If The Shoe Fits: Dressing For Interviews And The Workplace

Don’t know the difference between black shoes and brown? You’d fail your investment banking interview before it even started. Take our advice on interview and workplace dressing, and you’ll look sharper than Patrick Bateman on a good hair day.



Perhaps you’re up for a City job, or you’re a budding graphic designer. Just as different companies impose different dress codes on their employees, every new job description requires a fresh approach. So what to wear for that all-important meeting?

Let’s start at the far end of the scale: life sciences and investment banking. If you’re up for a job in a highly corporate field like this, don’t skimp on the detail. Studies show that black shoes, well-fitting suits in blue or grey, and dark socks are a must. For boys out there a beard, whether culturally-motivated or otherwise, can reduce your chances of that job offer. Girls, I’m sorry, but wear heels. The aim here is to show that you’re a good ‘fit’ for the interviewer’s workplace. Walking in with a bright yellow tie/eyeshadow and flat, brown shoes is like taking a secondary school class dressed as Katie Price – inadvisable.

For less formal business and banking roles, similar rules apply. A job interview is not the time to drag out that novelty Bugs Bunny shirt your mum bought you for Christmas. For companies with a smart casual or more formal dress code, go for a suit. Wear a pale shirt, probably white or blue, with dark socks, black shoes and a sober tie. Ladies, don’t be whipping out that vampy dark lipstick; you want to look natural but enhanced. Play up one feature at most, and subtly at that.

For a company with a ‘casual’ dress code, they will usually warn you of this beforehand. Do not be fooled – if you turn up in a crop top and hot-pants, you will be judged. Boys, avoid hoodies and sweatpants; you’re not Mark Zuckerberg. Safe bets are trousers that aren’t jeans; girl can opt for a knee-length skirt. If you want to wear something shorter, layer it over opaque tights – your interviewer wants to see your potential, not your thigh gap. No stomachs, no cleavage, no ankles, no back-flesh. If the interviewer doesn’t specifically say to ‘dress casual’, play it safe and don a suit.

As a general rule of thumb, whatever the role you’re going for, make a little more effort than the company’s dress code demands. Recently, on the Today Show, top CEO recruiter James Citrin was asked how a graduate can best dress for an interview. His answer? “A grad should do her homework and then be 25% more formal than the prevailing dress culture.” So do your research into what they’re looking for, and surpass it – but not by too much.


The Workplace

Congrats! You got the job. Now to navigate the office politics, the water-cooler gossip and… workplace dress codes.

There are, roughly-speaking, four classes of workplace dress code: business formal; business casual; smart casual; and casual. Recently, more formal companies have been gravitating towards the relaxed end of the scale. Accenture and PwC have both implemented ‘Dress For Your Day’ policies, where employees dress as required from day to day, and JPMorgan Chase has switched from business formal to business casual. What’s important is that you find your employer’s policy, Google it mercilessly and work within those guidelines. Looking out-of-place at the office is a major faux pas, after all.

That said, it’s important to bring a little of yourself to the mix. You’re not a corporate clone; people want to see the real you. Whether it means wearing a patterned tie, or donning a red lip, you’re not at interview stage anymore – play with your work outfit and try to find something that is on-brand you.

On the subject of high-heels… Ever since PwC sent Nicola Thorp home for wearing flats, the heels-in-the-workplace argument has raged. We think that, in a casual or smart casual environment, flats are best for our go-getting girl grads. Comfy heels that can see you through the day are also good. However, in a more formal workplace, sometimes heels become necessary. You don’t have to wear them all the time, and please don’t lame yourself with a five-inch stiletto. But for meetings and other formal occasions, heels are often judged as appearing more ‘in-place’ than flats – and ‘in-place’ means ‘professional’.

Finally, it’s important to look and feel good – and not just because that cute gal in accounting might walk past your desk. Thanks to something social psychologists term “the halo effect”, we assume that people who look good also possess other positive qualities. I’m not saying you need to look like Tom Cruise. But if you want to seem committed, capable and intelligent at work, make an effort.

