same token, you don’t want to knock out your interviewer with an overpowering scent in the interview room.
  • Fingernails should be cleaned and trimmed.  Chipped nail polish is another sign of lack of attention to detail. In addition, dirty nails are off-putting and unprofessional.  As a professional you will be handshaking potential clients, customers, etc.  If you haven’t taken the time to be presentable for your interviewer, why would you for anyone else?
  • Have fresh breath. Smells travel far in small rooms.
  • Jewellery should be kept to a minimum if any.  Again, apply the same rule as per clothing.  Maybe if you are going for a role as Fashion Assistant, well then jewellery may be okay. However, always ensure your jewellery is not distracting.  I interviewed a ‘Manager’ once who wore every single piece of gold jewellery she owned, I am certain.  Every time she spoke or moved, she jingled and chimed like she was wearing an embellished Bollywood costume.  Very distracting.
  • Iron your clothes. You want the interviewer to concentrate on your face and what you have to say. Not your wrinkled shirt and uneven pants.
  • Cover tattoos and body piercings.  Again, if you’re heading to an interview at a tattoo parlour no issues.  However, although tattoos are widely getting accepted within the workplace, you still don’t know the culture and if they are openly accepted at this particular workplace.  So cover up and think about taking out your facial piercings.
  • No missing buttons, no lint; and don’t forget to remove external tags and tacking stitches from new clothes.
  • Get rid of Chewing Gum.  There is nothing worse than seeing someone chew gum during an interview.  It is disrespectful and rude. And avoid taking in your favourite energy drink or coffee into the interview.  You may be offered a glass of water during the interview process.  We advise you accept the offer as you should be doing a lot of talking.  You are bound to get thirsty.

Other key takeaways

A few other tips we would like to share that may not be the ‘common’ tips for interview however ones that we definitely think everyone should be mindful of.

  • Be mindful of your surroundings.  Some candidates ensure they are ‘on’ when in an interview.  But how is your demeanour whilst waiting at reception? Were you taking an inappropriate, personal phone call that other people could here?  Were you nice to the receptionist when you arrived and greeted him/her politely?
  • Put the phone down.  DON”T, I repeat don’t answer calls during your interview.  If you have an urgent call you MUST attend to, advise the interviewer of the situation and your need to possibly take a call.  However, be mindful, this can still send the wrong message.
  • (As above)Appearance. Ensure you match your amazing resume, with a suitable appearance. Dress to impress, however dress to also suit the culture. Call up the employer and ask their reception what the dress code is. Sometimes wearing a suit to an interview can signal a lack of employer knowledge or cultural fit.
  • Don’t say ‘Um’. It’s a habit that we all do; and a hard one to break. However, saying ‘um’ throughout the interview can signal being unprepared, lack of confidence and or professionalism. Rehearse your responses to create a foundation of dialogue to avoid you stammering away during the interview.
  • Take notes…literally take notes. Now we don’t mean scribe the interview verbatim; however, take notes of key points during the interview. Inform your interviewer of your desire to take notes and then keep an ear out for any queries, opportunities or points you wish to raise. This will show that you are interested, pro active and will also give you talking points during the interview and post interview, when you construct your ‘thank you’ correspondence.


The team at Winning Edge Resumes

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