Fancy that new job? Suit yourself

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The Independent Online
"A VERY nice girl, but such a shame she wore a see-through trouser suit and lace underwear!" Such was the feedback that recruitment consultant Katy Pinks received on one occasion when she sent a candidate to one of her clients for an interview.

No doubt such an outfit would have been perfect if she was auditioning for a musical or was after a job in a fashion house. But this was not quite the thing for an office job, and I doubt that she was offered the position.

It is unfortunate if, having made it to the interview stage, you are turned down on the grounds that you don't look right for the job. But we live in an image-conscious age where even radio drama producers tend to cast people according to how they look rather than how they sound.

Indeed, one's appearance can be so crucial to one's success that politicians are hiring image consultants to tell them what to wear and what mannerisms they need to change. Choose the wrong coloured shirt and you will lose the next election, or so these consultants would have us believe.

If you are attending an interview you need to make sure you get off on the right foot. First impressions count and to the selectors six-footers will be more impressive as they come through the door than short people. Similarly, a slim wiry person will strike them initially as more energetic and keen than someone of ample girth. Shape is not everything and clothes can make a difference to one's appearance. If the short candidate is smart while the tall candidate looks as if he has slept in his clothes, the initial impressions could be quite different.

Ms Pinks is aware of the importance of dressing appropriately. "We often advise younger candidates what to wear, but we would expect experienced people to know what the dress code is," she says. Her advice to women is to wear a suit or clothes that are co-ordinated and not over-fussy. Wearing the latest Dior design might cause a frisson at interview, but is unlikely to land you the job.

Men, too, have to be careful with their appearance. If you turn up for a job interview in the City wearing pin stripes and a bowler, people might feel you were going over the top. Dressing appropriately often means soberly, though if you are applying for a job in the media a discreet shabbiness might be best.

Your clothes can say a lot about you and your attitudes. If you are careless about your dress, this will suggest to a prospective employer that you have a "take it or leave it" attitude to work. Your interviewer might also infer that you are not all that keen on the job. Excessive make- up, an outrageous hairstyle and rings in odd places could be off-putting.

electors are on the lookout for people who will blend in with the rest of the staff rather than stand out like a sore thumb. It is therefore sensible to bow to convention and endeavour to approach the corporate norm.

Cultivate a disarming smile and be prepared to look your interviewers straight in the eye. Listen to their questions and never interrupt. You may feel the opinions of one interviewer are a load of rubbish, but you are in no position to contradict. An argument never secured anyone a job.

Applicants need to work out what kind of person they want, develop the image and think of apt answers. All you are doing is showing your ability to adapt, which is more sensible than insisting that people accept you as you are. It is also more likely to lead to success.