The established wisdom in job interview preparation is that
while dressing well will never overcome deficiencies in what you actually say
in front of a prospective employer, it can nonetheless play a big role in
projecting a more positive image of yourself.
Indeed, there have even been indications recently that the
saying "the clothes make the man (or woman)" has more truth to it
than many of us realise, a study cited in The
Atlantic finding evidence that people's
thought processes change when they wear a suit.
So, you might know the importance of dressing smartly when
being interviewed for jobs - but what exactly does that entail?
'interview wear' differs between the sexes
The basic rules of interview dress arguably don't change
much whether you are a man or a woman - you are still best advised to wear
something comfortable and that you actually feel confident in. It's a good idea
to go for 'safer' colours like black, not using more than three colours across
your entire outfit, while you should also pay attention to all of those 'small'
aspects, such as shoes and socks.
Beyond these broad principles, if you are attending an
interview for a role, whether it is in chemistry, pharmacology,
immunology or a different scientific or technical field altogether, you will
almost certainly be expected to dress more formally than the 'business
casual' that can be prevalent in interviews for other job sectors.
What men might wear
to a science job interview
A good rule of thumb is to dress one level more formal than
would be expected in the day-to-day job. For men, that often means opting for
darker, more sober colours, choosing cotton instead of linen on account of the
latter's tendency to crease easily, and brown or black shoes - leather rather
Colours are an important consideration for men, which at the
most basic level, means avoiding distracting or garish ties and socks. Also
give thought to colour combinations and coordination - while blue can be made
to work with brown, the same cannot be said of black and brown.
Some good dress
pointers for women
Suits aren't merely timeless - they also effortlessly cross
gender lines. Further down one's outfit is a different story, with women
needing to choose between trousers and a skirt. If opting for the latter, the
distance between the hemline and the knee should not exceed the length of one
Women, like men, are advised to wear darker colours like
black, navy or brown, although a lighter, plainer colour can be a good choice
in the summer. Scarfs can also be a source of brighter colour, but patterns
anywhere are generally a no-no. Any blouse is best plain, and heels should not
be too high.
While many would reasonably argue that there are no
hard-and-fast rules governing what to wear to an interview with a recruitment agency, the above should nonetheless constitute sound
guidelines for the many of us who consider the thorny issue of interview wear
almost as intimidating as the interview itself.