Interviews - the tenth of a second challenge...

A FIRST IMPRESSION is made in the first tenth of a second and it's here to stay (1) - which validates the general belief that how we look is not just important it is unfortunately one of THE most important things.  Professor Ben Fletcher almost apologises for his findings in his two studies - 'I am afraid we found that clothing did matter' as it seems that we would prefer it if clothes didn't matter.  But they definitely do'.

RESEARCH carried out by the team including Professor Ben C. Fletcher of University of Hertfordshire (2) found that the fit and style of dress had a major impact on how subjects were rated on intelligence, confidence and success - the more tailored, fitted and formal the clothing the higher the rating.  The men in a suit that fitted them well were judged more favourably than those in a suit that didn't fit, even a difference of a skirt above the knee, compared to below the knee impacted and the women that were slightly more reserved in their dress were considered more competent.

AS A PERSONAL STYLIST I am passionate about helping people of all ages, shapes and sizes find the right clothes that not only suit their shape and size but help them to feel more confident.  Each time I style a client I see a marked difference in their stance, their expression and their energy which is backed up by the positive testimonials on how they feel 'so much better', they 'feel amazing in my new clothes' and even 'feel like a new woman'.   Creating a new image or style doesn't have to involve lots of money and buying brand new clothes.  Some of my clients are, llke me, fans of buying pre-loved clothes - and for those who point blank refuse to buy from charity shops I just want to point out that  some 'second-hand' shops stock clothes can be cleaner and newer than the items being sold in the busy stores! 

Not only does what we wear effect how we look but also impacts on how we feel and behave.  A research study looking into men who work from home found that those who got dressed in the morning into trousers and a shirt, or a suit had a significant increase in productivity compared to those who stayed in comfortable clothing and casual wear.  Our clothes makes us feel different and act differently.   Finding a good suit that fits, a shirt and a tie/a dress, skirt and top and a jacket with some smart shoes (flat or heeled) is part of your preparation for feeling different and for starting your new career.  It is worth investing some time and a little money on this part of your preparation.   If you love fashion then demonstrate that within your  own style but just consider that you still want to give the impression that you are taking your interview seriously which, whether we  like it  or not, is reflected in our dress.

And finally, bring in some colour!  We associate dark colours, black, grey, navy with uniform so ensure you express your individuality by adding colour so that that first impresssion will be of an individual, not one of the pack!  Men, buy a pocket square, wear a tie (they are most definitely back! thanks to two David's - Beckham and Gandy), ladies, find a good jacket which will smarten your look.  These are inexpensive items to buy if you look in the sales or, as I did when I was at university, trawl the charity shops.  A fitted jacket will smarten a pair of trousers, skirt or dress and just look more formal.  Investing in finding out the colours that really work for you and having a colour consultation can (and did with me) have a huge impact on confidence plus it is a life-long  investment.  Wearing the right colour will compliment your hair, eye and skin tone, and make you look brighter, healthier and balanced, whereas the wrong colours can do the opposite and drain your complexion.  If you can, invest in a stylist to buy your perfect interview outfit now!  You will only need one and if it is the right colour and fit then it will be an investment buy that you can build on and add to for when you start your new job!

When I went for my interview for the police service I was the only female applying.  I didn't know that beforehand but I was really glad that I 'made the effort' to dress smartly, professionally and look successful even if I was quaking in my shoes.  Afterwards the feedback I received was incredibly positive from the the interview team - "You had the job the minute you walked in" and from the other interviewees - "We all thought you were the interviewer!" 

Looking professional, individual and true to who you are all adds up to making a great impression in that first tenth of a second. The interviewing company and their culture are very relevant to your interview and also to how you dress but I would recommend stepping up and possibly out of your comfort zone (literally and metaphorically) to stand out and to be the one they remember.   You rarely hear the phrase - "He was too overdressed to get the job" but do hear "They didn't make an effort" and "If they're going to dress like that for an interview, then how will they dress for work?"  It's a good question!

My final question - remember your first date with someone you  really, really liked.  Did you take the risk of wearing whatever was first to hand from your wardrobe or did you think about trying to look your best in a good outfit as you really wanted it to be a success?  I'd say most of us did the latter.  If you want the job that badly then why take the risk, make the effort and dress to  impress!


(1) How many seconds to a first impression by Eric Wargo. Vol. 19, No. 7, July 2006

(2)  What your clothes might be saying about you - Ben C. Fletcher, University of Hertfordshire


Investing in time and money creating an impressive impactive outfit with colour could be lief-changing.

Investing in time and money creating an impressive impactive outfit with colour could be lief-changing.