You Can’t Leave Your Hat On…….

What not to wear for an interview

Take a moment to picture the scene. You spent an entire weekend working on your CV. You stayed home when your friends were heading out to the pub for a Sunday afternoon bevy and carefully filled in application forms, all in the hope that you’d bag that dream job. You’ve identified your skills and highlighted how perfectly you’d fill the vacancy, and then you’ve sent your thoughtfully crafted applications off into the unknown.

Phew, job done. Time now, to catch a last drink with folk down the pub. Normal life resumes, and Monday morning comes round very fast. Everyday thoughts fill your days. The birds are singing, a new series of 24 is about to start and summer’s on its way. Until you receive a phone call, completely out of the blue, inviting you for an assessment centre interview in London in one week.

Hold that image. Punching the air, grinning from ear-to-ear, jumping up and down perhaps? Then what? Shock, concern, panic?

Stop! You need to prepare:

  • Research the company and sector
  • Research the questions you may be asked and practice your answers
  • Plan your journey

Easy? Well not exactly easy but definitely possible. In your shocked happiness you tell a friend, a parent, a colleague and their first question is not “have you thought about the questions you’ll be asked?”   Oh no, they want to know what you’re going to wear.

The image you have now should be on a continuum between a barely concealed need to seriously dress to impress and a strongly held belief that people can’t, and so shouldn’t, be judged on what they wear. Where you sit on this line will depend on lots of things, and those of us who place ourselves somewhere in the middle may think we’ll know what we should wear to an interview.

Once again, stop! Think and plan: Does the company have a dress code? What would they expect you to wear?

Banks and law firms are very likely to have an expectation of formal office wear. In stark contrast, turning up at an assessment centre interview with a conservation charity in a shiny new pin-stripe suit or your best high heels might raise more than a few eyebrows.

You need to arrive and remain comfortable. Plan what you’ll wear. Make sure it’s all clean, ironed and polished the night before your interview. Give yourself plenty of time on the day. You may have to walk a long way, tube strikes being cancelled notwithstanding. It may rain. Wear shoes you can comfortably wear all day. If you worry about your hair, buy a brolly.

Companies of all kinds are increasingly using day- or even week-long assessment centres as part of their recruitment process. These events comprise a range of activities including group tasks, often focusing on problem-solving; individual psychometric testing and panel interviews. Throughout the events, candidates are assessed on a range of different measures such as communication skills, team working, problem solving and leadership.Think about this when you’re deciding what to wear. You may need to look businesslike but you may also need to be able to move around easily, you’d be surprised by how energetic some group activities can be.

Hold that image, tone it down a little, come on, be realistic! Wear something that would be suitable for that activity. You need to be able to join in any activity fully without being restricted by your clothing. Wear something you like, in a colour that’s right for the situation. Most of all, keep it simple. Spend time preparing your answers and researching the company, not worrying about what not to wear.

And one last thing. You can NOT leave your hat on, unless it’s a health and safety requirement.


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