Seven tips to help you dress to impress for an interview and in the workplace

Whether you want to impress a manager or client, or need to win over a potential employer at a job interview, what you wear in the workplace often says as much about you as what you actually say.

So it’s important to consider your work wardrobe carefully, and ensure that you’re giving off the right impression from the moment you walk into a room.

This becomes even more important when you’re interviewing for a job, or hoping to land a pay rise, promotion or be included in an important project.

You have just seconds to make a first impression

According to a Harvard study, it only takes seven seconds for someone to form an impression of you. Career experts say it’s just three. And in that time they’re deciding as many as 13 things about you, including:

  • If you’re trustworthy.
  • If you’re high status.
  • If you’re smart.
  • If you’re successful.
  • If you’re on your way to a promotion.
  • If you’re a competent leader.
  • If you’re conscientious.

And often in that three seconds, you don’t get the chance to say or do much. So how are people forming these opinions? On how you look.

From your CV to your interview outfit – you need to make the right impression

If you’re looking for a new job, you have several important first impressions to get right.

Your CV needs to pass the ATS test to get in front of a human being. And if it does, then you need to make sure it’s proof read for errors (according to job search engine, a whopping nine out of 10 CVs contain spelling mistakes) and avoids cliched words like motivated, initiative and social.

If your CV and your cover letter pass all their first impression tests and you’re invited to a job interview, then it’s how you look when you walk into a room – from your body language to your choice of outfit that can decide your professional fate, even before you’ve uttered a word.

Want a pay rise or promotion? Dress the part

And it’s not just when applying for a job you need to consider how you look. If you’re meeting with a manager to discuss a pay rise or promotion, then it’s important to dress like you deserve it, especially if the person making the decision about you doesn’t know you – or your work – well.

And remember that some of the things they’re deciding about you in those first three seconds of your meeting, before you’ve had a chance to deliver your perfectly prepared case, are whether you’re on your way to a promotion and are a competent leader.

You want the person sitting opposite you to be able to easily see you in the position you want to be promoted to, or earning the salary you know you deserve. Indeed, Jenna Tanenbaum, the founder of the smoothie delivery service, GreenBlender recommends you “dress for the job you want — and the job you have.”

Seven tips to help you make that all-important great first impression

So how do you dress to impress at work? Especially as expectations of office attire have evolved in recent years, thanks to the rise of remote working and an influx of shared workspaces with foosball tables and yoga classes.

As a result we’re used to dressing more casually. You also need to feel and look like ‘you’, otherwise you’ll be giving anyone meeting you for the first time a false impression, and you won’t feel comfortable enough to deliver the performance you want.

To help you, here are some tips from seven UK fashion bloggers on how to hit the right notes in the workplace.

1) Embody your inner boss

Lucy Connelly, the owner of Florals and Corals recommends that you “Throw on a blazer. Not just any blazer though, a well fitted, chic blazer that you can accessorise.”

She also agrees that dressing to succeed is the best way to move forward in your career, saying: “I find that when I put some effort into how I look, I actually feel much better. So, when I look and feel like a boss – I work like one too!”

2) Dress from toe to head

Renee Rispin, blogger for Mummy Style,points out that “we wear our clothes weekly on a constant rotation, so our clothes are a way of expressing who we are, to our colleagues.” 

Renee believes that “a great outfit is built from the shoes up. So if the shoes don’t fit, don’t wear them. Many people fall foul of wearing ill fitting shoes to the office, or worst still, ones past their best.”

This is especially important if you’re dressing for a job interview, pay rise or promotion. Any good work you may do in dressing smartly and saying all the right things could be undone by a scruffy, dirty pair of old shoes.

3) Dress for success 

Joanne Hegarty of The Stylist & The Wardrobe reveals that “whether we like it or not, our clothes and appearance massively influence our work successes. Going to the office dressed like a slob won’t do your chances of progressing any good.”

She highlights you should “dress smartly to give yourself the best chance of achieving the success you deserve.” The biggest office fashion faux pas for Joanne is “arriving to work in stained clothes” – she claims this “automatically screams ‘lazy’ and ‘disorganised’”

4) Don’t restrict yourself 

The editor of Bristish Style Society, Natasha Henson, says comfort is the best way to get through the working day: Comfort is key, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be stylish.” 

Natasha will try the ‘sit down and stretch test’ when it comes to clothing to see whether the piece of clothing would be comfortable after prolonged periods. As she says: “If it’s too tight or restrictive, it can be a significant distraction during your working day.” 

Wearing uncomfortable clothes for a job interview won’t help you focus on what you need to say, either. And squirming in your chair in too-tight trousers or a skirt could give off completely the wrong impression.

However, you can go too far in your quest for comport. Natasha’s fashion no-no is when employees are too comfortable: “Strappy sandals and flip-flops can be a little too casual for the environment, and also present a health and safety issue, too.”

5) Be versatile

Not only does office fashion need to be comfortable and professional – it needs to be versatile. Iwan from Mr Carrington says that “A day at the office can involve a swelteringly hot, packed train, followed by a meeting room with the air conditioning stuck on high. So, opt for pieces that you can layer to work with the different temperatures.”

Iwan also suggests to carry “a spare shirt or top…in case of any morning latte spills” and adds, “always carry deodorant!”

6) Express yourself

Aftab Pathan, blogger at Fresh and Fearless, recognises that “Style is personal. Everyone has their own personal ways of dressing and that’s my favourite thing about clothing. It’s open to your own interpretation and often enough, your character can shine through what you wear, without having to utter a word.”

You can therefore set the expectations with the clothes you put on. He recommends: “Style is yours to play with, so never forget to add a piece of you to your daily outfits, even for work.”

7) Invest in a blazer of glory

Finally Ellie Dickinson, blogger at Life of Ellie Grace, says a blazer is the best way to create a simple smart office look “depending on my day to day, I find a blazer is a great way to smarten up a look and take an outfit from casual to more traditional office wear.”

Photo by leonardo silva