What to wear to a job interview

November 20, 2017

Last updated:

Your appearance is the first thing your interviewer is going to notice. Make sure you make a good first-impression by dressing professionally and being well-groomed. The effort you take to look polished for your interview will show that you’re taking the opportunity seriously. You’ll also feel more comfortable and confident during the interview if you’re looking your best. Follow these guidelines while choosing your outfit as a part of your interview preparation.

Interview attire basics

  • You should dress in business formal for almost any professional interview.
  • Business casual may be appropriate for some more informal companies (such as tech startups), but don’t assume that it is. If you’re unsure of the dress code you can check with someone you know at the company or the HR person coordinating your interview. If you’re told to dress business casual for an interview, men can wear dress slacks with a button-up shirt while women can wear dress slacks or a knee-length pencil skirt with a button-up shirt or nice blouse and sweater.
  • Remember that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. When in doubt, err on the side of formal and conservative.
  • Have one or two go-to interview outfits that you feel confident and comfortable in so that you don’t have to scramble to find something. Try on what you’re going to wear in advance to make sure everything fits well. Pay attention to small details and check for snags or scuffs. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed. Especially make sure your shoes are freshly polished.
  • Don’t wear anything flashy or have too many accessories. You don’t want your appearance to be distracting. It’s best to stay away from bright colors and busy patterns.
  • Pay extra attention to your hygiene. Make sure your breath is fresh, your nails are clean, and your hair is tidy. Use no (or very little) aftershave, cologne, or perfume – the smell can be off-putting, especially if you’re in a small interview room.

Interview attire for men

  • Suit: Wear a non-patterned dark grey or dark blue. Don’t wear a black suit, save that for weddings and funerals. Don’t wear a vest with you suit, keep it to two pieces. A two-button suit is a bit more modern but three-buttons are fine.
  • Shirt: Wear a long-sleeved, button-up dress shirt. It should be a white or light blue. Don’t wear a French cuffed shirt. A French cuffed shirt may come off as pretentious or flashy.
  • Tie: Choose a conservative, non-busy tie that complements your suit and shirt. For length, the tip of the tie should be right in the middle of your belt.
  • Socks: Your socks should be dark and coordinate with your suit.
  • Shoes: Wear conservative, polished leather shoes. Make sure they don’t have scuff marks. It’s okay to wear black shoes with a blue suit, just make sure your socks are a medium grey to ease the transition.
  • Accessories: Your belt should match your shoes. Bring a portfolio or briefcase to carry your interview materials and personal belongings.
  • Grooming: Get a professional haircut and style your hair so that it looks neat and doesn’t fall into your face. It’s best to be clean-shaven, but if you have facial hair make sure it is neatly trimmed. Don’t wear cologne or aftershave.

Interview attire for women

What women can wear to an interview is more varied, but follow the guidelines below:

  • Suit: Stick with a dark grey, dark blue, or black suit. Both pant and skirt suits are generally acceptable, though a skirt suit may be preferable in some very conservative companies. A business dress with a blazer is fine. Make sure the skirt/dress isn’t too short – it should be about knee length. Do a sit test in front of a mirror to see how it looks and feels when you sit.
  • Blouse: Wear a light-colored blouse or button-up shirt that coordinates with your suit. Avoid anything low-cut, revealing, or busy.
  • Shoes: Wear dark, conservative shoes in which you can walk comfortably. They should have a short heel and be closed-toe and closed-back.
  • Accessories: Have minimal or no jewelry and avoid anything that is dangly or shiny. Bring a professional handbag to carry your interview materials and personal belongings.
  • Grooming: Wear your hair in a neat, professional hairstyle that you feel comfortable in and keeps your hair out of your face. If you have a habit of playing with your hair, wear it up. Put on light, natural-looking makeup. Make sure your nails are neat and not brightly colored. Don’t use perfume or strong scents.

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