For some, and for some jobs in particular, what one decides to wear for an interview, is as important as how well you manage to answer the questions asked. For example, back in the day when I was an overly optimistic university graduate with a relatively promising future, I secured an interview with Vogue and consequently spent more time building an outfit than I did researching the job role. I did not get the job. Lesson learnt? Totally wrong shoes.
Even so, we all know it’s frowned upon to turn up in Primark leggings and your boyfriend’s t-shirt and first-impressions will always count, so getting your suits and boots right is still a good place to start. Read on for a few of my classic fashion anecdotes from mortifying interviews I have had the misfortune to endure. Hopefully from reading these you will learn from them and go forth into successful and rewarding careers . May my embarrassing history prevent you from experiencing similar pitfalls.
If the interview is away from home, pack two of everything, including your knickers.
Back in 2009, I had the unenviable task of attending a seven-hour assessment day. I should have left after seven minutes but that’s beside the point. It was in London and I live two hours away in Liverpool and had only one hour to navigate myself across the underground, find the venue, collect my thoughts and arrive ten minutes early.
On exiting the friend’s house I was staying at, my heel snapped off, shortly followed by the zip on my pencil skirt. I turned up to that squalid office block wearing a pair of military-style boots I had fished out from the back of my friend’s house-mate’s cupboard; a girl who hardly knew me at the time, but faced with the prospect of doing the interview in bare feet, I was forced to excavate her entire wardrobe and rifle through her private belongings, shoes included. And a heavy, black blazer I refused to remove for fear my neon pink knickers would be illuminating the room from where my zip should have been securely fastened. It was July, about 30-degrees (a rarity in England I know, but of course it would be on a day I was dressed for a St. Petersburg seminar) and I sweated it out like that for the entire day, only to be told seven hours later that I hadn’t got the job and was given a depressingly patronising lecture on appropriate interview attire.
Keep in mind the nature of the job and dress accordingly.
Want to be a banker? Get suited and booted. A fashion editor? Dress like you’ve recently handpicked your wardrobe from Stella McCartney’s personal interview collection. And if you get duped into door-to-door sales because the job title read ‘marketing’, wear suitable shoes for walking through mud, puddles and the total BS you will be forced to wade through for the duration of such a god-awful day. Of course I should have been a little suspicious when I turned up at the Manchester-based offices ready for an indoor interview, only to be led to the city-centre bus stop. Alarm bells should have been ringing when we got onto the bus heading towards Southport and the girl asking me ambiguous, loosely-based interview questions looked like a good-for-nothing ragamuffin.
Perhaps I should have questioned why I was competing for a marketing job, against a skinny, possibly inebriated down-and-out from the realms of Manchester’s underworld. He asked what I did and I explained I was a uni graduate from Nottingham and he told me he was a fair worker bunking off school for the day. Nice guy actually, he also had the sense to bunk off from the job after twenty minutes and I wish I’d followed suit. Instead, I was wearing a pretty blouse, smart black trousers and blue velvet pumps and by the time we got off the bus, in the middle of a residential area and 45 minutes from Manchester, it was pouring with rain.
It was 11am, by 5pm I had walked for six hours in the wet mustering up the courage to ask to leave. It was a con, and not so much for me but for the people I was being taught to swindle. Apparently this dubious set-up is legal but what these ‘marketing’ companies actually do is prey on the old and the lonely – forcing them to set up monthly direct debit payments for charities they are only giving a very small percentage to. I don’t know if I was more miserable because I was wet and cold or because I knew these scum-bags were attempting to recruit me for the devil’s work. To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t walk my sorry, wet shoes away sooner; forever too polite to stand up for myself maybe? Too ashamed or just totally intimidated by such morally-emancipated morons. Either way, the next time I saw a bus, which wasn’t until the sun had set, by which time my sodden feet were freezing in the winter chill, I ran for it faster than I’d ran the school marathon, at a time when I was younger, skinnier and a hell of a lot fitter. I didn’t look back and I never wore those wretched blue shoes again. Yes they were ruined, but worse than that, they were contaminated from a morbid day of greed and corruption.
Wear something dark so perspiration can go unnoticed on black.
I’m actually not one to suffer from nervous perspiration but I am prone to running for an interview. I have arrived on two occasions looking like I took an apparent detour to the local steam baths en route. Only the other day I was running down one of Auckland’s longest roads in a red shirt. Will I never learn!? A year earlier I ran the length of Paris in search of a building that was literally next door to the train station I arrived at.
I was fully prepared and knew where to go thanks to Google maps and for these reasons I fully blame the French. Firstly, for not numbering their buildings sufficiently – hence I was unsure whether to turn left or right when emerging from the station, and secondly because they’re all compulsive liars. In my hesitation, I decided to ask a local for directions. I can speak enough French to do this and had even written the address down so I could point and gesticulate if need be. The kindly man understood my rooky command of his language, nodded and even smiled as he directed me right away from the station. The deviant even pointed right! Only now, on reflection do I remember an evil glint in his eye – a mischievous no-gooder who evidently had unfinished business with the English. Ten minutes later I was suspicious but on asking another French store-owner, who assured me I was going the right way, I continued forth. Twenty minutes later I started to panic but yet again a point and a nod in the direction I was heading assured me I was doing okay. Thirty minutes later and I was cross; I’d spotted my first building number. 189. I was looking for 63. I’d walked thirty minutes in the wrong direction and I had twenty minutes to get back to the interview. Once again I was running – a common theme in the course of my interview history. Nigh, I was sprinting. And I was sweating. On arrival which by some miracle was on time, my face was the colour of crimson and my blue-striped shirt had a Bruce Willis-sized sweat patch straight from the set of Die Hard. Fortunately it was cheap material and dried quickly, and I had my trusty black blazer wrapped across me like an old-mans’ dressing gown. Unfortunately I didn’t get the job; my French wasn’t quite good enough for the position. Apparently in France, right means left and if a pointing gesture is involved, it means you do the total opposite.
So there you go; a loosely fashion-related account of interviews gone by. And even if it doesn’t help you, which I pray to God it does because I wouldn’t wish some of these scenarios on my worst enemies, it has at least been therapy for me of sorts. Closure, perhaps? Yet, it isn’t over is it? We’re in an economic downturn, where secure jobs are as rare as accurate directions given by the French, and my most current job is a temporary three-month contract. In other words, I’m doomed. To be continued then folks!….