When you’re interviewing for an executive role, you want to dress to impress and leave a positive first impression. But how?
In this article, we speak to Executive Stylist and Certified Image Professional Julie Hyne about how to look your best in an executive interview. Julie has been providing advice to executive women for more than 20 years via her business, Style for Life.
Executive Interview Coaching founder Richard Elstone also provides insight into what men should wear in an executive interview setting.
Julie, what’s your professional background?
My professional background was in the corporate arena and now I mentor and advise senior executive women how to convey more credibility, authenticity and brand presence through how they dress. I am accredited with the Association of Image Consultants International as a Certified Image Professional.
It's interesting that although many people in positions of influence are highly intelligent, they may lack the time, knowhow and creativity to design truly working wardrobes that will meet with the demands of their very busy schedules. I take all that angst and frustration they experience away and empower them with confidence in how they show up for all their important occasions.
Why is the outfit so important for an executive interview?
The right outfit will allow a candidate to walk into an interview feeling absolutely comfortable and confident, meaning they can focus on the interview questions and answers without second guessing themselves.
The power of looking good and presenting well is to know you’ve checked off all your boxes and done your homework. You know who you’re meeting, what the environment is like, so that you’re dressing for impact and for the outcome.
There’s a saying, “always dress for the job you want, not for the job you have”. First impressions are extremely powerful, so dressing to impress and presenting like you are a perfect fit can significantly add weight to how the interviewer perceives you during the interview and long after it is over.
Tips for dressing appropriately for executive interviews
You should aim to wear outfits that flatter you. Getting the coordination right is important. You should look well put together and current, keeping in mind the role that you’re going for. I always say dress to be appropriate for yourself, for the occasion and for who you are going to meet.
If you’re going for multiple rounds of interviews, you should vary how you present and aim for consistency in terms of your attention to detail and overall brand message.
How do you ensure fashion is current and on-trend?
A lot of people rely on what’s in stores and online, but often the people who come to me have purchased the wrong things. The clothes might not fit or suit them. They might be the wrong colour or they don’t know how to mix and match them.
They’re not looking their best, so I introduce them to garments that are current that do complement them. The end result is transformative.
How do you work?
I source garments and looks from specific designers locally and overseas. It’s all about return on investment and how you are going to use that garment. You want to be able to use something time and time again.
The style depends on who they are as a person, what their personality is and their core values. I do all of this homework with my clients before I think about the types of clothes in their wardrobe to reflect that.
What colours work well in an executive interview setting?
Generally speaking, the darker and cooler the colours, the better. Navy blue is the most trustworthy colour. Black can be a bit dominating and severe depending on the nature of the interview. Finding out your best colours to compliment your skin tone and eye colour can make a huge difference to how you look and feel on the day.
What about hair, grooming and jewellery?
Grooming is the icing on the cake. Generally for women, it’s the fine detail that really ticks the boxes – that extra polish. I provide advice about everything from perfume (make sure it’s not too heavy) to nail polish (I’d usually recommend a soft pink or something that blends with everything) and heels versus flats.
A well put together, well-groomed person will always be received more positively than someone who is untidy, lacks grooming and is outdated in their appearance.
LinkedIn vs reality
Your LinkedIn profile image should be a true reflection of how you look in real life. I don’t know how many times I’ve met someone and there’s a disconnect between the two. It makes you question who they really are.
Virtual vs in-person executive interviews
The pandemic has changed things up a lot in terms of dress codes and people are confused about what they should wear, particularly when doing interviews. How you dress, the colours you wear, how you present and groom yourself are just as important as if you are meeting face to face.
Simplicity is best during a virtual interview. Avoid wearing anything too heavily patterned or wearing accessories that can become distractions. Keep your background free of clutter and ensure there is no background noise.
Grooming from the chest up and the condition of your clothing is important. It’s still noticeable when someone is well put together with a jacket (which, for a woman, gives them instant authority and presence).
Richard, what are your tips for gents?
Your shoes should be polished and your suit neatly pressed when going into an executive interview.
No need to wear a tie in an executive interview these days (unless the interviewer or organisation is ultra conservative) – just a nicely ironed, clean shirt and jacket that means business.
In terms of grooming, you should be clean shaven with a haircut.
If you don’t have an iWatch (which is perfectly acceptable nowadays), wear a classy watch.
As Julie said, you should dress for the position you’re interviewing for. If it’s a tech company, you may choose to wear smart jeans with a shirt and jacket, for example.
Like to know more?
Do you have an executive interview coming up and want to look your best? Julie can help you create the right look for what you want out of life and your career.
Get in touch with her at Style for Life.
For expert interview and resume advice and coaching, get in touch with Executive Interview Coaching today!