Summer approaches and with it the need to balance fun with earning at least some money; a need that becomes more immediately weighted in one particular direction if, like me, you happen to be graduating this year. We’re all aware of the real world, and the concept of a career but for three years (sometimes longer if we’re lucky) reality has been content to leave us alone. The pact was made that we would study really hard (mostly), make ourselves more employable and, in return, we would be granted a few years sabbatical from the finality of adulthood. The inevitable was delayed, more than willingly, and now opportunity knocks… loudly. Go away reality.

Yes go away, briefly, and then come back again because I have suddenly found myself in need of some money, any money, like it or not. Like it I don’t as it happens but one need must tend to another; I need money, therefore I need a job and therefore I must obtain myself an interview. Unfortunately my subject of study was humanities based and University campuses aren’t dressy at the best of times unless, perhaps, you happen to have studied business or management. The summary of this realisation being that my mental picture of an interview features an awful lot of suits, and I don’t own a suit.

As a great man once said nothing suits me like a suit; consensus holds that they make most people look more professional, intelligent and all around better. This view has especially predominated for men, and one only need observe that whilst women at most parties will sport a wide array of dresses, skirts, trousers and jumpsuit combinations, men need only wear this trustworthy staple. Experimentation occurs certainly and there is much to be said for the manner of tailoring and respective styles of the fabric, shirt and accompanying accessories. When it comes to women the fit and style is also important however appropriateness seems to enter further in, for example skirts must not be too short or too tight. Correctly done the result of a good suit is professional and flattering but this is no help to me; given, as we have already established, that I don’t actually own one.

Despite this regrettable state of affairs I have been to a lot of job interviews and usually I just do without. What? How? As it happens I’ve been quite lucky in that I like having smartish, tailored clothes in my day-to-day wardrobe; my outfit for interviews therefore consists of a pair of black high-waisted trousers (bought years ago from God remembers where), a suitably smart but comfortable shirt (tucked in) and a grey blazer that doesn’t even presume to match the trousers. This is the base, upon which I attempt to apply a little personality and cohesion through accessories. A pair of tan brown brogues and a nearly matching belt are employed to draw things together nicely and produce an outfit that I like to wear. It’s quirky, comfortable and best of all has entailed no additional costs. More so I actually get a little more value since I can continue to wear each item separately, as they were originally intended to be.

It is possible to be offered jobs in such attire, I know because I have been, and not wearing a suit does not mean that your only other option is casual. I recently saw a girl at a job interview, a semi-casual situation as it happened and, it must be added, one for which I was probably overdressed. I wore my usual, she wore slim fitting dark skinny jeans and a dark blazer complete with a white shirt and gold accessories. She looked smart and reasonably professional and obviously I don’t know how the interviewer viewed her as a potential candidate; what I will just say is that she could have been just another shopper or on her way out to a bar.

More than likely it is probably always safest to err on the side of caution, and by caution I mean formality. Especially in the case of graduate schemes and job interviews you hope will lead to a career, but even for those that you don’t particularly care about it seems good practice to treat the occasion with as much gravity as you can muster. A suit is not going to hinder you in getting a job and they can be bought relatively cheaply now on the high street, although they usually won’t last as long nor feel as substantial as traditional, and unfortunately pricier, alternatives. Nonetheless there are some things to bear in mind if you’re to get good value. First and foremost don’t just panic and buy any suit, especially if you’re a newcomer to the concept. Take your time, try some on and find something you feel comfortable in; if you spend the entire interview shifting awkwardly to adjust your clothes this will probably be distracting for everyone involved. Comfort and fit are important, and even if you’re hoping to save money it’s better to find a fabric that doesn’t look shiny or cheap. Also helpful is if you’d be happy to wear the pieces separately in other contexts. Versatility is a good watchword and a smart jacket will do wonders for a pair of jeans.

There are no set rules so experiment, within reason, and remember to be appropriately dressed. Many corporations require professional dress making the suit a reasonably good insurance against not meeting their expectations at the interview stage; also some people find that formal dress actually engenders a more “professional” mindset. This is another important point; remember that suits do not make you more professional. You may look and feel a little more employable however do be prepared to do your research, making sure to reinforce a strong first impression with some real substance.