So there you go! There are some interesting studies on workplace dress codes, proving that different styles of outfit promote different styles of thinking. But, as a grad recruit, your most important job is to fit in and excel. Don’t let some fashion faux-pas stop you nabbing that tasty interview, and your dream job.


Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.



How to smash a video interview

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest blog post.

In recent years, technology has revolutionised the interview process of many companies. There are video game challenges, complex online application forms, interviews via Skype and FaceTime, and, perhaps the most disconcerting of these, video interviews.

Although sometimes the term video interview is sometimes used in reference to a Skype interview, this article is about the kind of interview where you film yourself answering pre-recorded questions, rather than talking to an interviewer directly.

This makes it a very different experience; you’re not in conversation with anybody, and so can’t read their body language or tone to get a sense of how you’re doing. Given that a lot of us also feel uncomfortable filming ourselves, video interviews can feel like a real challenge.

However, they’re increasingly used as part of the graduate recruitment process, particularly for popular and competitive grad schemes like that of the Wellcome Trust. As of 2013, 6% of hiring managers had used pre-recorded interviews, and numbers have been on the rise since then.

Pre-recorded video interviews appeal to those who want to use an interview as an early part of the screening process but don’t have the resources to conduct normal interviews with everyone.

It might well be that you have to do a video interview or two while applying for graduate jobs and internships. Check out our tips on how to boost your chances of interview success.


 Start off by doing what you would for any interview; research the job, the company, and the industry thoroughly. There can be a temptation to view a video interview as less important or less in depth than an interactive interview, but employers see them treated as a central part of the application process. If you’re come across as unknowledgeable about the company, you won’t advance any further.

Start off by familiarising yourself with the company website, including their products and services, mission and values, brand, annual report, and any press releases. Then cast your net wider, and have a look at their social media feeds to get a better sense of the company culture and how they choose to present themselves online.

Next, turn to sources where the information isn’t controlled by the company: customer and employee review websites like Feefo and Glassdoor, news stories, and rival company websites. Knowing a bit about their competitors is important, as you might well be asked about these.

Finally, come back to the job itself. Make sure you’re familiar with the job specification, the duties you’ll be asked to take on, and the skills you’ll need to do so successfully. Think about examples from your experience that will help you prove that you fit the bill.

Prepare answers to standard questions

One of the oddities of this kind of interview is that every candidate will be asked the same questions. In most interviews the interviewer will have planned some of their questions, but they will typically respond to what you say and follow the thread of the discussion. So if you mention an interesting experience briefly, they might ask you to expand on it, or if you haven’t quite answered their question, they’ll prompt you.

Here there’s no such give and take. However, there’s an upside – it meas the questions that you’re asked will generally be fairly standard interview questions. It’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty, but some common ones that are likely to crop up are:

  • Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
  • What do you know about the company?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Relevant competency questions, like describing a time you worked in a team, came up with an innovative answer to a problem, or worked under pressure.
  • Do you have any questions to ask us? This might feel odd as you won’t get a response, but it does still get asked.

Make sure you prepare answers to these in advance. You don’t need to memorise word-perfect answers (in fact, this can often backfire by making you come across as robotic), but having answers and examples at your fingertips will help you feel more confident and talk more eloquently.

As a final stage in your preparation, try using video recording software to get used to talking to yourself, and to stopping the recording – it’s easy to panic doing this, and stop it too early or pull a weird face while you search for the stop button.

Set the scene

 You’ll generally be given a deadline by which you need to have submitted your answers, rather than a specific interview time. This means it’s up to you to set aside time, and organise the setting.

Choose somewhere quiet, with a reliable internet connection, where you know you won’t be disturbed by family, friends, or rogue pets. Preferably, this will be a room with a door you can shut, and where you can set up the camera in front of a plain background.

Channel the spirit of a film director, and make sure your star – also you – is well lit, arranging lamps accordingly; production values aren’t the be-all and end-all of video interviews, but they can certainly help.

