You have an upcoming interview, which gives you a reason to do the happy dance. Even if you attempt to keep your dance moves to yourself, it’s difficult to hide your excitement. That is until you start thinking about all the planning and preparing you must do. At the top of that list is deciding the best outfit for your job interview.
There are many things to consider when preparing for your interview. You’ll need to make a list of possible answers to interview questions, decide what you’ll ask the interviewer, review the job description a few times, and conduct research on the company. Your interview wardrobe is just as essential as all of those items – and in some cases, more so.
Interviewers begin assessing candidates the minute they walk through the door and before a word is spoken. As the interviewer sizes you up in a matter of seconds, your wardrobe does the speaking for you.
What to wear to an interview
A job candidate only has one chance to make a solid first impression. Therefore, you should give thoughtful consideration to your interview attire. Your wardrobe choices are driven by the company’s dress code and any explicit instructions from the interview team.
And if you think your wardrobe isn’t that important – reconsider. Dressing inappropriately was ranked number six on a list of 17 top interview mistakes by 316 U.S. employers and recruiters. Read on for tips on what to wear (and not to wear) to an interview so your wardrobe choice increases rather than decreases your chances of interview success.
Interview outfit tips
Regardless of the dress code for your interview, there are some general guidelines to follow:
- Neutral and solid colors work best: white, black, navy, beige and gray are professional interview colors.
- Neat, clean, and wrinkle-free clothing is crucial.
- Slightly overdressed beats underdressed for casual and business casual attire.
- Company dress code should be researched before planning your wardrobe.
- Wardrobe options should be tried on for comfort prior to the interview.
- Modern trends and style in your attire is fine if it reflects you and remains professional.
Business formal interview attire
Generally, interviews call for you to wear professional attire. Women and men should wear suits to interviews for companies with formal business dress codes.
Slightly less formal attire for men might look like a suit jacket with a shirt and tie and slacks. A button-down or sweater could also work. For women, a statement dress is appropriate. Dress pants with a blouse or a nice sweater is also an option.
Business casual interview attire
Business casual clothing is more formal than sundresses, T-shirts, and jeans, and less formal than business suits and jackets. For laid-back and business casual work environments, a knee-length skirt or dress pants with a blouse or nice sweater are options for women. A polo shirt with slacks is an option for men, and a sweater with slacks could also be appropriate.
Casual interview attire
For most interviews in relaxed dress code environments, like a startup tech company, it’s safest to go for business casual attire. However, ask the recruiter or individual who scheduled your interview what the dress code is, if you’re not sure. Typically, jeans or anything less casual isn’t appropriate for job interviewers, even if the company’s dress code is casual.
Relaxed-fit khakis with a sweater or nice polo for men or a blouse for women is an option. Dark wash jeans that aren’t too tight and don’t have holes in them, coupled with a sweater or top, could be an option for interviews where it’s been made clear that jeans are appropriate.
Internship interview attire
Internships are a vital part of college and career development, so you want to dress the part to make a good first impression, in just the same way as a regular job interview. The interview wardrobe guidelines are based on the dress code of the organization you’re interviewing for — if it’s a formal environment, refer to the formal business attire guidelines above, and so on.
Outfits for video interviews
Wardrobe choices for video interviews follow similar guidelines to in-person interviews, so you can follow the guidelines above. Some nuances to consider specific to video interviews include:
- Ideally, avoid wearing colors that blend in too much with your background. Don’t wear a white shirt against a white background, for example.
- Wear professional bottoms for video interviews. It’s common to need to stand during a video interview for one reason or another, and you don’t want to get caught with unprofessional pants or your pants off (yes, it happens)!
Accessories and grooming for an interview
When you accessorize your interview wardrobe, keep simplicity in mind. You don’t want to wear anything distracting.
- Wear a small pendant necklace and earrings, if you like. However, don’t wear dangling earrings that could be distracting if they swing back and forth.
- Shoes should be clean and closed-toed for both women and men, unless you’re opting for open-toed pumps, high-heels, or a dressy sandal for females.
- Nail polish should be a light color and non-distracting.
- Avoid flashy hair accessories — a simple ponytail holder, bobby pins, or a clip is optional.
- Hairstyles for men and women should be well-kept and styled. For long hairstyles, it’s best if it’s pinned or pulled back out of the face.
What not to wear to an interview
Avoid these interview wardrobe pitfalls so you don’t end up in the “no thank you” stack.
- Jeans are a hard pass for interviews unless the interview team suggests you wear jeans.
- Avoid wearing anything too flashy, including bright colors and patterns.
- Keep accessories to a minimum.
- Don’t walk into an interview with wrinkled clothing.
- Avoid wearing clothing that is too tight or too loose.
Extra day-of-interview wardrobe and grooming tips
- Arrive early enough on the day to do a quick bathroom check and look in the mirror while doing a 360 review.
- Make sure your clothing is still neat and professional-looking,
- Put on some deodorant if needed.
- Wipe any sweat from your face and palms.
- Make sure your hair is out of your face, patted down, and not distracting.
- Have a grooming kit with you, including napkins, touch-up makeup, nail clippers, deodorant, and other items that might come in handy.
Dress for success
You want to make an excellent first impression when you walk into the interview room. Your wardrobe is a crucial part of that first impression. Use the guidelines provided here so you can dress for success with confidence!