In Douglas Adam's HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy our hero Arthur Dent escapes the explosion that destroys Mother Earth by the skin of his teeth. Unfortunately though, Arthur doesn't have time to change out of his pyjamas and dressing gown before being whisked away on a galactic adventure that ran a couple of books too long. The presence of Dent's ill advised bed wear in a series of increasingly surreal encounters acts as a constant reminder to the reader that no matter what people say, and how much we evolve, there are times when your clothing just has to be appropriate. This is more than usually true when faced with the minefield of a first interview.
At a first interview you'll be judged the moment you walk through the door so it's vital to get your appearance right. Firstly you should be thinking about the type of company you are interviewing with, as a rule the bigger the company the more conservative it will be so start your planning accordingly but you should always be aiming to look professional regardless of the job you are interviewing for. In large companies, HR departments are often interviewing a number of people in succession and, in the absence of photographs, little notes on your appearance jotted down on your cv will be used as an aide memoire as to who you were amongst the crowd. With that in mind it's important to ensure that no part of your appearance should stand out for the wrong reason, 'greasy haired bloke' is unlikely to get the follow up call. In the same way, South Park may be cutting edge post-modern satire but it doesn't translate well to the medium of the tie. As a rule it's difficult to go wrong with a smart suit and tie combination, it's a draconian interviewer that will punish you for making an effort. The suit and tie combo also gives you the opportunity to remove the tie should you arrive at your interview and find that everyone else is in smart casual.
Suits should be conservative and preferably single breasted in dark colours, black, charcoal or navy blue. The shirt should be well ironed, non-button down and preferably white or blue. Shirts do offer the potential to express some individuality but be wary of navy blue with a yellow tie which screams arrogance or any combination of matching colours which suggest you'll never be happy until you've landed a dream career in media.
Your tie should be gimmick free, so either plain or striped, anything else is taking a risk. Purples and reds create an impression of quality and confidence, lime greens and oranges create an impression of a barrow boy attempting to move up in the world.
Shoes should be good quality and black, if you've a female interviewer the chances are she'll notice them, if it's a guy he won't, unless you plant them on his desk and at that stage you've probably blown it anyway. Finally your socks should at least match and be as dark as you can get them, it's also a good idea to make sure they're fairly long. Top it all off with a tidy haircut and well kept facial hair and at least you won't have thrown it all away before you open your mouth.
The fairer sex have considerably more scope in their choice of workwear and hence a greater margin for error. As with the boys the first consideration lies with the company you are interviewing with. The Pharmaceutical industry, like banks and law firms, tends to be quite conservative although with more leeway once you are in place than the latter two. A sensible first step would be to ask a friend or acquaintance that works in the industry for advice. The chances are that regardless of the prevailing company ethos you will be expected to look smart and professional. With this as a start take a look at your wardrobe, grey, charcoal, black or navy blue suits are the obvious stand bys and will leave you free to worry about other things, darker colours signify professionalism and responsibility. The cut should be neat but neither tight fitting nor billowy, again professionalism rather than glamour is the watchword. Skirt lengths shouldn't be any more than two inches above the knee, unless you already have designs on a key role in the company video. If you don't have any suits then a skirt with a tailored jacket is the next best option, colour guidelines remain the same. A simple white or plain coloured shirt or blouse should complete an outfit with which you can't really go wrong. Professional enough to look the part but without being too showy.
Shoes should follow the theme of the rest of the outfit, probably low heeled or flats in black or very dark blue, now isn't the time for that fantastic pair that have been in the cupboard waiting for a debut. Make sure your shoes are in a good state of repair and won't break, at least until the interview is over, a quick polish will sort out most problems.
Jewellery should be kept to a minimum, a simple wedding ring and watch with a pair of unobtrusive earrings, pearl studs or small hoops would be fine. The best test as far as jewellery is concerned is to take a look at yourself in the mirror before you leave and if you have any doubts about anything, take it off, especially if it's likely to distract the interviewer or be noisy.
Finally hair and makeup, don't be tempted to overdo things because you're nervous, seek an opinion from someone before you leave the house. Long hair should be pulled away from your face or even worn up to increase the image of professionalism with short hair try to make sure it doesn't obscure too much of your face or look to stylised, neat and tidy is preferable to sultry and smouldering.
When you're ready to go, stand in front of the mirror and close your eyes for ten seconds, when you open them try and figure out what catches your eye first. If nothing leaps out at you then the chances are you look just right, if something does then try changing or removing it and repeat the exercise. As soon as you are happy, smile at yourself in the mirror and be ready to leave the house.