I wouldn’t say that I’ve been to a lot of interviews (I have) but I’ve been to enough to know how important first impressions are and specifically how important your outfit and appearance can be.
My friends usually laugh at me when, after a few drinks, I start spouting about how, despite many people’s opinion that its just a frivolous activity for the rich and materialistic, fashion is one of the most important (and interesting) markers of who we are and the type of society we live in and has been for many many years. Unlike most of my drunken ramblings this is something I stand by even when the effects of alcohol have worn off, fashions can tell us so much about people, personalities, societal trends, cultures, moods, style evolution – the works.
But without even needing to go that deep, in the simplest form, the clothes we wear tell other people a little about who we are even before we utter a word of introduction. In an interview context, that initial statement is so important and to get it wrong, could cost you the job.
I’m a big believer in dressing for the job. (In fact if you want a laugh I wrote this post about it back when I first started out in the fashion industry which now makes for interesting reading) As they say you are only as good as your last job and the chances are that one your interviewing for is bigger/better/higher paid/more responsibility/a little out of your depth but in that thirty minute to an hour window you have to convince everyone that you are capable, up to the job and completely suited to the role, which let’s face it is no mean feat.
Of course having worked in fashion for the last five years, I guess my outfit choices in interviews may have been scrutinised more than most. When I first started out, it was those questions like ‘What designers do you like?’ and ‘Where do you shop yourself?’ that were enough to fill me with dread for weeks prior to the meeting, worrying how I could turn my interns wage and thrift shop clothes into something that would portray me as the fashion savvy and confident individual they were looking for.
I was once berated for being ‘too colourful’ as the director of that particular company only liked neutral colours to be worn in her office, I was told off in one interview for wearing something from one of that particular brands competitors (ouch!), which I beat myself up for afterwards but ultimately it was the smartest thing I owned, and once even told from the offset that I seemed much too glam to work in a place like this. First. Impressions. Count.
I was left smug at a recent pitch when my potential new client was shocked at the news I didn’t iron. ‘Oh I definitely had you pegged as an ironer’. While the reality is that I don’t iron a thing, and if you pushed me I’d have to question the role of irons in anyone’s lives, I gave myself a pat on the back later for obviously fooling her into thinking I was such an organised and well put together person who took care over my appearance. Thankfully despite me dispelling that myth over the meeting table I still got the gig. I just hope she never sees me at the weekends when all I wear are my boyfriends hoodies and jeans that have holes along the seams. First. Impressions. Count.
Since going freelance I’ve found the path to professional yet creative, fashion but not too fashion and capable yet fun, a precarious one. I’ve had to completely rework my wardrobe, and not just because I can now spend more time in my PJ’s, but because at any given time I could be thrown into an interview situation and I need to be ready. Usually once you’ve done the interview and got the job, the hard part is over, but when freelance you are constantly meeting potential new clients and regularly in interview type settings when pitching ideas. Sometimes meetings can be thrown at you with very little notice and you realise you have less than an hour to turn your greasy haired pyjama wearing self into the confident entrepreneurial individual you have portrayed yourself as on paper/ telephone/ email.
The fact that my clients are now not only fashion clients has also brought it’s own stumbling blocks. I don’t want to scare people off by wearing a bright pink coat or overly shiny shoes in case they think I’m all style and no substance (it applies to work as well as cakes). Yet if they are a fashion client, I need to make sure I wear something that portrays both style and substance, not to mention fitting in with their overall brand image. Whew!
All in all it’s a bit of a minefield and one which I’m very much still navigating. I’ve been meaning to discuss it on the blog for some time so when I spotted this post over on Poppy D’s site hosting a competition to do that very thing I thought it would be silly not to combine my woes with the chance of winning £150 worth of Selfridges vouchers, because, well, that would allow me to at least attempt to solve my conundrum. The competition is in conjunction with Total Jobs who have created these handy videos on their job academy page full of tips and advice on how to tackle interviews. Below I’ve come up with three imaginary interview outfits, all of which portray a different type of vibe, which I’m hoping will help out any fellow freelancers and stop you, like me, yo-yo -ing from ‘Am I too fashion?’ to ‘Am I fashion enough?’ on a daily basis.
Interview Look 1 – Fashion
This outfit shows I’m interested in fashion, yet still has a smart professional vibe. Note the classics – a smart camel coat, crisp shirt and chic loafers – giving me great style brownie points while the Olivia Palermo style printed trousers give it a more ‘fashion’ edge and subtle details like the necklace and animal print heel on the shoes are little references to my creative personality. All in all the perfect fashion interview outfit – shame it costs about a million bucks.
Interview Look 2 – Corporate
I’m not really a typical corporate dresser, wearing a suit is my worst nightmare as I hate not being able to wear bright colours and show personality in my outfits, but if I do have to go to business like meetings in corporate offices, the above is usually how I play it. Sticking to monochrome is a safe option but it doesn’t have to be boring. Inspired by Briony of A Girl A Style, who shows that working in a corporate environment doesn’t have to mean hiding your identity, I know that shoes are the one part of a corporate style outfit that can do the talking. I adore these 3.1 Philip Lim loafers and a touch of colour with the Whistles clutch and it doesn’t seem so bad at all.
Interview Look 3 – Creative
A lot of the companies I work with are pretty creative places, which often means that me walking in in four inch heels would simply look out of place. Creative arty agencies rarely have official dress codes but do have unwritten and unspoken ‘you must look achingly cool’ at all times rules, which can be rather frightening. These liquid metallic Nike air Max’s have been on my wishlist forever (in gold in truth but silver is also amazing) so I couldn’t resist putting them in and trainers are not a complete no for an interview, it completely depends on the vibe of the company. I’m doing those double checks again here and love the idea of silver shoes with white trews.
What do you think of my interview looks? Do you struggle with what to wear to work/ interviews?