What not to wear

11th March 2005 at 00:00
Pink tie or pink tights? Will your interiew clothes clinch that job? In Trinny and Susannah style Alison Shepherd asks careers guide Karen Barnard for her verdict

So, having compiled some fine examples of your teaching experience, submitted a cast-iron application, checked The TES for all the latest issues, the big day finally dawns. You know you are the best NQT anybody could hope to hire, but how are you going to persuade the interview panel of that?

Unfortunately, knowing your stuff is not always going to be enough and with the outcome of 90 per cent of interviews decided in the first two minutes, first impressions count. Which means, no matter how superficial it may seem, how you look can count as much as knowing your formative from your summative assessment.

Six trainees from Edge Hill college, Ormskirk, braved the First Appointments challenge and agreed to be photographed in their interview outfits and subjected to the critical gaze of Karen Barnard, a former secondary headteacher and currently head of the careers service for University College, London.

Tim Barrett


BSc design and technology KS23

Applying for LEA pools

I felt really comfortable in this. I don't think it's too casual. It's smart, if not formal.

Favourite:: I had chosen another pair of shoes to go with the trousers, but when I put them on they weren't comfortable, so I stuck with these.

Karen's verdict: This is just not acceptable. I would look at Tim and think: "Could he really handle Year 9 on a Friday afternoon?" He just doesn't give off an air of authority at all. Far too casual. The shoes are too reminiscent of slippers.

Advice: Get rid of the jumper and put on a jacket. With a suit, I could even forgive the shoes.

Laura Taylor


BEd student English KS23 I chose the skirt because it is quite formal, but I prefer to wear skirts rather than trousers anyway. I thought the shirt was a good mix between being smart but comfortable. I brought a jacket along to wear, but at the last minute took it off, because it didn't feel right."

Favourite: I love my shoes. I'm so short they give me confidence and I would have to wear them at an interview."

Karen's verdict: Laura is borderline acceptable, she looks as if she is prepared for a day of teaching, not an interview. It doesn't look as if she's made much of an effort. But at least her clothing would not be commented on by the panel.

Advice: Add a jacket to the skirt, just to give it the edge. If you feel uncomfortable and overdressed, you can always take it off and dress down a little.

Corrine McHugh


BEd student English KS23

Undecided on primary or secondary.

Applying for LEA pools

I want to look smart but bright with colourful accessories. I don't want to look old before my time and I like wearing clothes that reflect, rather than hide, my personality. This is who I am, and if anyone on the panel doesn't like it, I probably wouldn't feel comfortable in their school, anyway.

Favourite: I love jewellery with a vintage twist.

Karen's verdict: Too trendy and casual. The skirt is just wrong. It doesn't say "I respect you and I really want this job." But Corinne does look well-groomed and confident. The jewellery and the make-up are fine - with another outfit.

Advice: It really is best to stick to the traditional, heads are not known for their flamboyance. It is always best not to try to make a statement: be remembered for what you say, not what you wore.

Stewart Finley


BEd English KS23

I'm comfortable wearing suits so I went for blue because I think blue is calming and not too intrusive. The suit was bought specifically for interview, relaxed but not too casual. Brown shoes to go with belt, which was bought to go with the suit.

Favourite:: I spent pound;18 and much time trying to make my naturally curly hair lie flat. I think it looks more formal in a parting.

Karen's verdict: This is it. Stewart looks like he's come for an interview, that he means business. He looks confident and has an air of authority.

Dressed like this he probably won't have to work as hard as the others to overcome his clothes.

Advice: Avoid putting both hands in your pockets, it can make others think you look uncomfortable.

Paul Bluer


BEd English KS23

Applying for LEA pool

I don't usually wear a suit, but I wanted to make an impression and show I recognised the formality of an interview. I brought the shoes especially, because I didn't have anything suitable to wear with a suit. I felt confident and comfortable.

Favourite: I chose the white tie because it gives off the image of a blank page. I didn't want it to be too colourful, to impose itself. But wanted to be slightly different.

Karen's verdict: I like this business-like with a trendy slant. It's a good mix of formality without being boring. Nobody could possibly be offended by any of it. This what to aim for.

Advice: Beware the white tie doesn't make you look like a waiter. But far better that than wear any sort of novely tie, or socks. But they are a big no-no whatever the occasion.

Andrew Browne


BSc Design and technology KS23

Applying for jobs all over the country

My shirt and tie reflects me and my personality, I tried a beige jacket, but this went better. I brought the shirt and tie together, so I didn't have to think too hard about it. I Favourite: 'm fussy about my hair and use wax.

Karen's verdict: Andrew should have made a bit more effort. It somehow shows disrespect. His jacket looks like on outdoor one, so I would expect him to take it off the the interview which would leave him in shirt sleeves, which is not good. His stance is confident, but his choice of clothes is not quite there.

Advice: Lose the jacket. Women can probably get away with separates, but men ought to put on a suit. It is so easy for them, they can just slap on a suit and polish their shoes. Women have to make many more decisions.

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