When talking to clients about how best to prepare for a job interview, inevitably the question arises as to what you should wear. While we instinctively know this is important, have you ever seriously considered why? What difference does it make anyway? Maybe it has something to do with actions speaking louder than words….

Only using written or spoken words to communicate any message usually provides less than half the story. Paradoxically, our non-verbal communication speaks the loudest, and contributes the most. In any given situation, many will lack confidence in their ability to speak, while others are more than confident. For some, words don’t come easily, while there are those for whom words come easily and cheaply. Being able to say the right thing is one thing, but do our actions back up our words?

A number of years ago I heard about a woman who had applied for a job at a local pre-school. She had the necessary vocational skills and experience, but missed out on the job because the blouse and skirt she wore to the interview were considered to be too low cut, and too short for the environment she would be working in. Yet another person went to their interview for a job in an accountant’s office wearing a T-Shirt promoting the legalisation of a prohibited substance. I’m told that they really had no idea why their application was unsuccessful.

But why did their choice of clothing matter, and why did it impact so significantly on the outcome? We’re all individuals living in a modern society, and surely have the right to dress as we choose…. Yes that may be true at one level, but as an employee you are a representative of the company you work for, and employers look to employ people who are a good match with their corporate image, their branding and their values. If that match is wrong, tensions and conflicts from both sides will undoubtedly arise.

As a general rule you should wear clothing that is best suited to the type of work that you are applying for. This not only shows that you can make appropriate decisions based on sound judgment, but that you understand the environment you’ll be working in.

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