What to wear to your next job interview

What you wear to a job interview is much more important than you may think. No matter how good your credentials, how you present yourself on interview day will determine the outcome, and that includes what you wear. Turn up to a stuffy business interview in jeans and a t-shirt and you’ll be making the wrong impression for sure. 

What to wear for an interview can be a bit of a puzzle. Different sectors, and even businesses, will have unique unwritten codes about appropriate interview-wear, so it isn’t always straightforward to fathom. If you are going for a job in the fashion industry, what you wear is even more important. In any customer-facing role, clothing may also pay a greater role in the impression you make at the interview stage.

Confused? Don’t panic. While job hunting can seem a lot like dating, there are some simple rules to follow when it comes to making a good first impression. Being prepared is a top priority. That also applies to what you wear. Here’s a guide on how to dress for success. Let’s start with what not to wear.

What not to wear to a job interview

Interview attire mistakes are common when it comes to job interviews. If your prospective employer likes you and is impressed by your competency, but doesn’t like your dress sense, and it comes down to choosing between you and another candidate, your clothing could end up letting you down. It’s not how it should be, but it happens.

There are certain no-nos when it comes to interview attire. Here are a few:

  • Plunging necklines and short skirts
  • Shorts or sundresses (or anything skimpy or too casual)
  • Jeans (unless they are super smart)
  • Bright, funky print ties
  • Overkill with bright colours
  • Too much perfume, cologne or aftershave (it could make the wrong lasting impression)
  • Too much make-up
  • Anything out of fashion or old (it will look outdated or scruffy)
  • Too many accessories (keep jewellery simple and to a minimum)
  • A brand new suit (wear it a few times first to make sure it feels comfortable)

Do your research

Culture-fit hiring is big right now. Businesses want to recruit people that fit in with the culture, values and visions of their business. What you wear to an interview could influence the outcome. 

It’s important to do some research about the company you are hoping to join. See here for the key things you must research before any job interview. 

When it comes to determining the right kind of attire for your interview, always look at the ‘About Us’ page on the company’s website to gauge what type of business they are. You can usually tell from here whether the business is formal or more laid-back. 

Check out the bio information for existing staff. If bio pics portray smart clothing, such as suits, then you should dress similarly for an interview. Casual dress in bio pics doesn’t necessarily mean you can pitch up to the interview in the same. But it will tell you that a suit and tie might be overkill. Smart, casual dress is probably a better option. To be of further help here are some case interview examples.

What to wear for a successful job interview

In most cases, it is important to look polished and professional. A polished look is more likely to impress and shows you have it in you to pay attention to detail.

However, there are three main choices when it comes to an interview dress code:

  • Professional business attire
  • Smart casual
  • Casual

Even with a casual dress code, it still needs to look a lot slicker than the casual outfits you may throw on at home. However, overdressing is also a mistake many candidates make. The best outfits for job interviews for each category above are:

Professional business: for gents this usually means a suit and tie, crisp shirt and black or brown Brogues, Oxfords or Derby shoes. Women should choose a statement dress or a smart blouse/shirt and trousers or knee-length skirt, a smart jacket and simple court shoes with a mid-heel or simply styled flats. In terms of bags (men and women), a brief case is a good shout.

Smart casual: business casual isn’t the same as general casual, but it is a little less formal than wearing a suit. Men should choose smart chinos and a shirt or smart polo shirt (always choose a top with a collar, not a t-shirt) and smart shoes. A tie isn’t necessary. The formal briefcase can be downgraded to a smart satchel.

A shift dress is a great pick for ladies’ smart-casual interview wear. Alternatively, a knee-length skirt and a button-up shirt works. With either, choose simply styled, mid-heeled shoes and a smallish handbag that goes with the outfit. Make sure tights don’t have ladders!

Casual: In some cases, it can be appropriate to wear a more casual outfit to an interview. But casual should still look clean, relatively modern and new. Guys can get away with button-down shirts and smart jeans or khakis, or jeans with a t-shirt and blazer. 

For the girls, a causal interview outfit should be composed of a fitted cotton blouse and smart jeans with a pair of tasteful heels or a loose cotton blouse, dark-wash jeans and simple flats, or a simple dress. Everything should be wrinkle free and definitely no jeans with tears or holes, whatever the fashion.

Dressing for the business you want to work for is key. For a start, appropriate attire shows you have put some effort into understanding the company.

Ultimately, it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident in what you wear. Then you’ll definitely give off positive vibes at the interview. 

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