The New Year brings all sorts of resolutions and life-altering plans that never really materialise (speaking from personal experience here). However, if you possess far more motivation than yours truly, January will be a fresh start – and for many, a fresh job. Whether it’s that coveted graduate internship or part-time at the weekend to crawl out of the overdraft, getting a job (or changing one) is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of being a young adult. As frightening as it sounds, every year brings us guys one step closer to that ambiguous ‘career phase’ in life, and it’s the first impression that always counts.
With this in mind, deciding what to put on your back for your first meeting with a potential employer is a tricky one. It seems that a suit is not always the best choice – looking overdressed can be just as embarrassing as looking too casual. Where do we find this happy medium? And what sort of job calls for a particular outfit?
After several years of (mostly) successful interviews, I’ve managed to nurture a few tips that should ensure you’re looking as dapper as possible without breaking the bank. We’re getting a job because we need more money, right? So it seems somewhat unreasonable to fork out wads of cash before the pounds sterling even begin to roll in.
A few staple items and perfecting the right look is key here – and by mixing and utilising such pieces we can achieve several great looks that fit the job description to a tee. Even if your experience and qualifications aren’t up to scratch or totally applicable to the role you’re going for, presenting yourself in a relevant and smart fashion will always give you the edge on other applicants.
1. The Retail Job
Retail is a broad term, and ultimately, it’s down to research on your own part to target a store’s selected look and targeted consumer. When constructing that ideal retail interview outfit, use plenty of flexibility to convey your own style – but style is the crucial word here. You’re selling a brand, and looking the part is just as important as possessing the know-how.
Whilst reflecting a store’s creative outlook, certain key pieces will keep you in the realms of fashionable – and if in doubt, keep it simple and mostly casual. A good pair of desert boots, such as these bargain beauties from Matalan [ed. all products showcased below], are a perfect place to start. On-trend and exuding a sense of quality (without that heartbreaking price tag), footwear should be clean, classic and worlds apart from your average, dance floor-battered pumps.
You can’t go wrong with a decent pair of chinos, and we’re all incredibly lucky to have such heritage pieces back on the style radar. A perfect balance between smart and casual, Burton are currently offering 2 pairs for a very appealing £50. Mix it up with classic colours of beige, cream and charcoal, and the bolder fellows amongst us could venture into the colour-blocking trend, donning cobalt, red or burgundy.
The key to nailing your interview look, however, is adaptation; American Apparel may have been somewhat edgy and 80s-inspired three years ago, but they have really focused upon the tailored look and pioneered a new style; the same with brands like Henri Lloyd, Vans and North Face. Find those pieces that reflect a store’s current trends and you’re already leaps and bounds ahead of other applicants.
Retail jobs are exceptionally sought after by both students and youngsters alike, so competition is bound to be fierce. Search for items that are easily matched with statement pieces, allowing for flexibility without losing style – the final Topman clearance offers something for everyone. Go Victorian dandy with these grey herringbone trousers for a meagre £20 or keep it clean and simple with this army surplus-style shirt for a cool £17. If you need somewhere to store your belongings and accessorise a look, why not champion the knapsack trend with this mustard number from ASOS.
Whilst researching a brand’s style identity, bear in mind that perhaps it’ll be most beneficial if you target the stores that cater to your tastes. A stint at Ben Sherman in my second year suited me down to the ground with over-sized shirts and plenty of vertical stripes, but I would have been most uncomfortable decked out in street wear-inspired gear by the likes of Etnies and New Era.
- Matalan Suede Desert Boot Taupe
- Burton Carrot Fit Oak Chino
- Burton Skinny Dark Red Chino
- Topman Grey Herringbone High Waisted Trousers
- Asos Canvas Backpack
- Topman Tobacco Canvas Overshirt
Retail Job Budget Picks
Here are a few more budget picks to feast your eyes on, and to hopefully stimulate your new year wardrobe staples. The beauty of retail interview wear is that we can don it whenever we like – so in theory, you’re killing two birds with one style stone.
