For those of us in the process of an executive job search, we may have found that one of the most challenging aspects of it is adapting to the contemporary recruitment market. This is because if we’re at executive level, it’s very likely we spent years or even decades at our previous organisation, being promoted through the ranks instead of having to find a new job in a new company every once in a while. Therefore, as a job seeker in the here and now, it can almost feel as if we’re finding our first job all over again because modern job search strategies are so unfamiliar to us.
For example, do we even know what executive job candidates typically wear to interviews nowadays? Of course, clothing hasn’t changed that radically over the past few years and classic styles and shapes are still the best bet for a job interview, but it’s nice to refresh ourselves on various ideas, tips and tricks. Your outfit isn’t the be all and end all in an interview, but if we can feel comfortable whilst at the same time knowing we look the part, it can take a lot of the pressure off. With this in mind, here are a few pointers for what to wear to an executive job interview.
- No matter how much you think you want to hide your body, a tailored shirt in the right size is always more flattering than a baggy, shapeless one.
- It’s better to stick to plain ties rather than striped ones, as ties that are just one colour are easier to match to the rest of your outfit. And it goes without saying that novelty ties are not appropriate for a job interview.
- As an alternative to a shirt and tie, try a polo neck jumper underneath your favourite blazer. It’s comfortable without looking too casual.
- A lot of men feel they have to stick to neutral colours like black, white and grey, but this is not the case at all. You can turn up to a job interview in a navy blue suit or a maroon sweater and still look and feel smart and professional.
- Avoid wearing tweed. You’re a businessman in the process of an executive job search, not a geography teacher on a field trip.
- Forget about wearing any trousers that have undone their own flies in the past. You don’t want the interviewer having to tell you that you’re ‘flying low’!
- Earrings on men are still generally somewhat frowned upon in formal workplaces, so remove any that you have before you set off to the interview. Even if the ear holes are still visible, the interviewers will still see that you understand that actual earrings are not acceptable.
- If you’re going to wear a suit, be sure it’s fitted to avoid your body being swamped by it.
- As an alternative to a suit, a fine knit sweater teamed with a pair of slightly flared trousers works a treat.
- Planning to wear a skirt? Team it with fine fishnet tights and open-toe shoes for a classic and stylish combination.
- If you do wear a skirt, make sure it’s not so long as to be dragging on the floor. It doesn’t look smart and you run the risk of tripping over it and falling over in front of the interviewer.
- Avoid clumpy footwear and instead wear shoes or sandals that are comfortable yet lightweight.
- Go easy on the accessories and make-up. When we feel we’ve been out of the fashion loop for a while it’s tempting for us to use jewelry and cosmetics to show how “current” we are. However, if we go overboard, interviewers tend to think we’re mutton dressed as lamb or that we’ll be regularly late for work because we spend ages getting ready.
- Similarly, we need to get the balance right with our hairstyles. We don’t want a do that looks too fussy and ‘overdone’, yet bed hair is far too casual. A nice ponytail or bun usually does the trick. If you have short hair, just style it as you normally would for work, then add a little hair spray to make sure it stays in place.
Even if you're going for a technical job such as any software engineering jobs perhaps, it's still important to look smart, respectable and presentable. It may be ok to be slightly less smart than if you were to go for a managerial role perhaps but still make an effort to look good for an interview to create the right impression.
Check out our Executive Careers page for more information and articles especially for executives and our Interview eBooks: How to Ace the Interview and Getting Started with Interviews for more tips and tricks on how to impress the interviewer and secure that role.