Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |  Volume 7, Issue 26, Tuesday, June 26, 2012




Interview chic


Summertime. Sunshine, mangoes, and long afternoons. Power-cuts and mosquitoes. Vacation plans that almost never turn out how you plan them. Aside from the obvious, this season is also a popular one for internships, whether as part of a university requirement, or as an opportunity to pad your resume ahead of college applications.

Before the job comes the interview, and with the job market being the way it is, you want to approach this armed to the teeth with every advantage at your disposal. Ugly Betty and Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin were entertaining to watch, but they're wrong about some important things. Obviously, a killer resume and stellar recommendations help, and the smart interviewee does the homework and researches the company before the big day, but what gets your foot in the door is how you present yourself. Remember that it takes ten seconds to form a first impression, and this is entirely based on assumptions made after noting your clothes and your body language, so what you wear is a pretty big deal. So, to help you make them sit up and take notice, here's a style cheat sheet for you.

Ensemble - While we have neither the climate nor the culture for the power suit, at least for women, what we do have is the shalwar kameez, and this is the outfit you want to pick for the interview. Save the sari for promotions and celebrations, and walk into the room sporting an outfit that is comfortable, feminine, and screams efficiency. But make sure you pick one that works for you.

As with a suit, your most important consideration is fit. You want something that flatters your figure without being too snug, or loose like a tent. Now, trends come and go, and hemlines rise and fall, and shalwars flare out and then narrow down again, and keeping up can be an exhausting and often expensive endeavour. Opt for something classic, like a kameez that ends somewhere around the knees, and a regular shalwar. Err on the side of conservative and go for full sleeves and a modest neckline. No peeking cleavage, or mile-high side slits please!

Since we're talking summer interviews, and most of these things happen in the daytime anyway, go for breathable fabrics such as cotton. Skip the fancy embellishments and loud prints; you don't want to distract attention away from you. We recommend subtle prints (delicate summer florals, and/or fun geometric motifs), and subdued shades such as pastels and soft neutrals. Choose one distinct, sophisticated detail, such as a boat-neck, or a bit of lace on the cuffs and collar, or light chikan embroidery, or pearl buttons (just not all at once), and let that do all the work.

Separates - If you absolutely don't want to wear a shalwar kameez, you can rock a nicely fitted tunic or kurti with pants. That's right. Pants. Save the jeans for when you actually start work, and look grown-up and professional in a pair of well-tailored pants in a nice neutral colour. Khaki, off-white, steel-grey, navy and aubergine are all excellent colours for pants. (Don't do black; it's too severe for an interview where you want to appear personable and flexible). Again, skip the silks and sequins and go for cotton with subtle embellishments, and throw on a scarf, orna, or stole that complements the outfit.

Underneath it all - This is a common sense step that somehow few talk about and many get wrong. Make sure your inner-wear fits, is comfortable, appropriate. That means it has to be a colour that blends with what you're wearing outside and isn't visible, and any wayward strap is carefully tucked inside.


If your outfit is the lead actor, then your accessories are the supporting cast, and unless they're in harmony, the performance can completely fall apart, so pay attention to them. Comfortable shoes are a no-brainer, but whether you're a flat sandals or a stiletto heels kind of woman, go for something strappy, and with a modest heel, and please make sure they're in decent condition, with no peeling, broken buckles or anything. Most interviewers will look at your shoes at least once, perhaps even before they look at your face, so make sure they're well-maintained. Carry a roomy tote that can accommodate everything you need to carry, but isn't too big. It is a well-known fact that men are slightly intimidated by over-large bags, and you don't want to scare off your potential boss. Also, here's another insider tip from fashion critic and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia: don't carry an expensive designer bag. Leave those Gucci and YSL bags at home. If there are any women on the interview panel, it will instantly make them defensive, whether they admit it or not. Just trust us on this one.

