Written by Cameron Vellacott
Male perspective: what to wear to interviews (and other formal settings down the line)
It can be confusing and intimidating, being invited to an event with a dress code, and not quite understanding what that dress code means. Sure, you might know semi-formal and formal because you’ve experienced them in high school, but it’s a little different in an adult environment.
First impressions are so important, and turning up to an event with a future employer, or a new boss, wearing the wrong dress code could be detrimental to their perception of you. You’ve got to look sharp, but not overdressed. Better than the rest, but not swaying from the crowd. It will show the people you are trying to impress that yes, you can follow instructions and listen, while finding a way to go an extra 10%. The difference could be your tie, jacket, belt, or when a strong patterned shirt is or is not acceptable. After reading this guide you can show up dressed appropriately, and knock the socks off your future employer.
Smart Casual is more appropriate after you get the job. It is not something to wear to an interview. In younger workplaces, it’s more common. Formal shoes are too much, and beaten sneakers are too little. Think of what a young university professor would wear- nice t-shirts, polo shirts, long sleeve button ups, and chinos. If you get a job and the dress code is smart casual, count your blessings, because you’re a lucky duck. Birkenstocks are not smart casual.
Business casual is just a notch down from semi-formal. It’s still the real McCoy, just not the crème de la crème of attires. It is something you would wear to an interview for a more casual workplace (one that would day to day wear smart casual gear). If you’ve ever walked past a bank in the city, or a law firm, or even seen suits, it’s what these people would wear, minus the tie and jacket. If you want, wear a nice, maybe a little trendy tie. Something different, but not so extra. As seen in the image, trendy shirts, basic pants, even a sweater in winter. For an interview, keep your sleeves buttoned!
Semi-Formal/ Cocktail (or after 5 attire)
Alas! The pick of the bunch for the modern day business man. Some workplaces, which wear suits all week, might have this dress standard on a Friday. Many interviews will be semi-formal. I’ll give you three great options to wear to impress your boss, whilst in semi-formal attire. All options will have slacks or a very tidy pair of chinos (depending on colour scheme), and a solid colour of dress shirt (red, blue, white… can be cheques or stripes). Your shirt is tucked, and a crisp belt exposed.
- Wear a tie, without a jacket.
- Wear a jacket, without a tie.
- Tie and jacket, but not a formal ensemble. Mix up the patterns. The tie should be textured or provide contrast. For this option, blue or lighter coloured suit is preferable, or a pair of cream chinos just to pull back off the formal nature.
If you can nail semi-formal, you’re set for life. Any of the three options, executed well, look smart, but not overstated or overdressed. They will be the most used options for interviews in the Media sector.
Just for the purpose of young men, I’ve grouped Semi formal and cocktail together. They are slightly different, but most young aspiring people in the field of arts likely don’t have enough clothing options to separate the categories.
The other option for interviews. You could just fit in with the crowd, wear a black suit, white shirt, plain tie. The 9-5 bankers uniform on a Monday morning. Or, you can go the more impressive option, and really knock the socks off the people interviewing you. Perhaps, you’ll look so good, the secretary will make note of you, and give a little nod to the boss, putting you ahead in the race for the role.
The key to this, is the tie. How does it tie in (excuse the pun) the different colours of your jacket and shirt. It should draw it all together. Further than colour, the texture of the tie should also aid this. With a bolder shirt, go a block coloured tie, or one with a light pattern. With a light shirt colour, go a strong tie, or a heavy pattern. Knitted ties are in fashion. It’s a way to spark up a blue or black suit. If the colour works, wear chinos, but only if you have to. A proper suit is preferable.
This one explains itself. It’s what you see in the movies, black suit black tie or bowtie. Don’t overthink it. This one is for formal occasions where you’ll be with the boss, or trying to impress the future employer.
- Dry clean your suit a few days beforehand.
- A classy watch is always a good statement piece to elevate any outfit. Use it to stay on time as well.
These breakdowns should get you to a headspace when dressing for an interview. Don’t overthink it. Remember you have to show you listen and are observant, but a little better than everyone without saying it. Through your impression, make them think it.