Women in corporate style suit by Brook Taverner

When Prada is not appropriate…

Prada gold heel shoes

We have all been there – completely misjudged the dress code for an event or occasion and spent the whole time hiding in a corner and counting down the hours, until you can make an escape. Well, have you ever done this at an interview?

A few years ago, after working in Marketing for a well-known luxury fashion brand, I decided to leave the company and get a job in PR. After finding an ad for a seemingly fantastic job as a Press Officer, for a small agency in Knightsbridge, I sent my CV over and managed to get an interview. (Keep in mind that whilst working for the luxury clothing brand, I had amassed a huge amount of EXTREMELY glamorous clothing).

Whilst planning what I was going to wear, my thoughts were “Well, it’s in Knightsbridge, so I better go with a formal look.”  I knew very little about the agency, other than what I could find out from their website – just the basics. On the day of the interview, I decided to wear an ankle length cream pleated skirt, black fitted blazer, white top with statement necklace and a pair of high heeled Prada court shoes (cute, but very painful).  Did I look super smart, groomed and glamorous? Yes. Was it the right look for the interview? No.

What I had failed to notice was that this particular PR agency was a brand new start-up, specialising in the youth market.

Paduli blouse at Brook Taverner

On entering their open plan office – which was full of unopened boxes, sample footwear (trainers to be exact) and a radio – I was approached by a cool looking woman with messy hair pinned in a bun, leggings, DR Martins and an oversized grey jumper – She was the boss. She took one look at me and smiled, “You look very smart!” she giggled. *cringe*

The interview turned out ok and we ended up having a great chat about PR, bands we liked and Myspace (it was a long time ago). However, it was clear that what she was looking for was someone fresh and current, who lived and breathed youth culture and fashion – she didn’t think that I was that person. So, was it my image or did I just say the wrong things during the interview? I can’t be sure, but I don’t think that the patent Prada court shoes helped much.

Dressing for an interview is tricky; I still believe in the old adage, ‘when in doubt, dress up’. However, the best thing you can do is research. Search the net, check out their company website, ask your friends and employment agency and where possible, even the company themselves about their culture and dress code. Do this before you plan what you are wearing for your interview.

I have since been on interviews for media jobs, PR, fashion roles and more. I have learnt that the right outfit is a combination of your own personal style, with a little bit of influence from what you know about the company and the sector. The best example is when I went for an interview for another well known fashion brand, wearing an item from their store. The interviewer complimented me on my choice of attire and I got the job – she saw that I was already invested in their brand and ethos. Preparation is essential for any interview, but don’t underestimate the importance of your image – sometimes your clothes can do the talking for you!

Women in corporate style suit by Brook Taverner

Here are some tips that you might find helpful:

Going for a corporate style role or a job in a corporate company?

Women:

  • Solid color, conservative suit
  • Knee length skirt and blouse
  • Coordinated colours
  • Formal shoes with moderate heel
  • Limited jewellery
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Black or tan tights
  • Sparse make-up and perfume
  • Manicured nails – no nail designs or jewellery

Men:

  • Solid color, conservative suit
  • White long sleeve shirt
  • Conservative tie
  • Dark socks, professional shoes
  • No jewellery
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Go easy on the aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase

Check out http://www.brooktaverner.com/ for ideas.

Going for a media or creative role, or a role in a less formal company?

Do your research and find out about the company. Search the net, check with your employment agency, check Linkedin, check with friends and family on what they think. You will be surprised at how much information you can get from just asking your nearest and dearest. When in doubt, dress up…but not too much!

Do you have any interview styling tips?




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