By Mel Sim

Create the best first impression!

You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Typically, first impressions are formed within 30 seconds, and the main factor that will shape what others think about you will be your physical appearance. Don’t let the way you dress disqualify you before the interview even starts.

Whether you are a fashionista or totally clueless sartorially, the first thing about what to wear for a job interview has less to do with style and more about common sense. Before we even wade into fashion talk, let’s get some basics right: be clean, neat and presentable. It doesn’t matter if you are strutting in the season’s latest outfit, but if it’s not ironed or smells or gaping at your chest, it’s just unacceptable!

The rule here is simplicity. If you really want to wear something printed, keep it minimal. The same goes with detailing. For men, this applies to ties and shirts. Women, avoid dizzying abstract prints, fancy florals, sequin detailing and the like.

The corporate world isn’t a particularly colourful place clothing-wise. Perhaps it is just easier to convey the right image of seriousness with a more sombre palate. White, blue, black, brown, grey and beige are the generally accepted colours in most companies. Light coloured work shirts and tops are also OK. Of course, some industries are more relaxed about this but stick to the neutrals until you have had a chance to observe how everyone else dresses.

Guys, you can’t go wrong with a collared, long-sleeved, formal work shirt. Cuts for men’s shirts have become considerably fancy over the years. It’s alright to wear a more stylish slim fit shirt but make sure it isn’t hugging your chest and torso! Pants should be straight cut and fall just at the ankles without pooling. Shirts should be tucked in and belts kept to dark colours. If a suit is required, stick to a conventional work/day suit. No fancy jackets, please. Ladies, dressing for a work interview may not seem terribly exciting but that doesn’t mean you can’t be elegant and chic. Go for clothes that are well-tailored so they fit properly and flatter your silhouette. Like the men, if you need to wear a suit, go for something conventional and well-made. Dresses and shirts/blouses, and pants or skirts combos are perfectly fine as long as they comply with the above rules and are of a modest length.

Traditional wear is acceptable but generally only the baju kurung or jubah is suited to the corporate environment. Simplicity and subtlety apply. Islamic fashion is increasingly avant garde, but at work, it is probably best to avoid fancy styles and loud colours or prints. Ditto with the head scarf. Don’t overdo it with elaborate wraps, designs and accessories.

Same goes with other races’ traditional wears. Avoid slits above the knee for cheong sam and choose a simpler material for your Punjabi suits and sarees.

Oxfords, loafers and similar styles pair up well with the men’s corporate wardrobe while court shoes and pumps are the best bets for women. Remember to keep the colour basic and subtle, and the details, minimal. Leather shoes should be well-shined. Gentlemen, please don’t wear your soccer socks. Invest in a few dark-coloured work socks.

Tasteful, discreet and elegant. Those are the guidelines for jewellery, ladies, if you are wearing any. Avoid distracting designs and details like dangling earrings, huge brooches or chunky rings. And don’t load it all up like a Christmas tree! For men, a simple ring and watch are acceptable. Cover up any tattoos and keep the jewellery on commonly accepted places, that is, rings on fingers and studs on earlobes, only.

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

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