Tag Archive for 'meetings'

Style dilemma: Do I dress down for the interview?

The following was posted on the Fashion Forum page:

I’m going for a job interview with the BBC. I do want to look smart – in the past I’ve always ‘overdressed’ for interviews and, as you say, it has made me feel confident and I’m sure that has rubbed off on the interviewees.

But the thing is, most people I’ve met at the BBC tell me they don’t worry too much about what they’re wearing, and I’m concerned that looking too ‘continental’ might come across as flashy or threatening – or just a bit vain.

Any tips?

First of all, it’s great that you’re thinking about this.  It’s important know who is interviewing you and it’s worth thinking about how they will be dressed and how they will see you.

My advice is:

  • continental women tend not to look flashy – confident, professional, successful, yes; but rarely flashy.  The way to pull this off is to make it look as if you’ve put together your look effortlessly – that you haven’t tried too hard.  Don’t dramatically change your style for the interview: it’ll be obvious.  Even if it is the BBC, don’t try to be overly ‘creative’.  Avoid bright colours; stick to so softer ones.  If you want to show a little flair dress it up with an interesting piece of jewellery or at most a colourful shirt.

  • no matter what the interview is for, always wear a suit (or at the very least a jacket).  You are always more likely to be taken on if you look presentable and successful.  Over three decades of working with senior executives – and hiring quite a few people for Wardrobe – I am convinced that there are few, if any,  circumstances where it’s a good idea not to wear a suit for an interview.

  • whatever you wear, make sure it really, really fits you.  You need to appear 100% confident that you look good when you walk into the room. You don’t want to be fiddling or adjusting your clothes, so ensure that they look and feel as though they are you (and not just your interview persona) – and make sure that you can walk comfortably in your shoes.

  • make sure your hair looks good and your make up is natural – but don’t go without make-up – and if you wear glasses, don’t forget to give them a clean

I don’t know if you are going for a presentation job or an executive job, but I am constantly amazed at the way the BBC’s female presenters dress.  While the men are always immaculate, it seems to me that the women get it wrong more often than they get it right.  It is harder for women, but you only have to look at their counterparts on the US news channels to see how to put together a well-groomed professional look that can complement the undoubtedly professional content of their work.  Just as in your interview, looking successful and confident in front of the camera can only enhance credibility among their audience.

Good luck with the interview.

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Confidence tip #1: The job to dress for

Always dress for a job that is one position higher than the one you currently hold

How we dress has a profound effect not only on the people who will make decisions about our future, but also on how we feel about ourselves.  Knowing that you look the part will help you confidently grow into that next job. 

And it’s even more true when you’re going after a new job. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said to me “I’ll buy the suit when I get the job”.  They clearly know they’ll need the suit if they’re to be taken seriously when they get the job.  But will they get the job! In a competitive world, the candidate who looks the part in the interview – where the employer has very little time to make a judgement – is going to have a significant headstart.

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Why the UK doesn’t have a Michelle Obama

In an article in The Sunday Times last week, Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue was quoted as being frustrated that “you can’t get a politician into Vogue because there is a fear that being in fashion makes you frivolous.” And she adds that “In the US and France it’s more egalitarian; it’s fine for everyone to be interested in looking good.”

The article, entitled Why doesn’t the UK have a Michelle Obama?, was about how women in the political spotlight influence fashion trends.  Its central theme was that Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French President’s wife (representing US and European ‘politicas’) know how to dress and British ones don’t.

It’s a theme I’ve been talking (and trying to do something) about since the 1970s, so it’s hard to disagree with the argument.  And the article is a good read.

But I can’t help feeling that these journalists are simply writing about the problem, when they and the media in general could and should be part of the solution.

If British women in the political (or business) spotlight don’t know how to dress, it’s because for several decades they’ve had pretty much no-one to show them how to do the “all-purpose savoir fair” of Mme Sarkozy.

And it’s a gap which I think the fashion press could easily do a better job of filling.

Professional British women think they’re being frivolous when they spend money on clothes because our magazines – even the best ones and even when they’re doing features on how to dress for work – mostly show clothes that most professional women over 35 or bigger than a size 12 could not wear for work without looking ridiculous.  So they’re simply not catered for unless they want to buy a boring suit from one of the usual suspects.

It hasn’t always been this way.  England in the 1950s was one of the most stylish places to be – excellent tailoring, classic styling.  But in the 1960s, when more women started to go to university, an idea took hold that intelligent women didn’t need to look good.  A reverse snobbery emerged, mostly among people who did go to university, where they didn’t have to bother about appearance.  And the attitude remained as they entered the workplace.

Meanwhile, there was the swinging sixties style of the likes of Biba and Mary Quant.   Europeans came to London, loved the slightly androgynous, carefree Carnaby Street style, but they didn’t wear it all the time.

Understandably the media took this up.  But they’ve never let it go (after all, most of our media are now run by people who grew up in the sixties – or after).  And partly as a result, British women have largely lost the ability confidently to put together a personal style that looks successful without looking flashy.

I agree that if you’re in a position of power – whether a politician, lawyer, accountant, or any other professional role – it’s your duty to look good; and I believe that most people prefer to see someone in a position of responsibility looking confident and successful (and that’s successful, not flashy) because they instinctively feel that if you’re confident and successful you might be able to help them.

And I think that goes for our fashion press too.  They have a duty to be more geared towards helping British women achieve that savoir faire; to finding out what really works for businesswomen, ‘politicas’ and anyone else who is serious about creating an effective personal style.

And then once they’ve achieved that , to stop knocking them down for looking confident and successful.

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