Students – How to dress for employment success


Leaving campus for work experience or interviews? Time to get suited and booted.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

You might still be a student, but already there are times when wearing smart clothes will help you to stand out from the pack.

Dressing with maturity helps to change your mindset; making the transition from student to young professional isn’t just about your wardrobe, but it certainly helps! Here’s everything you need to know about dressing smartly, for your graduate career prospects and beyond.

Work Experience


Check the firm’s dress code before you start a work placement.
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Why do you think firms offer work placements and internships? So they can laugh at you sat in a puddle of cold sweat, trussed up in an ill-fitting suit? Or because they’re looking for potential recruits? Remember, If you play your cards right, a work experience placement may translate into a job offer.

Check the firm’s dress code beforehand, and make sure you get the clothes required ahead of time. These days, many offices don’t expect employees to wear a full suit every day. But what does smart casual actually mean, in a business setting?

Smart casual means relaxed but formal – a pair of trousers with a collared shirt, tucked in. Add a complementary jacket or blazer and you’ll make a great impression. Go for a pair of trousers that makes the best of your build. Mid-rise is the correct height and a half-break is the right length to look like you mean business.

Sober colours like navy, charcoal, or grey work well. Steer clear of black unless you work in a bar or are applying to become an undertaker. You can express a little bit of personality through your choice of fabric. Go for wool mixes and tweed for winter. Cotton or linen mixes are ideal for summer.

White is your go-to colour for formal shirts, but block colours and pin stripes are also acceptable. As a young person it’s good to show you’re in touch with current trends like spread or cutaway collars – just don’t go overboard.

Your shirt needs to fit you properly. The cuffs should reach to the bend of your wrist and no further, and should be tight enough that you can’t withdraw your hands into your sleeves. There should be no bunching under the armpits, and the shoulder seam needs to sit on the point of your shoulder (not halfway down your arm). If, when you stretch, the fabric pulls against the buttons, the shirt’s too tight.

Job Interviews

It goes without saying that you should be suited and booted for job interviews. Buying a suit is a right of passage, not a box to tick. The right fit is essential: too tight and you’ll look like a sausage bursting its skin, too loose and you’ll look like a child in his father’s clothes.


You have little time to convince your future boss to hire you, so make first impressions count in your favour. Smile on entering the room, give a firm, preferably dry handshake, look your interviewer in the eye, and give them a moment to appreciate your very sensible choice of formal suit and shiny black shoes.

Your suit is meant to last, so buy the best you can afford – a 100% wool suit in a style that’s not going to go out of fashion overnight. The fit should be slim, but not too slim. In the world of suits there are three main cuts: American, Italian and British. American features a fairly unstructured jacket, single vented (with the slit up the back), has little shape in the shoulders and works well if you’re very muscular or a little on the large side.

If you’re a string bean, an Italian suit might be the ticket. It’s a slim fit with a well structured unvented jacket that’ll bulk out your shoulders. It’s a good cut for making the most of a lean silhouette, but it’s quite tricky to get right and because you’re probably still filling out, it might not fit you for long.

If you’re of slight to average build, you want the classic British cut. This single breasted suit has some structure to the shoulders, tapers through the waist, has two buttons (leave the bottom one undone), and has two vents. It’s what James Bond wears. Luckily, you don’t need to spend a fortune to look great in a suit if you choose a good quality fabric and nail the fit. Make the most of your Samuel Windsor NUS Student Discount (or Samuel Windsor Student Beans discount) and call it an investment in your future.

And finally, don’t forget the details. Black leather Oxfords are your shiny black interview shoes. Invest in shoe polish – you’re going to need it. Wear a tie and get yourself some smart black socks. Last, but not least, use the iron!

Need some more advice?

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