Again, go easy on the bling. No jangling jewellery, no dangling earrings. A single strand of pearls is classy and sophisticated. Team with simple earrings, and maybe a single bracelet, and you're done. And always, always wear a watch; it shows that you respect time. Once more, nothing too fancy.

Recent studies have said that people view a woman wearing makeup as more professional than people who don't, so if you're an all-natural girl, then you want to make an exception on this one day. On the other extreme, if you love your face paint, you want to tame those instincts, as too much can also work against you. Go for light, natural-looking, and sweat-proof makeup. While we love red lipstick, this is one day when you want to leave your inner sexy vixen at home. Go for a softer lip colour. There's a shade of pink that's just right for you, so experiment ahead of the day and find it out. Ditto for nails. Baby pink, lilac, powder blue, and ecru are some good colours for nails.
Whatever colours you choose, your grooming must be impeccable. Book yourself for mani-pedis ahead of the interview, and make sure the facial hair has been taken care of. The hair on your head must be clean, and combed, and worn away from your face. Go easy on the perfume, but knowing what the weather and the power situation is, make sure you slather on the antiperspirant before you get dressed.

Now that you have pulled your look together, just square your shoulders, put on your best smile and walk into the interview with confidence, and you've already made them sit up and take notice.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Esha
Wardrobe: Deshal
Makeup and styling: Farzana Shakil

What's in your bag?
* Breath-mints - keep it fresh
* Body spray - see above
* Lipstick - for a quick touch up
* Compact and mirror - see above
* Comb - to keep those errant locks in place.
* Tissue/wet wipes - because sweat is inevitable
* Sunglasses - you know you'll need them
* Pen and paper - always be prepared
* Phone charger - see above


dress code
cheat sheet for men

Surprising as it may be, considering that there is no dearth of business schools in and around the city, most men are still fudging up details on their job interview attire. Being the nice, thoughtful people that we are, we've put a cheat sheet for the guys as well.

This one, at least is a no-brainer. Wear a suit. Even if the place you're applying for has a casual atmosphere, you need to send out the message that this is an important thing for you. Since it's summer, go for a nice two-button linen suit in blue, dark or light grey (black is not a daytime colour, and it's too harsh and confrontational for an interview). If you have a long commute and are worried about sweating, you can carry the jacket in a garment bag and put it on right before you meet the panel. More on how to pull that off later.

Team with a properly pressed button-down shirt with a straight collar. Solid white or blue shirts are best, but you could do stripes if they are really subtle (think white-on-white or textured blue). Avoid loud colours and apparent prints.

Footwear - Many business schools erroneously use the word 'formal' when asking their students to dress appropriately for a presentation. This usually prompts the young men to go and get dress shoes, which is really not the right thing to wear in these situations. What you want to look for are Oxfords, or anything with moderate soles and a nice, rounded toe-cap that emulates the shape of the feet. No pointed or square toes, please. Pair them with solid, vertically ribbed socks in black or grey. Save the white socks for the gym.

Neckwear - Wear a regular silk tie in solids, diagonal stripes, or small patterns. Choose conservative colours, like deep blues or reds, and avoid pink. Don't match the tie to the suit either; you don't want to look too matchy-matchy. If you want a little oomph, opt for a yellow tie, in a softer, lighter shade of yellow. That colour signals energy, and somehow puts people in a good mood.

Miscellaneous - Wear a belt or suspenders, but not both. If you opt for the former, go for a leather belt that looks well-maintained. If you opt for the latter, make sure it's the button-down kind and not the clip-on kind. Belts should always match the shoes. This is one rule that shouldn't be broken. Always, always wear a watch. A good, sensible watch, nothing too fancy or flashy.

Carry your resume, and anything else you need, in a cross-body messenger bag. Do not bring a backpack; you are not a school-kid. This is also a handy place to roll up and stash the garments bag you brought your jacket in, if you decide to go with that option.

