"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken," Oscar Wilde once said.
That's exactly how recent graduate Ollie Gordon landed his job at Go Mammoth after months of job hunting. As he got dressed for yet another interview, he put on his black trousers, looked in the mirror and had a change of heart.
"Fuck it, I thought, I'm going to wear what I feel comfortable in," he says. "I stepped into my bright green chinos, threw on a t-shirt and hoody, and instantly recognised myself again. I wanted to make a statement – to stand out and show who I really was rather than another generic applicant in a suit."
After a string of unsuccessful interviews in smart clothes, he finally found himself a job by being himself – bright green chinos and all.
Not all companies will appreciate such boldness of dress sense, of course, so it's vital you do your research into the culture and ethos. The point is not that wearing what you want is going to get you the job; it's about finding a way to express who you are as best you can.
"Be polite and be yourself," says Francesca Turner, a National Careers Service adviser. Whether you can do that through your clothes, small-talk or what you say, showing your character is an important part of the interview process.
You will probably choose to avoid certain details of what you get up to on a Friday night, and you can dress up certain shortcomings on your CV. But putting across a fake representation of yourself will do you no favours – as Brainbox Coaching founder Tracy Johnson puts it: "You might be able to sustain something that isn't really you for an interview, but not for the duration of your job – that would be very stressful," she says.
Another job seeker – Elliott Riordan, found talking about a hobby put him at ease: "Finding something common with the interviewer – something beyond the work role for me was football."
In the competitive and short timescale of an interview, your appearance and body language are going to play a significant role in showcasing who you really are.
"First impressions are invaluable and body language marks an interviewee's first communication with a potential employer," says David Press, a chief executive at recruitment specialists Proceed.
"When deciding between two equally strong candidates, an employer will almost certainly pick the one who appears the strongest socially."
But if you're quite shy and you don't want to "fake" it, how do you convey a sense of confidence without a personality change? Look at the behaviour of your friends to develop your own confidence.
Johnson says: "Have a think and try to identify two or three people you know who demonstrate what you feel is confident behaviour and try out what it is you feel that they do that creates this impression. Is it their posture, their warmth towards others, or that they always seem prepared?"
Practise your elevator pitch in the mirror, film your answers to make sure you are using eye contact, ensure you get rid of any nervous twitches.
"On the day," Press advises, "give yourself a few minutes to use the bathroom, have a drink and take a few deep breaths. When you sit down, relax your shoulders, remember to maintain eye-contact, make a conscious effort not to fiddle and fidget. Sit forward to give the impression of confidence."
But don't automatically discard shyness as a weakness – it can, in some roles, be positive.
"Don't be ashamed of your shyness, it's part of you and depending on the job could be quite appealing," she says. "Not all roles need over-confident employees and you can still be quietly confident." Non-verbal communication is vital; how you say your answers is often just as, if not more, important than what you say. Slouching, fidgeting, sitting with crossed arms and glancing everywhere are to be avoided, while making eye-contact, sitting upright, focusing on the person who asked the question and being aware of personal space are simple things that can go a long way to convincing an interviewer that you're the right candidate.
Yasif Sufi, a recruitment director at CVVID, believes body language is even more important than the content of your questions. "There are many studies that prove generally when talking to someone they pay a lot more attention to you visually than what you are saying," she says.
It's important, however, that you don't go into the interview with too much advice to think about and certainly don't rely on your oldest source of advice: your mother. I remember preparing for an interview one evening when I was interrupted by the phone ringing.
"Don't wear a tie tomorrow," she advised. "People don't do that these days – everyone's much more laid back."
Needless to say, I didn't take her advice. And needless to say, I didn't get the job. Perhaps I should have taken a leaf out of Ollie Gordon's book and dug out my dusty pair of yellow chinos. Gardian