Will you make this simple mistake and destroy your interview confidence?


The simple mistakes most make that will destroy interview confidence – Making the wrong first impression by getting your personal presentation wrong!

“look sharp – feel sharp – be sharp” – Zig Ziglar

If you walk into your interview with confidence, you will stand a better chance of securing your dream role. First impressions and looking the part play a huge role in forming this confidence. I often hear:

“Will showing my tattoo make me memorable?”
“It’s just not me to wear a suit jacket – I want to be comfortable”
“We have a casual dress code at work and I am going to the interview straight from the office”
“They are not the smartest shoes I own, but they are comfortable”
“It’s hot – I am going to wear a summer dress”

It is hard, first impressions are formed in the first 7 seconds of meeting someone – you never get a second chance at a first impression. Attending an interview is such an important event; if done right, you could be taking your career down a new path, securing a brighter future for yourself and your family.

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t have done all the preparation and travelled to the interview if you weren’t serious about things. So you need to get the first impression right! And your presentation (outfit included) has a big role to play…

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than feeling under-dressed, whether it’s at a dinner party or at your interview! This would certainly make you feel anxious and out of place in the waiting room, knocking your confidence and affecting your performance. I’ve been there before; I’ve had a meeting with one client at a manufacturing site, and gone straight to another meeting at a corporate head office with mud and dirt on my shoes and suit from the first meeting! I soon learnt to take extra care with the order of my client meetings after a few episodes of frantically scraping mud off my shoes in the car and not feeling quite 100%.

The last thing you want is to walk into a building for your interview and find everyone else, including the receptionist is wearing a full suit, and you’re stood there looking out of place. The client may be led to make a decision about your fit for the role before even looking at your CV or discussing your skills. I’m not saying that image is everything, but I am hearing more and more about company and culture fit when taking client feedback after interviews.

First things first…

These things are simple and you probably do them already – however we have had interview feedback in the past from clients with reference to all of these:

  • Nails smart, trimmed, no loud and crazy nail art – clean (yes, this was the feedback taken from one client!)
  • Beards are fine (there is a hipster in all of us somewhere!) but they need to be trimmed and tamed!
  • Hair tidy – nothing too fancy, no beehives, doughnuts or crazy hair extensions! Just simple and smart.
  • Smells – again nothing too dominating! You don’t want the client to walk into the reception and cough due to the amount of perfume you’ve used! However you don’t want to smell dirty. So something fresh, clean and inoffensive is always the safest bet. What is a lovely smell to one person may not be to the next – you want to leave behind the memory of how good you could be for the role, not a strong smell!

The outfit…

You want to look smart and professional, again nothing too bright – you want the client to be focused on your CV and what you can bring to the role rather than your funky outfit. So I would say always wear a full suit (and tie for men), even if this means going home to get changed before an interview or stopping at McDonalds on the way to get changed. I wouldn’t advise taking the suit with you to an interview and getting changed there (because yes, we have in fact had people meet the client and then ask to go and get changed before an interview!)

Simple and sophisticated – make sure your clothes are ironed and clean (no need to take last night’s dinner with you to your interview). Black, grey, some browns, navy etc., are all suitable colours. I would stay away from daring prints and crazy ties and socks – save these for the weekend.

For women, dresses are fine, but again no crazy prints, something simple and sophisticated. I would avoid anything too low or too short, or without a middle! It wants to be smart and business-like (no evening gowns) so you can be taken seriously.

Leggings – Leggings are not suitable for interviews! We are seeing more and more clients writing into contracts that leggings are not suitable work wear (sometimes whole paragraphs like this one). We had a candidate who was surprised the client’s feedback from her interview was to this effect, as she said these were her “smartest leggings!”. Leggings are great, I own over 40 pairs of leggings, but save them for the gym or relaxing at home with a cup of tea after your interview rather than during! Be careful to select trousers that cannot be mistaken for leggings either.


Make sure shoes are polished if required, and clean. I love wearing my ‘office flats’ around the office as they feel like slippers but will always change into smarter shoes for meetings and interviews. Again, I would avoid anything too bright that will draw attention.


Again, I would say simple is key. A supporting necklace and earring set that is not too daring is fine. We always advise candidates not to take anything into the interview with them. A reasonable sized handbag is fine (we all need our lipgloss and car keys!) but presenters, brief cases, books and notepads etc can just hinder you. In my experience of interviewing (several interviews per day over many years), rather than talking from experience, candidates tend to look down at their CV and read from that, or fiddle with pens and cases etc. I would go in within minimal accessories, looking the interviewer in the eye rather than looking at your note pad.

As my manager always says – “You are meeting finance professionals, you need to look like finance professional!”. This guide is for interviewing for finance positions, other professions will be different e.g. if you were working in fashion you need to be in the latest fashion, for teaching you will want to wear a more relaxed and casual outfit rather than a suit. There may be the odd occasion in finance where you might be advised to wear something else for the interview and that is fine, but I would certainly recommend the above as a general guide in most cases.
My final piece of advice would be, when you arrive at the interview, if you have time, pop to the toilets and check all of your hard work is still in place!

If you follow the above, you will make a great first impression, be able to walk in to your interview with confidence and give yourself the best chance of securing the role of your dreams.

For further advice or for our comprehensive full interview preparation help please call the expert team at BTG Recruitment on 0115 9607000. Even if your interview is not through us – we are here to help – please feel free to give us a call.

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