Finally, dress as you would for a normal interview, head to toe. You may have heard the horror stories of candidates asked to stand up during an interview, only for it to be revealed that their impeccable shirt and tie was paired with boxers or pyjama bottoms. It’s unlikely, but certainly not out of the question that this might happen, so why take the risk?

There’s also the psychological aspect; studies show that wearing formal clothing makes you feel more confident and powerful.

 Read the instructions

Most employers will use an external service’s video interview software, and each one is slightly different, so read the instructions really well before you start. You’ll probably be guided through a sound and video check, and might be given some instructions or tips by the employer. Note whether you’ll have the chance to re-record your answers; in most cases, the answer will be no.

Once you click go, you’ll be on a constant roll, so staying calm and focussing on each question as it comes, rather than worrying about your last answer, is imperative. Be aware of how long you have to answer each question, and in particular note down if there are multiple questions you have to answer in one segment. It’s incredibly frustrating to click stop only to realise you missed a major point.

For the most part, you want to focus directly on the camera, as if you were speaking to an interviewer. Just like a normal interview, smiling and presenting yourself well can have a big impact on your chances of success.

Contact the Careers Service for mock interviews – we can provide specific advice about video interviews.

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check out their website if you’re looking to hire an intern, or on the hunt for internships and graduate jobs London. You can also find more graduate careers advice on their blog!



Why knowing the current trends in the industries you want to work in can give you a competitive edge

commercial awarenessA frequently mentioned part of what employers want from you as a student or graduate candidate is your commercial awareness. You’ll find many definitions of what “commercial awareness” means and I’ll add another definition now. In a nutshell it’s “what’s going on right now” in the sector/company/environment. Knowing where to start to acquire this knowledge can be mesmerising (damn internet!) but here’s some ideas from the perspective of the IT sector:

  • Blog articles like this one entitled “25 big tech predictions for 2016” – some of the info is particular to the United States but the points on internet connected cars, the oil and gas industry using the Internet of Things to increase revenues and small businesses greatly increasing their use of payment apps caught my attention.
  • Major professional services businesses like Deloitte often produce annual summaries of what they see as major trends in particular sectors. You can read their 2016 predictions for the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) sectors here. You know they are worth reading as these professional services companies get their information from clients that are major players in this sector means this information can be read with a good degree of trust.
  • Gartner is an American marketing, market research and advisory firm providing information technology insights targeted at CIOs and senior IT leaders in industries that include government agencies, high-tech and telecom enterprises, professional services firms, and technology investors. You can read about their “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016” here.

What’s the competitive edge for you as a job candidate? Firstly it will help you answer any questions you get in interview about whats currently happening in the sector. Secondly it could give you an idea of where to target your own job search. Growth areas more often than not need more people to work in them. And that can include placement students and soon to be graduates.


Guest Blog Post: The benefits of a mock interview

In this post, Nursing Graduate Olanike Akinde talks about the benefits of having a mock interview:interview in progress

“The funny thing regarding interviews is that the saying ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ actually sings true.

Myself, a postgraduate diploma student in child nursing knew the importance of this saying from my previous career in Accounting hence why I used the services of the Careers Service at City. Continue Reading


The Future of Graduate Assessment Centres – Assessment by immersion?



EYRecently, I went to an event to hear about the latest thinking on assessment centres run by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR). Many blue chip employers were present. We heard how tired many companies are of hearing the same old answers to competency-based questions that are often trotted out by well prepped graduates. So – you can see why it’s in your interest to bring some variety to your replies! As well as this, we heard that although 70% of students attending assessment centres were positive about their experience, the remaining 30% – a large number- were left feeling negative about the company involved. So as employers don’t want bad press, employers are now trying to figure out ways they can improve on graduates’ experience at assessment centres.

