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Sunglasses and scruffy shoes: the style mistakes that can cost you a job

A report released last week claimed that job interview outfits can seriously boost a candidate’s chances of success (in the study, the applicant who wore a Louis Vuitton logo on their top was deemed most employable). Here, nine people who hire and fire in fashion – and know their sartorial semantics – reveal their interview bugbears:

‘Sunglasses on the head, noisy jewellery, dirty shoes …’

Generally, my advice would be to always mirror the interviewer as closely possible based on what you know about the culture of the business and people working there.

For the luxury and lifestyle clients we work with, a full suit is rarely appropriate. However, you need to turn down the informality a degree and create a balance based on the range of people you will meet in the interview (the HR manager may dress very differently to the marketing director).

The detail is crucial – neat, clean, interesting enough to build your personality around. Too bland is too bland and anything too obviously fashion or edgy will distract from what you’re saying. Absolute no-nos include sunglasses on the head during an interview, skyscraper heels if you can’t walk effortlessly in them, noisy jewellery and dirty shoes. The interviewer should be able to visually picture you doing the job you’re interviewing for.

David Johnston, a director at Handle Recruitment

Sunglasses on the head: a risky business in business. Photograph: Cultura/REX Shutterstock/Cultura/REX Shutterstock

‘Don’t get distracted by the eyebrows’

In the communications industry, meticulous personal grooming is incredibly important. When a candidate is well-presented it shows an organised mind, as well as a thoughtfulness and awareness of what is appropriate. It’s not a suit-and-tie industry, so there are few hard-and-fast rules. I wouldn’t rule out someone because they were in sneakers, but they couldn’t be ancient dog-walking ones.

But I am not at all impressed by an obvious logo on an interviewee. A logo shouts louder than the person wearing it; I would rather they showed off their personality and skills. Once someone’s got the job, it’s different – I love seeing one of my team in an amazing piece they’ve hunted down because I want to know that my team are in touch and that fashion is important to them. But not in the interview.

When I was interviewing for my current PA, I was eventually deciding between two candidates, and I was leaning toward the one with the incredible Saint Laurent jacket and the fabulously groomed eyebrows. But my PA who was leaving told me to go with the other candidate instead, who would do the job better, and she was totally right. The moral of the story is: don’t get distracted by the eyebrows.

Daniel Marks, director and partner, The Communications Store

‘Nobody can get away with short shorts’

Nobody (boys or girls) can get away with short shorts in an interview and very noisy jewellery puts me off (very jangly bangles)!

Karen Diamond, director, Models 1

Excellent eyebrows may help. Photograph: Tooga/Getty Images

‘Trying too hard to be fashionable is a no-no’

I’m so scruffy myself that I like to think I’d rise above all that, but the truth is I’d probably find it pretty off-putting if someone was trying way too hard to be fashionable. A friend of mine once went for an interview on a fashion mag wearing a turban (bear with me, it was the late 80s). It wasn’t her at all, she was just wearing what she thought they’d like. Ten minutes in, the editor put up her hand and said: “I’m sorry, there’s no point continuing with this, I just know you won’t fit in here …” There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Sam Baker, co-founder of The Pool

‘The distracting blouse made me ask: who is your favourite Spice Girl?’

What you wear to work matters. In any industry, but especially when you work in fashion. It doesn’t matter how much you earn, some of my favourite things have been bought in Oxfam. Especially the Notting Hill branch (tip).

What you wear to go out on a Friday night does not translate on a Wednesday morning. I once interviewed a girl whose blouse was open so low her breasts were on show for the world to see. I was so distracted I forgot my usual, relevant questions and instead asked: “Who is your favourite Spice Girl?” (actually quite important) and: “How many leopard-print items of clothing do you own?”

We all judge a book by its cover, and first impressions are so important. No one is taking a candidate seriously in a bad outfit. Not their colleagues and definitely not their boss.

Liz Matthews, director and founder LMPR

Tread carefully with trainers. Photograph: Juice Images/Getty Images/Cultura RF

‘No logos’

In terms of image, I always prefer a candidate more formally than casually presented. Overstyling in hair or accessories – be it a big blowout or skyscraper heels – don’t impress and can give the wrong impression. Avoid logos completely and go for hair tied back and a crisp white shirt, and let your personality and skills do the talking.

Nicki Bidder, managing partner, Starworks

‘A nail biter’

The two things that stand out that have put me off hiring someone were chipped and very badly bitten nails and very orange, streaky fake tan. Overall, if someone is applying to work represent any brand, you would expect them to be well turned out and a reflection of your company values.

Deborah Joseph, content consultant

Chic flats: a better strategy for job interviews that heels you can’t walk in. Photograph: Guardian Weekend

‘Whatever you wear, don’t be late’

I would never judge a candidate by what they were wearing, it’s all about their skillset and personality. As a fashion person, you can never fail to notice someone’s handbag – it always catches your eye, as it would if they were on the tube – but it wouldn’t sway me.Fashion is an industry where individual style is celebrated, but perhaps in other types of job interviews I would advise dressing comfortably above all else. You won’t perform if you aren’t relaxed. And I’d advise mid-height heels that you can run up stairs in – more than anything, you don’t want to be late.

Nicola Rose, creative director, Red magazine

‘Show some thought’

It matters less what individuals are wearing, more the thought they have put into it to make a good impression – and that they are at ease in what they have chosen to wear.

Caroline Rush, chief executive, British Fashion Council

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