This is as important as the wardrobe. Invest in a good haircut and even a manicure a few days before you go in for the interview. Your face and hands will be the focal point of your presentation, so make them presentable. On the big day, make sure you're properly shaved (or if you sport a beard, make sure it's trimmed and combed and neat), and your hair is brushed and set. Don't ignore hygiene, but don't go overboard. This means, while a good shower, followed by copious amounts of anti-perspirant roll-on, and brushing and flossing are all in order, don't splash on too much aftershave or cologne. If you're all sweaty from the commute by the time you reach the place, take a minute to duck into a washroom and freshen up before you walk into that interview room. It will do wonders.

Once you've got the look down, all you need is confidence, and you're bound to wow them all.

By Sabrina Fatma Ahmad
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Shawon
Wardrobe: CatsEye

What's in your bag/pockets?
*Wallet - with some spare change whether or not you're carrying big bills
*Handkerchief - In case of a sneeze or sweaty hands, bring this out and keep it handy during the interview.
*Comb - for that quick touch-up before you go in
* Wet-wipes - steal a trick from your girlfriend and keep a secret stash of these in your bag for an instant face refresher when you duck into the bathroom to 'fix your hair'.
* Deodorant spray - because you can never count on traffic to not make you sweat.
* Breath mints or chewing gum
* Cell-phone charger. Always be prepared.
Wallet, cellphone, handkerchief and keys go in the trouser pockets. Stash a pen in your lapel pocket, but make sure it's not the leaky kind. Everything else goes into your messenger bag.


Body language cues for acing interviews

It is a fact well-known, and yet often underestimated, that body language (visual and vocal) accounts for 93% of communication. So when you're walking into a job interview, you want to make them sit up and take notice by owning that conversation. Here's how.

Posture: Square those shoulders and hold your head high as you walk into the room in bold strides. You've got them looking up already. Here's someone with a lot of confidence, is what they're thinking. When you take your seat, relax, but don't sag; instead, sit straight, and then lean forward a little. Try to maintain this posture. Watch your shoulders and your stomach; neither should, at any point in the conversation, be allowed to droop.

Eye contact: This is very important. Look each person in the eye when you come in, and as you're sitting down, and remember to smile. During the course of the conversation, make sure everyone in the room gets some eye contact. This will keep them engaged. But don't stare. And especially, don't fixate on body parts. Both are creepy.

Hands: Physical contact is a bit of a tricky issue here in Bangladesh. If you're a woman, avoid it altogether. If you're a man, shake hands with the other men in the room and stick to a polite nod or salam with the women, and you'll sail by without any breach of decorum. When shaking hands, avoid both the limp-fish handshake and the bone-crusher. The first makes you seem weak, the second is just unnecessarily aggressive.

Use hand gestures to illustrate what you're saying. It animates your speech and keeps the energy up. But keep your hands away from your face, and don't ever, ever put them in your pockets, unless you're reaching for a pen. You want to remain accessible.

Speech: Practice your spiel with a friend, and in front of a mirror beforehand. Anticipate questions and rehearse your answers, so that when you're actually in the hot seat, you can speak without awkward gaps and non-fluencies (those umms and errs). This makes you come across as articulate and fluent. Listen carefully, and don't interrupt; you will get your turn. Adjust the volume of your voice, so that you're being heard, but not shouting. Speak a little faster than usual; think of the most effective advertisement voices you've heard.

On a final note, turn your cell-phone to silent before entering the room, and remember to smile and greet everyone, and also to thank everyone when you leave, and you'll leave a good impression.

By Bossa Nova


TV shows that show corporate couture at its best

Mad Men - The absolute last word in suaveness.

Suits - Even though they mean lawsuits, the name of the show should tell you they're keeping it stylish.

Damages - Yet another law show, but Glenn Close is riveting in her androgynous attire that somehow makes her feminine and not mannish.

Castle - A crime show that spends a lot of time in the office, and the attire is always very cutting edge corporate couture.

30 Rock - It's witty, intelligent, and they rock the power suits like nobody's business.
(Thanks to Mahmood Hossain for help with research)

By Bossa Nova


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