There are always plenty of things to do before your interview, including updating your resume and researching the company, so choosing your outfit may not be your first priority.
But making a good first impression with a polished, professional outfit can be really important, especially when you’re competing against many other qualified candidates for the job.
Your interview outfit can communicate that you’re professional, organized, and a good fit for the company, so you want to make sure you get it right.
To help you stand out in a good way and exude professionalism and class, we’ve put together this guide on how to dress for every interview.
Read more for help with figuring out what to wear and what to avoid if you want to look your best.
Try to Dress for the Company’s Culture
One of the ways that interviewers may decide if you’ll fit in at the company is by looking at your outfit.
If you’re in a full suit while everyone else is in jeans, your interviewers may think that you don’t fully understand and mesh with the company’s culture. To show that you’re right for the job, you should research the company’s dress code and try to match it.
There are a few different ways to figure out what other people at the company wear: you might look at pictures on the company’s website and social media pages.
If you have a friend at the company, you can ask them for advice. You can even call and ask the person at the front desk what the suggested dress code is for interviews.
Most companies will fall into one of two categories — business professional or business casual. In a business professional environment, you should probably wear a suit (and if you’re a man, also a tie). But in a business casual office, you have a little more flexibility with what you wear.
The same goes for informal offices and creative industries — some of the standard interview rules like “never wear jeans” or “don’t wear bright colors” may not apply in these environments.
To help you pick out your outfit, we’re going to break down some of the best things to wear in each one of these situations.
Business Professional Attire
Finance, banking, and real estate companies often have business professional dress codes. A suit and a tie is your best bet in this kind of environment. Men should wear a suit in a neutral color like black, navy, or gray and keep the tie conservative too (usually solid colors or simple patterns).
For example, you can choose a tie in a solid color like navy or one with a classic pattern like paisley or stripes. You should also wear a pressed long-sleeve dress shirt that fits you well and dark socks. Polished dress shoes, a leather belt, and a professional briefcase can also help round out the look.
Women should choose either a pant suit or skirt suit with a conservative blouse, camisole, or dress shirt. If you’re wearing a skirt, pantyhose are always a good idea. For shoes, you should wear closed-toe flats or heels in a neutral color like black, gray, or tan.
If you opt for heels, make sure that the heel is three inches or less — excessively high heels are difficult to walk around in and might make a bad impression. Finally, you can bring a sleek leather briefcase or neutral bag with you to complete your outfit.
Business Casual Attire
Many businesses in industries like sales and marketing allow their employees to wear business casual attire. A lot of people aren’t sure what business casual really means, so this can be a hard dress code to nail. A good way to think of it is that you’re dressing down a business outfit, not dressing up a casual one.
For example, a good business casual outfit for men is a sport coat, a pair of dressy slacks, loafers, a leather belt, and a patterned dress shirt. If the office is on the casual side, you can go without a jacket or even throw a knit sweater over your button down instead.
Women can wear a nice blouse or sweater with a skirt or dress pants to a business casual interview. For an extra professional look, throw a blazer over top of your blouse. You can also wear a dress if that’s what you’re most comfortable in — just make sure it’s not too short. For shoes, you can wear heels, oxfords, or flats. You can also add some accessories to your outfit like subtle jewelry or a scarf to make it more stylish.
Attire for Informal Interviews
Casual dress codes are becoming more and more common, especially in the tech industry. But even if you’re interviewing at an office where everyone wears jeans and sneakers, you should still dress professionally.
Try to dress one step up from the typical employee. For men, that might mean dark wash jeans and a button down or khakis and a polo shirt. Women can wear a casual dress or dark wash jeans and a nice blouse.
Even if everyone is wearing them, you should definitely skip the sneakers for your interview. Men can opt for a nice pair of boat shoes or loafers, while women can choose a comfortable pair of flats or oxfords instead.
Attire for Interviews in Creative Industries
For most interview situations, bright colors and patterns aren’t recommended. But in a creative industry like graphic design, media, or fashion, wearing an outfit with a bright pop of color is actually a great way to stand out.
You should dress in a professional business casual outfit with one or two colorful items of clothing or interesting accessories to show off your personal style.
Women might opt for a bright blue blazer, a chunky necklace, or a pair of statement pumps to jazz up a basic interview outfit. Men might wear a patterned shirt or blazer in an unexpected color like light blue or dark green.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to creative styling ideas that will make your interview outfit fashionable and memorable, but the trick is to pick and choose for a look that’s tasteful and stylish rather than wild.
How to Dress for Success at Any Interview
No matter what the company’s culture is like, there are a few general rules you should always follow when dressing for an interview. Your clothes should be pressed and in good condition, and your hair should be clean and properly styled.
Paying attention to these details will show that you’re professional, take pride in your appearance, and care about the potential job opportunity in front of you.
a) Launder and Press Your Clothes
Clothes that are wrinkled or stained make a pretty terrible first impression, so launder and iron your clothes before the big day. You should also try to eat your breakfast before you put on your clothes so you don’t accidentally stain them.
b) Check the Condition of Your Clothing
Nobody wants to reach into their closet on the day of their interview and realize their favorite sweater has a hole in it! A wardrobe malfunction like that can cause unnecessary stress (especially if you’re already not feeling well that day) and throw you off your game.
