You may scoff at the idea of fussing over your scholarship interview #OOTD rather than letting your brain speak for itself, but what you wear and how you carry yourself speaks volumes about your personality.
In fact, this study suggests that an interviewer can tell if you’re the right person for a job within the first 10 seconds of meeting you.
Here’s how to make sure you don’t distract anyone with an oddly coloured tie, the creases on your shirt that you pulled out from the depths of your closet or those ill-fitting jeans that are holding on to your hips for its dear life.
#1. Suit up
Most scholarship interviews will require that you dress formally on the day, but what does “formal wear” even mean? Don’t worry; you won’t have to go into full James Bond mode — strutting around in a 3-piece suit and a bowtie.
In this instance, formal menswear refers to a long sleeve shirt, a blazer, tie, black slacks and a pair of dress shoes.
For the girls, your appropriate attire would be a pantsuit or skirt suit consisting of a collared shirt, a blazer, black slacks or a ¾ length skirt paired with closed-toe flats or court shoes. You could also opt for a simple shift dress as a fuss-free option and in most circumstances, traditional clothing such as baju kurung is allowed.
#2. Dress conservatively
One rule of thumb that applies to any interview is to dress conservatively. This means no sheer blouses, sleeveless tops, tight clothes or plunging necklines. It pays to keep your skirts or dresses below the knees, and if you aren’t sure if you’re showing too much leg, just throw on a pair of opaque stockings.
This rule doesn’t only apply to the girls! Guys should wear a long sleeve shirt and opt for dark coloured mid-calf socks that won’t show any skin when you’re sitting down.
It may seem like a colossal waste of time to fret over these seemingly insignificant details but dressing modestly shows that you are aware of cultural sensitivities and have taken care to respect the interviewers and the organisation that is giving out the scholarship.
#3. Choose muted colours
When picking out your clothes, pay attention to the colour of your attire. It’s a great way to keep your look interesting and a subtle way to showcase your personality.
So stick to colours such as navy blue, black or dark grey for your blazer and pants or skirt, and pair them with a white or baby blue shirt to soften your ensemble.
Keep in mind not to wear anything too garish like bright orange, loud red tones or neon pinks and greens. Remember to choose colours that accentuate your look but don’t distract from what you are trying to say during the interview.
#4. Wear comfortable clothes that fit your body
To ensure a reasonably pleasant time in your get-up throughout the interview, wear clothes that fit well and that are made out of a breathable fabric, like cotton. Stay away from anything too tight as you might have to sit for a long time and don’t want to be suffocated by an old pair of trousers.
That being said, avoid clothes that are too baggy as they can give the impression that you’re sloppy, careless and unprofessional.
#5. Use minimal accessories
In a scholarship interview, less is more when it comes to accessories.
For the men who are wearing belts, pick one with a buckle that isn’t too flashy. If possible, try to match it to the colour of your shoes. You can wear a watch but keep all other jewellery to a minimum.
As for the ladies, keep it to one subdued pair of earrings and ditch the facial piercings. If you wear makeup, keep it subtle and don’t overdo it. Avoid using big or loud hair accessories too, such as headbands with large bows or jewelled hair clips.
For the guys, choose ties that complement your outfit — avoid gaudy prints (e.g. ties with cartoon characters) or colours like neon green. If you need to carry a bag, avoid backpacks and opt for something more professional-looking, such as a small briefcase or handbag.
#6. Don’t overlook other aspects of your appearance
Your mane matters as much as your clothes when it comes to your scholarship interview. So if you’re a guy, avoid trendy hairstyles such as a man bun and opt for a conservative style instead. Similarly, facial hair should be well-groomed (or go for a clean shave).
If you’re a girl, keep your look polished by tying up your long hair in a neat ponytail or bun, while your fringes should be pinned. Short hair should also be styled neatly while you might also want to keep a couple of bobby pins handy to tame flyaways so you don’t enter the room looking like you’ve just run a half marathon.
Meanwhile, if you wear a scarf or hijab, choose a simple and clean way to tie it and opt for scarves with solid, neutral colours or small prints that match your blouse or baju kurung.
It’s also important to keep your nails short and free of chipped or brightly-coloured nail polish. While it’s important to smell good, be sure to avoid overpowering fragrances as you might put off your interviewer and anyone else in the room. Avoid smoking before the interview too and keep your breath fresh by popping a mint before you’re called in.
In a scholarship interview, you only have a few minutes to impress your interviewer, so it’s best to take this moment to make a great first and lasting impression. So put on that power suit and strut into the interview room with your head held high. Good luck!