A few years back, EY commissioned Capp (the leading strengths-based assessment, product and platform specialists) or more simply put- a leading firm of business psychologists-to redesign their recruitment system, in particular their interviews with graduates, to make them less predictable and more relevant. Since then, EY have operated a strengths-based interviewing approach which  has resulted in a better match of candidates who meet EY’s needs. Whilst I’m talking about strengths, it’s a good idea to take the Strengths Test on the EY Facebook page to get an instant print out of your strengths and skills.  https://www.facebook.com/EYUKcareers/app_219886381467405  Microsoft

Now Microsoft has employed CAPP to change their assessment centres to be much more engaging/immersive. Like EY, Microsoft felt that  candidates’ replies were highly rehearsed. They also felt that they were not getting what they wanted in terms of diversity. Microsoft wanted the selection process to be based on candidates’ potential rather than Continue Reading


Guest Blog Post: Tips for success in an interview, by Aedan @ReflectDigital

Man And Woman Waiting To Enter A Job InterviewHow can you improve your interviewing technique?


Interviews can be hard, the final stage towards getting that job you need. To succeed in interviews there are a few key factors and common errors that it is best to be award of, correcting these common errors will enhance your chances against your counterparts. To think of a company use a recruitment company like Hiring People  who post a single job on 100 different job board you could potentially have 10 apply to each posting which accounts to 1000 other applicants apply for the same job as you so you need to ensure you and your cv are ready to impress.

In this article we look at how you can enhance your chances at interview, because no matter the qualifications you hold it is important to succeed at this process to earn yourself the job you desire.

With almost half of recent graduates in the UK still unemployed, or even employed in jobs that undergraduates could do – it begs the question why are they not getting the jobs they are enabled to do? It could be simply down to not grasping and executing the basics of interviewing, meaning that older and more experienced people may be getting these jobs. Thus showing how you imperative it is to know what to expect.

Continue Reading


Guest blog post: The Carling Partnership on Video Interviews

chat-interviewMost job seekers are well aware of the importance of face-to-face job interview and deservedly invest resources mastering the various techniques to come out on top. Similarly, candidates are also aware and comfortable with the fact that a typical recruitment process may include a phone-based interview, however some are taken back at the prospect of attending a video chat interview.

Increasingly, employers and agencies use two-way video interview as a modern day successor of phone interview or as an additional stage before the face-to-face interview. If you are apprehensive about your chances to succeed in this type of challenging digital environment, we’ve put together a number of tips that will help.

Always Come Across Willing – If the notion of video chat interview comes up always embrace the opportunity. As you will quickly learn, there are solid techniques that will help you succeed.

Continue Reading


Building your future?

I wanted to wish new and returning students plus our recent graduates a very, very warm welcome to the new Acedmic Year 2014-15. This year we have a new offering which are our Career Lounges. These will be running three times a week. Check these out as well as our Careers Workshops. All sessions are practical to help you hone your skills, not just information lead.

Building your future and preparing yourself

Careers Workshops – help with:
• Searching for internships and graduate jobs
• Cvs and applications
• Gaining an edge in the job market
• Interview technique

Ready for work

Careers Lounges (new) – help with:
• cvs and applications
• Employer recruitment & selection

Book now! Before places get taken!

Best Wishes,

Marlon Gray (Senior Careers Consultant)


Last chance to apply for Summer Graduate Bootcamp on 10 June

Boost your confidence, clarify your sense of career direction and get tips on jobhunting and interview technique on Tuesday 10 June at the Summer Bootcamp for Graduates from 9am – 3pm. It’s not as daunting as it sounds! but is a chance to learn, share exeprience and to get your questions answered. Plus… a free lunch! To find out more about the content of the day and to sign up go to Continue Reading


Snapshot Scheme: New Beginnings

Snapshot Scheme: Class of 2014

   Holidays are upon us and we have now officially selected our new  Snapshotters  for the next year – exciting, eh?


For you stats-lovers out there, here are some nice figures from this year`s selection  process for the Snapshot Scheme:


v This Autumn term, we`ve received 270 online applications from students

v  We`ve held 99 interviews & met 99 great potential candidates

v  We`ve invited 53 students to attend our final stage of assessment: a Training & Assessment session

v  Annnnnd, finally… we`ve offered 38 new places on the Scheme 2013/2014

Why are students applying for the Snapshot Scheme? Here is some Continue Reading