She came in as a scruffbag and left ready to conquer Goldman's

AT LAST, after a hideous year, firms are hiring again. But to stand out from the crowd stampeding back to the job market, you’ll need to do everything in your power to look the part. First impressions are the most powerful and can be near impossible to shift – so the interview is where you’ve got to dazzle with a confidence-inspiring appearance that is attractive, appropriate and fits perfectly.

But how, exactly? If you’re anything like me, you put on your safest black top, cleanest skirt, ladder-free tights and most expensive-looking jacket, plus a piece of jewellery or two, some heels, and hope for the best.

But with style – and fit – saying so much about you, and the City full of powerful women dressed immaculately, this is probably not good enough. Which is why I thought it might be a good idea to try out John Lewis’s new interview style consultations. Whether you’re applying to a bank, law firm or something less formal, you’ll leave looking just the part and a good deal wiser about what works on you and what doesn’t.

When I was greeted by Amanda Slader, I was in clothes that said: “I can’t think of what to wear so I’m going to go black and baggy.” In addition to my shapeless black trousers and loose shirt, I was wearing brown pumps with mismatching socks and an incongruous bright gold necklace.

Slader was undeterred and briskly asked my size on top and bottom, looked me up and down and decided on two principal looks – one: slacks, shirt and bright jacket and two: dresses with heels. The idea was to get me ready for a hypothetical corporate City interview, so Slader was thinking along assertively formal lines. “It is vital to understand the role you’re going for, so you can prepare an outfit which will say: ‘I fit in here’.”

Of the three dresses, one was wrong for me – it was unstructured and billowed out unflatteringly. The other two rocked – and opened up a whole new horizon for me. Whereas I’d looked shapeless and heavy in the clothes I’d turned up in, suddenly, with the donning of a slate-coloured fitted dress with a slightly ruffed chest panel, I looked together, trim and expensive. And deliciously powerful – which I hadn’t in the loose dress. We added red heels and a red bag, baubles about the neck and a cardie, and I felt like I was ready to conquer Goldman Sachs.

At first, I’d balked at the tight fit of the dress, but it held me in and was comfortable, so once I’d got used to it I saw the ingenuity of its harshness – nothing flabby, extra or wasteful here, exactly the impression I’d want to convey in an interview. The other exciting dress was a kind of wheat-gold colour; more ruffled and feminine but still fitted – perfect for the office Christmas party but too showy for an

“If you’re neck and neck with another candidate, your presentation might clinch the role for you,” says Slader. “Even things like ironing your shirt, matching your tie or bag, and polishing your shoes show you care and give you that extra edge.” To book a consultation at John Lewis, call 08456 049 049.