To prevent that from happening, check your clothes and shoes for holes and defects several days before your interview. Inspecting your outfit ahead of time will give you a chance to repair or replace any items that aren’t in good condition so you look your absolute best.
c) Make Sure Everything Fits
After you make sure your clothing is in good condition, you should try it on to see if it still fits. Clothes that are too big, too long, or too tight can look unprofessional, so replace or tailor any items that don’t suit your proportions.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether or not your clothing is flattering, but you can always ask for a second opinion from a trusted friend or family member.
d) Apply Minimal Makeup
Women who wear makeup should be careful not to overdo it. Dark, heavy eyeliner and bright lipstick are too distracting for an interview. Try to keep your makeup minimal and soft.
Apply a light layer of foundation and powder, a thin coat of mascara, and a subtle nude or light pink lipstick. If you wear eyeliner, don’t use a heavy hand, and stick to lighter shades of eyeshadow.
e) Style Your Hair and Groom Your Beard
A big part of looking professional is having neatly styled hair. Make sure your locks are clean and, if needed, style them with smoothing gel to keep them from looking frizzy. If you have long hair, you might consider putting it into a ponytail or bun so it stays out of your face during the interview.
If you have a beard, it should look tidy and trimmed. However you choose to maintain your beard, it is a good idea to groom and style it so it doesn’t look unkempt.
f) Wear Appropriate Accessories
Flashy accessories like diamond-studded watches and long gold chains usually aren’t appropriate for an interview. Men should make sure that their watches are subtle. One with a simple brown or black leather band and a small face is a great choice.
Women should wear studs rather than long hoop earrings and keep other accessories like necklaces and bracelets simple and unobtrusive. You don’t want to wear lots of jangly bracelets and annoy your interviewer!
g) Skip Heavy Fragrances
Your first instinct may be to reach for perfume or cologne before your interview to make sure you smell fresh and clean. But you never know if your interviewer has asthma or allergies that make them sensitive to strong scents, so it’s best to skip the cologne.
If you’re worried about staying fresh on a hot day, bring some baby wipes and a small stick of deodorant with you just in case.
Things You Should Never Wear to an Interview
Although people in certain industries like graphic design have more leeway with their interview attire, there are still things you should never wear in an office environment. Flip flops and revealing outfits top the list. Read on to find out all of the things you should avoid if you want to look professional.
i) Flip Flops and Other Casual Footwear
Flip flops are great for the beach, but they’re not appropriate for the office. The same goes for UGG boots, running shoes, and other ultra casual footwear. Even if you’re going for a casual informational interview, you shouldn’t show up in these kinds of shoes. It gives off the impression that you’re not taking the job opportunity seriously.
There are other shoe options that are just as comfortable but look a lot more professional. When thinking about what to wear to an informal interview, women should stick with leather flats or oxfords, while men should wear a nice pair of boat shoes or loafers.
ii) Revealing Outfits
Both women and men should keep themselves relatively covered up during a job interview. Men shouldn’t undo more than one button on their dress shirt or button down — showing off an undershirt or chest hair can be distracting. Women should make sure that their skirts or dresses aren’t too short and their tops aren’t too revealing.
Dressing modestly is an important part of looking professional, so if you’re not sure if an item of clothing is appropriate, don’t wear it.
iii) Ripped or Distressed Jeans
Dark wash or black jeans are fine for casual interviews, but ripped and distressed pairs can come across as grungy. You want to look polished and professional, so stick to jeans and trousers that aren’t faded and don’t have any holes in them.
iv) Visible Undergarments
A few days before your interview, you should put on your outfit and move around in it to confirm that none of your undergarments show.
If you’re wearing low rise pants or a skirt, make sure your underwear isn’t visible when you bend over or sit. Women should also check to make sure their clothing hides their bra straps, and men should make sure their undershirt isn’t visible.
v) Workout Clothes
Workout clothes have become a standard everyday outfit for many people, but they’re still not appropriate for the office. Unless the work involves fitness instruction or personal training, employees don’t walk around in yoga pants, basketball shorts, and other types of workout gear even in the most casual workplaces, so leave them in your gym bag.
vi) Excessive Piercings and Tattoos
The rules about piercings and tattoos are relaxing, especially in creative industries. But if you have a whole sleeve of tattoos or several different facial piercings, it’s probably a good idea to cover up tattoos or remove piercings that might be considered distracting until you’re more familiar with the company culture. You don’t want your appearance to distract your interviewer or cause you to miss out on a good job opportunity.
In conclusion, your wardrobe choices alone won’t land you the job, but they will help you make a great first impression and set you up for success.
Your appearance is a reflection of your attitude, so wearing a polished outfit will help you demonstrate that you’re professional and the right fit for the company.
It will also keep your interviewer from getting distracted by your outfit and allow them to focus on your skills and experience, not your appearance.
What do you usually wear to job interviews? Share your style tips with us in the comments section below!