How to Dress for an Interview

When you are preparing for your interview, you want to make sure that your outfit will match your professional presence. Keep in mind that professional can have different meanings in various industries. Creative companies, such as graphic design firms, are more likely to be more accepting of less-formal dress, whereas a financial or academic institution is more likely to be highly formal. Part-time jobs will also be less strict about dress than an entry-level full-time job. Before your interview, research standards for dress in your industries.

Waiting for Interview

No matter what the dress code is, keep in mind that for interviews, you should dress slightly better than employees do day-to-day, since you are trying to sell yourself. If you have any doubts, always dress more formally. When you go to the interview, you can look at other employees and get an idea of what you can wear once you get the job.

General Tips

  • Always look neat and clean. Cat hair, stains, and wrinkles are inappropriate no matter what the job is.
  • Shoes should always look clean, so make sure they aren’t scuffed or covered in mud.
  • Be conservative. This goes for both modesty and flashiness. You may learn that your company allows bold patterns or off-the-shoulder shirts, but until you know for sure, stick to the basics.
  • Pajama pants are never appropriate attire. Show that you take pride in a professional appearance and wear nice clothes that fit you well. Clothes that are too big or too tight are not appropriate.
  • Unless you’re applying for a job in a tattoo shop, don’t wear jewelry in piercings other than your ears, and keep tattoos covered. Some industries will be accepting of nose rings and body art, but others, like food service, may have regulations against them, so don’t show them off until you know.

Tips for Men

  • Make sure your hair is neat. You should shave before interviews, or make sure than any facial hair is trimmed. Keep in mind that certain industries, like food service, have regulations on facial hair. If you have long hair, pull it back into a professional ponytail. Long hair may not be appropriate for men in all industries, so make sure you research the company.
  • Clothes should be clean and wrinkle-free. For most companies, a business suit is appropriate. Black, gray, and navy are appropriate colors. Do not interview in a suit with bold patterns, like plaid. Make sure your jacket is fitted and that pants do not appear to be baggy. Your shirt should be a standard color, rather than bright pink or yellow. White is universally appropriate. Whether or not you wear a tie will depend on the formality of the company, but you will wear one for most industries. Learn to tie it in the appropriate length and style. Patterns can be fashionable, but stick to basic colors or designs, rather than ducks or funny cats.
  • Shoes should be professional and clean. Make sure they match your suit. Black is usually the most appropriate color.
  • Be conservative with jewelry.

Tips for Women

  • Do wear makeup, but keep it professional. Use neutral tones and create a natural look.
  • Keep your hair simple. Don’t test the newest crazy style you saw online. Stick with a simple ponytail or leave it down. Make sure your hair looks neat and clean.
  • Wear comfortable and professional shoes, not sandals or tennis shoes. You should wear dress shoes and make sure they are closed-toed and closed-heeled. Keep the height of your heels below two inches, and make sure you can easily walk in them. Some interviews include an office tour, and you don’t want to trip. Wear professional colors, like black, brown, gray, navy or tan, and stay away from glitter, metallic colors, and bold patterns and styles. Simple pumps or flats are the safest option.
  • It is appropriate to wear jewelry as long as it is not too distracting. Chunky plastic jewelry is not appropriate. Stick with simple pieces, like a pearl necklace or a small pendant on a metal chain. Do not wear more than one bracelet or watch, and don’t wear too many rings. Earrings can be stylish as long as they aren’t too long or flashy.
  • Your clothing should match what professionals in your industry wear, but safe options are normally business suits. You can wear professional pants or skirts, but skirts should fall below the knee. Either of these can be paired with a nice blouse and blazer. Professional dresses are another option, but make sure that they have some form of sleeve, or pair it with a tailored jacket. Cardigans are generally too casual for an interview. Make sure that tops are cut modestly, and that there are no flashy designs or patterns. Wear what will be comfortable and seasonally appropriate.

If you have further questions about how to dress for an interview, friends in your industry or your school’s career services center can be great sources of specific information.

Peggy Carouthers

Author: Peggy Carouthers

In a previous life Peggy worked as a human resources and hiring manager for a major national retail chain. Her expertise is in job hunting, hiring, and HR. These days Peggy works as a writer, crafting content for a range of publications.
Peggy Carouthers