What to Wear – and What NOT to Wear – to an Interview

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What to Wear – and What NOT to Wear – to an Interview

Career Development
Tyler Lunato
June 12, 2019

More than one-third of employers know in the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone, according to one survey. First impressions matter, and your clothing choice is an easy way to communicate confidence, poise and professionalism within those first critical moments.

Not sure what to wear for your next interview? Check out these interview dress code do’s and don’ts:

Do: Dress up

One of the best things you can do is to dress well for your interview. Putting a little more effort into your appearance shows that you are interested in the position and that you care about making a good impression.

Before your interview, check out the company’s social media accounts to see how people usually dress for work. You can also ask the HR manager what the company’s dress code is, so you can know for sure what to expect.

The three most common types of business dress code are:

  1. Business Professional: Traditional work environment where suits and dresses are the norm
  2. Business Casual: Less formal than traditional business wear, but is still intended to give a professional impression
  3. Casual: Professional dress not required; jeans and t-shirts are likely OK

You can almost never go wrong by overdressing, but you can make a poor first impression by wearing something too casual. A good rule of thumb is to dress one level above what is expected in the office. If the office dresses casual, dress business casual. If they wear business casual, dress business professional.

The only exception to this rule would be if you are specifically told to dress casually for your interview. In some workplaces, such as a tech startup, casual dress is the norm and the expectation. Generally, though, it’s best to keep things semi-formal.

For men, typical interview attire might include:

  • Suits in a solid color, such as navy, black or dark grey (for business professional environments)
  • White or dark-colored long sleeved shirt
  • Tie
  • Dark socks and conservative shoes

Women’s interview attire could be:

  • Navy, black or dark grey suit (for business-professional dress)
  • Dress pant or skirt just below or above the knee
  • Matching blouse
  • Closed-toe shoes in a conservative color (blue or black)

Do: Dress for success, but dress comfortably!

The length of your visit to a prospective employer will vary. Some companies have one 30-minute interview and that’s it, while others might ask you to conduct three interviews in a row with different groups of people.

That’s why it’s important to dress comfortably. You’re going to be there for a while, so you might as well wear something that feels good. Additionally, if you’re uncomfortable in your outfit, you might be more likely to fidget or fuss with your clothing, which can come off as impatient, nervous and uncertain.

A few days before your interview, try on your clothes and determine whether you need to get anything tailored or dry cleaned, or if you need to go shopping for more comfortable or better-fitting clothes.

Do: Tidy up your hair and/or makeup

Hair and/or makeup are just as important as the clothing you wear. Consider getting a haircut two days before your interview. If you have a beard, make sure it is well-groomed. If you wear makeup, opt for a more natural look to keep it work-appropriate.

Don’t: Wear too much perfume or cologne

After getting dressed for your interview, you might be tempted to grab a bottle of your favorite cologne or perfume. Fight that urge, and to choose to skip it altogether. Your cologne or perfume might smell fabulous to you, but your interviewer might not find it as appealing. If you do choose to wear perfume or cologne, apply it sparingly.

Don’t: Wear distracting clothing

While it’s great to add a bit of flair to your interview outfit, going overboard will not help you make a good impression. Avoid flashy clothing and dangly, large jewelry. Remember, you don’t want your outfit to take the focus off of you and why you are a good fit for the job.

If you’d like to show your personality while still keeping your outfit professional, try adding a few pops of color or incorporating a unique pattern or fabric. For example, you could wear a colorful tie or high heels instead of opting for the usual blue or black.

Remember, first impressions count and your appearance will play a role in how you are perceived by your interviewer. Take the time needed to plan your outfit for your first interview, and check out our other tips for interview preparation.

Don’t worry – you’re going to do great!

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