The key to dressing confidently for any job interview

Modern Rarity Plisse dress
Olivia Lidbury,-Fashion Editor

You’ve applied for your dream job and been invited for an interview. So far, so good. But what should you wear? Our experts share their tips

John Lewis & Partners is pleased to support Smart Works, a UK charity that helps women in need back into the workplace by providing them with quality clothing, styling advice and interview mentoring. Back in 2019, we were proud to have helped launch The Smart Set, a workwear capsule for the charity supported by its patron, The Duchess of Sussex. The exclusive leather tote we designed continues to be hugely popular and for every handbag bought, one is donated to Smart Works.

As well as pledging pieces from our womenswear collection every season, our Partners volunteer their support with coaching and styling sessions. Dressing appropriately for a job interview is a conundrum experienced by even the most confident of dressers, so by drawing on our Partners’ experience with Smart Works, we’ve got six tips to help you feel confident and look your best.

woman in a silk blouse by Modern Rarity

Always stay true to your style

‘Dress for yourself,’ says Stephanie Bamkin, Partner & Assistant Buyer, recalling a Smart Works session for an interviewee who assumed she had to wear a traditional black suit, despite going for a role in a creative field. ‘Don’t change how you dress normally. You need to show your personality in order to be memorable.’

Whether this means swapping jeans for fitted trousers or trainers for flat shoes, be sure that your outfit communicates your signature style. Not sure what that is? Then something tailored, such as a blazer or a skirt, can immediately transform how you hold yourself.

Remember, comfort is key

‘If you feel comfortable physically in your clothes, then you’ll exude that in your interview,’ says Kim Humphris, Partner & Buyer. With this in mind, stick to a reliable but smart pair of shoes and avoid experimenting with a new silhouette simply for the occasion – don’t compromise your performance by wearing anything too tight or oversized then fretting about how it looks.

Woman in a relaxed suit

Use colour

Colour isn’t for everyone, but it can be a very powerful asset when you’re up against a sea of jobseekers. ‘My manager said she could remember what I was wearing in my interview because I had a mustard dress on,’ recalls Katie Foreman, Partner & Design Assistant. If you usually wear colour, then don’t shy away from it on the big day; if you wear it occasionally, reach for a bright accessory such as a scarf to give you a memorable point of difference. ‘Colour makes people happy, and I think that’s a really nice thing to bring to an interview,’ adds Kim.

Ask yourself: ‘Do I really need to buy something new?’

‘Find a key piece that you love and style around that,’ suggests Stephanie. ‘At Smart Works they start with a main item, such as a great dress or an amazing suit, and then build the outfit around it.’ This could be something you already own, sharpened up with a new blazer or some accessories. Remember, your interviewer won’t know how long you’ve owned something, so if it fits well and makes you feel good, then go with it. The temptation to rush out and buy something new is hard to resist, but don’t overlook a tried-and-trusted piece.

Woman in a luxe pencil skirt

Embrace power dressing

Every Partner who has assisted in a Smart Works styling session is unanimous on this point. ‘Present the best version of yourself that you possibly can,’ says Kim. ‘If it looks like your outfit has been considered and it’s smart, it’s pressed and it fits well, then that’s the most important thing.’ This view is echoed by Katie, who says, ‘Dressing up smart can help make you feel more confident.’

Job interviews are all about first impressions, so you’ll never be discredited for looking like you’ve made an effort. Leave those I-just-threw-this-outfit-together looks for weekends.

Lastly, do you feel good?

Katie’s outlook is simple: ‘Choose comfortable, well-fitting clothes that are suited to the occasion. If something doesn’t feel right, it will undoubtedly affect your performance. So plan ahead, experiment and turn up feeling your best.’

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