How To Dress For A Job Interview

Robin Schwartz

How To Dress For A Job Interview

Whether it’s fair or not, judgements are often made within minutes of meeting someone for the first time. When you walk in to an interview, your appearance is immediately assessed by those in the room to determine your fit for the role. Interviews should be taken seriously and your attire and appearance should be as well.

Dress For The Job: For Men

The expectations for dress could very well depend on the industry or job you’re applying for. You wouldn’t expect a college student to dress in a three-piece suit for a potential internship opportunity. It’s important to be aware of the job and company you’re meeting with. Interview dress for professional positions may likely have different expectations than interview dress for industrial positions.

In general, the following is recommend for men in an interview:

  • A suit in a neutral color such as black, navy or grey
  • Pressed, collared shirt which coordinates with the suit
  • Tie (tied appropriately)
  • Belt
  • Clean shoes which coordinate with the suit
  • Little to no jewelry
  • Professional hairstyle
  • Briefcase/portfolio

Clothing should fit well and be clean. If you don’t have a go-to interview outfit, invest in one. In some cases, wearing professional slacks, a shirt and tie might be appropriate for an interview. You have to consider the company and position. If you’re applying for a manager level or director level position, the suit is a must.

Dress For The Job: For Women

The interview dress code for women is a bit more complicated considering the various fashion choices for professional female attire. This leaves a little more flexibility when a woman is assembling her interview outfit. Still, that outfit should/could include:

  • Pant suit or skirt suit in black, navy or dark grey. If deciding to wear a suit with a skirt, make sure the skirt is of a modest and comfortable length when sitting down.
  • Collared shirt or blouse to coordinate with the suit/skirt
  • Professional dress
  • Nylons, tights or hosiery for those wearing dresses/skirts
  • Coordinating and conservative shoes
  • Little to no jewelry
  • Professional hairstyle
  • Briefcase/portfolio

While women’s clothing shouldn’t feel restrictive, it should also not be too revealing. The clothing options for women may be greater but that could also leave more room for error.


Be Seen, Not Smelled

Many of us tend to go “nose blind” to smells that we’re used to. Perhaps it’s our perfume or cologne or even an aftershave. If you insist on wearing cologne or perfume to an interview, wear very little. Better yet, spray a fraction of the amount you normally do on yourself. Overpowering a room with your scent can be a real turnoff.

Aside from the potentially pleasant smells of perfume and cologne, other unpleasant smells need to be acknowledged. Don’t forget to wear deodorant, especially if your interview is during the summer months. Having good hygiene is a must. Brush your teeth before the interview and pop a mint in before you walk in.

If you are a smoker, do your best to avoid it in the hours leading up to the interview. Walking in reeking of cigarette smoke may really offend your interviewers. Oftentimes, those who smoke will attempt to mask the smell by spraying cologne or perfume. This is even worse since the smell of smoke is now complimented by an overpowering perfume/cologne.

What To Avoid

You want to be noticed for your skills, not for an interview blunder.

  • Don’t wear poorly fitted clothing, dirty clothing or really obnoxious colors.
  • Don’t wear any apparel with political or organizational affiliation.
  • Don’t wear shoes that are too tight or heels that are too high. High heels are fine if you can navigate in them but looking like you could lose you balance at any time isn’t okay.
  • Don’t underdress! If in doubt of the attire expectations, dress for the job above it. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  • Don’t chomp on gum during the interview. It’s distracting.
  • If you have a lot of piercings, consider removing a few or wearing less obvious hardware.
  • Don’t put your tattoos on display – unless you’re interviewing at a tattoo parlor.
  • Don’t leave your phone on! Having your phone ring or beep in the middle of an interview is rude and unprofessional. Don’t even take the risk – just turn it off completely.

Prep Tips

Once you have an interview scheduled, start putting together your clothes. Make sure that what you have fits, is clean and is properly pressed. Don’t find yourself scrambling the morning of because you outgrew something.

Prepare any documents you have the night before and put them in your briefcase/portfolio. Leave it by the front door so you don’t forget it!

If your clothes are dry clean only, take them to be washed immediately after your interview. This way, you’ll have your interview clothes ready should you be called back for a second interview. You may feel it’s appropriate to dress more casually for the second interview based on the attire of your interviewers, but you should maintain the level of professional dress you exhibited in the first interview.

Dressing appropriately for your interview and paying attention to the details shows respect for your interviewer and the organization. You’re asking them to consider you for the position which requires them to take you seriously. Dressing right will help the organization see you in the position!

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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