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Dress the part for an interview

Posted on 28th May 2015

Picking what to wear for an interview can be a nightmare. Just about every outfit you own gives you a reason to get nervous. Is it too bright? Too short? Too boring etc etc?
So we turned to one fountain of knowledge for her opinion on what makes the perfect interview look - Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas.

Writing in the US News, she came up with a great list of tips and hints that we hope you'll bear in mind next time you're facing a sartorial nightmare before your big day!

Don't be extreme

Any outfit that is too skimpy, too long, too short or any other clear extreme should be avoided. Otherwise, that one feature of your outfit will be all that's noticed by the interview panel, particularly if you're struggling to avoid embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions at a critical point!

Make sure your clothes are clean

Yes, you might think that ketchup stain you sustained at lunch can barely be seen, but interviewers have a remarkable knack for picking up on even semi-visible marks! And this can ultimately be bad for your career prospects. As Ms Gottsman says: "It's difficult to focus on anything else once you notice an obvious spot on someone's shirt."

Wear a light suit if you've got a dandruff problem

Sorry to be so direct, but dandruff can be very distracting in an interview situation. Indeed, Ms Gottsman points out that it's hard for the panel to stay focused when every time the interviewee moves their head "there's a little puff cloud coming out". So if you can't limit it, make it less noticeable with a lightly coloured outfit. And on the subject of hair, Ms Gottsman suggests steering clear of excessive amounts of gel, mousse and spray too.

Clean your shoes

Dirty shoes could spoil an otherwise perfect ensemble and Ms Gottsman believes this can reveal a crucial fact to an interview panel.

"It's a sign of a lack of attention to detail and that translates to your work habits," she says.
Ladies, meanwhile, are encouraged not to wear towering high heels, especially as some might struggle to walk around in a dignified way in uncomfortable shoes!

Don't overdo the make-up

Ms Gottsman is keen to stress that women who don't wear make-up aren't any less capable or brilliant than those who do. Nevertheless, she believes adding a little lip gloss at least can be an asset in an interview, as it "just shows you took the time to present yourself one step above a Saturday where you can just hang out and wash the car".

Less can still be more though and if you're in any doubt as to whether you're wearing too much make-up, then the answer is almost certainly yes.


When we go out, we often try to make ourselves look wonderful not only to impress others, but also to feel good about ourselves. This is particularly true in an interview situation, so while you need to bear in mind what your interviewers will expect to see from you, this doesn't need to completely dominate your thoughts.

Ms Gottsman says: "We feel better when we look good. We have an additional shot of confidence when we know we're on our game."

And this could be the ingredient that helps you relax and present yourself as a confident and competent person who's more than suitable for the role that's up for grabs.