- Matalan 247 Cotton Oxford Shirt
- Tesco F&f Stripy Grandad Collar Shirt
- Shore Leave Red Grandad Shirt
- New Look Tribal Print T-shirt
- New Look Crew Neck T-shirt
- New Look Black Skinny Jeans
- Levis 519 Heavy Smoke Jeans
- Asda George Canvas Trainers
2. The Temping Job
If last summer taught me anything, then it’s how the term ‘office wear’ is utterly vague and ambiguous. Temping at several different companies, I soon realised that there isn’t one overarching code of conduct in regards to office wear, and how difficult it is in achieving a happy medium. For one particular valve and gasket company (thrilling, I know), office wear evidently meant jeans, shirts and trainers in a desperate bid to exude that ‘yeah, we’re so laid back here’ mentality.
Friends of mine have often described their embarrassment at over-dressing in suits and sticking out like a sore thumb, whilst others have missed the presentable mark by a long shot.
The secret here is to lose the smaller accessories that propel an outfit into the realm of ‘smart’: so lose the tie, the briefcase and the cufflinks. Temping is in itself a casual role, and your attire should mirror this – obviously the level of formality differs from company to company, but a few choice pieces are excellent foundations to build upon.
- Tesco F&f Soft Touch V Neck Jumper
- Next White Shirts Two Pack
- Matalan Grey Heritage Suit Trouser Stanford
- Tesco F&f Lace-up Formal Shoe
A personal ideal combination is the V-neck sweater, collared shirt and tailored trousers; the rigid connotations of the suit are nowhere to be seen but the smart element remains. Try this surprising v-neck jumper from Tesco for £8, teamed with a Next double shirt pack for £22 – a happy medium between high street quality and value.
A well-structured trouser really tops off this classic combination, and I would advise investing £30 in these heritage-inspired Stanfords from Matalan or a similar style that is both flattering and chic.
Don’t let the simplicity of this outfit allow things to get too laid back however. It doesn’t even need to be said, but avoid the trainer, pump or any other shoe deemed ‘too casual’ – if in doubt, go formal. Once again, Florence & Fred at Tesco offer these lace-ups with subtle suede panelling at £16 that are a smart, cheaper alternative to the solid formal brogue.
Temping Job Budget Picks
Browse these discount and reduced pieces to formulate that perfect blend and avoid embarrassment at the next ‘office wear’ job description.
- Next V-neck
- Tesco F&f Soft Touch V Neck Jumper
- Slant Strip Sweater Vest
- Burton White Oxford Button Down Slim Fit Shirt
- Matalan 247 Plain Shirt
- Shore Leave Sky Oxford Shirt
- Asda George Tailored Formal Trousers
- Asda George Black Formal Lace Up Shoes
3. The Internship
Now, this is where we turn up the style volume and go all out. If it’s a job interview that is incredibly important or if you’re lucky enough to seize that internship window, a suit is standard issue. Needless to say, I’m a big believer in how a good suit is for life, and paying for that extra quality is worth every penny. If you’ve got that cash saved up, you won’t regret investing – a well-fitted suit beats a baggy, cheap, one-size-for-all selection any day.
However, believe it or not, there are ways to avoid the gargantuan price tags associated with the big names. ASOS, known for quality and value, are currently offering a massive sale on all suit items. Try this classic 50s-inspired three-piece suit starting from £21 or play it safe, simple and chic in dark navy for the same price.
Don’t panic just yet – there are ways to save even further. This grey woollen suit from Tesco may not be as fitted as possible, but fear not – you can get suits taken in (for a charge) at all good tailors and amendment services, which will be significantly cheaper than heading to popular, upper-strata brands like Kooples and Reiss.
By focusing upon the fit, you’ll look stylish and preened. Making a good first impression before you’ve even open your mouth is one of the most important parts of your interview, and looking good is a key component.
- Asos Slim Fit Grey Suit
- Asos Slim Fit Dark Navy Suit
- Tesco F&f Signature Tailored Fit Wool Suit Jacket
No matter what role you’re going for, mix and match with discount brands and reduced sale pieces to perfect an interview look.
For retail, you’re the blank canvas, for that temping job it’s getting the clothing balance, and for that all important foot in the door of your ideal job, spending that little bit extra is crucial in conveying an air of professionalism.
So go ahead, even if you’re absolutely bricking it over an upcoming interview, you can at least look the part.