What to wear to an interview

08 Oct 2012


No, really, exhale. Try it.

Exhaling and breathing was one of four interesting events that I was involved with recently, and all would help me reflect on the question – what to wear to an interview?

The first was attending the launch of this very own media website, Women's Agenda, where I was asked the question as part of the panel. For those who weren't there, I said "dress so you feel comfortable, walk confidently into the interview and don't open with what you can't do". The latter point trended on twitter in a small way amongst attendees of the launch and WA readers. Hopefully people took it to heart, but I know at least one person who didn't.

She was part of the second event – a job panel interview of which I was an observer. She was one of the female candidates, and had great experience for the role which is why I'd presented her to my client. Unfortunately she told the panel what she could not do. Despite her significant achievements the panel in the end focused on her self doubt and believed her. She didn't get the job.

The third event was a great evening at the Chief Executive Women's Dinner, an event which supports executive education for women. The speaker was Thérèse Rein, managing director of Ingenus, the current global iteration of a company she formed over 23 years ago. Being told from a young age "I think you can" and having this simple mantra as her foundation was what she attributed to helping overcome barriers of doubt and achieve the success she has today. She had the "can do" attitude that my candidate didn't, but for me, her message was not as powerful due to a nervousness in her voice, an excruciating overuse of the connector "umm" and a complete bypassing of the story between the $10,000 loan against the family home to the multi-million dollar company. If you have the "I can" belief, but do what Thérèse did in a job interview, sales pitch, meeting or negotiation you would undermine the confidence you were trying to project and probably not achieve your goal.

The fourth event was two days at the Golden Door Health Resort, Elysia. I did a lot of breathing there– that deep kind, in the belly kind, in the back of the ribs kind. What felt great was exhaling, the purging of the air, toxins, dropping of the shoulders, the pulling down of the shoulder blades. It felt really good.

After these four events, if I were to be asked what to wear at an interview again, I would add a few things to wearing what makes you feel comfortable:

  1. Wear a smile
  2. Wear confidence
  3. Wear your story of achievement on top, wear it well and add accessories if needed
  4. Wear your breath deep in your belly and not high in your chest – don't worry about your waistline.

And don't, please don't start or end with what you can't do.

Anna McPhee

Anna McPhee is chair of Diversity Council Australia, deputy chair of NSW Women's Council on Economic Opportunity and managing consultant at Futurestep – a Korn/Ferry Company.

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