How to dress for an interview

How to dress for an interview including tip on what, and what not, to wear on a job interview, appropriate interview attire, how to impress a prospective employer, business vs. business casual attire, and tips on dressing for success.

How to Dress for an Interview
The first impression you project for a potential employer is the most important one. The first concept an interviewer has is going to be based on how you look and what you are wearing. That's why it's always essential to dress professionally for a job interview, even if the work environment is casual.

You will wish that first impression to be not just a good one, but, a great one. The candidate dressed in a suit and tie is going to make a much better impression than the candidate dressed in scruffy jeans and a t-shirt.

Men's Interview Attire:

  • Suit (solid color - navy or dark grey)
  • Long sleeve shirt (white or coordinated with the suit)
  • Belt
  • Tie
  • Dark socks, conservative leather shoes
  • Little or no jewelry
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Limit the aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase

Women's Interview Attire

  • Suit (navy, black or dark grey)
  • The suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably
  • Coordinated blouse
  • Conservative shoes
  • Limited jewelry (no dangling earrings or arms full of bracelets)
  • No jewelry is better than cheap jewelry
  • Professional hairstyle
  • Neutral pantyhose
  • Light make-up and perfume
  • Neatly manicured clean nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase

What Not to Bring to the Interview

  • Gum
  • Cell phone
  • Ipod
  • Coffee or soda
  • If you have lots of piercings, leave some of your rings at home (earrings only, is a good rule)
  • Cover tattoos

What not to wear for an interview
In order to make a good first impression, you need to dress professionally and separate your social image (if it's more casual, and it probably is) from your professional presence.

Why it's always important to dress professionally for a job interview and what to wear.

What Not to Wear on a Job Interview

  • Flip-flops or sneakers.
  • Underwear (bras, bra straps, briefs, boxers, etc.) that is visible. Don't wear any underwear that shows - even if your bra straps match your top.
  • Shorts.
  • Jeans.
  • Skirts that are too short.
  • Pants that are too low-rise or too tight.
  • Blouses that are too low-cut or too short - don't show your cleavage or your belly.
  • More on underwear and low-rise pants - make sure the top of your thong, if you wear one, doesn't show above your pants.

Trendy vs. Classic

  • A classic interview suit that will last for years is a better investment than the latest trendy attire that will only last a season.
  • Your idea of trendy might not match the interviewer's perspective on what's fashionable, so err on the side of dressing conservatively when you interview.
  • Shop Wisely - Visit outlets, shop sales, shop online, and use coupons to get the most mileage out of your interview budget.
  • Plan Ahead - If you have that one classic interview suit in your closet, you'll be prepared for an unexpected interview, regardless of when it occurs.

Your Professional Presence

  • Your Social vs. Your Professional Presence - What you wear off-the-job and socially doesn't have to be what you wear interviewing or at work. In fact, your professional presence may be very different from personal presence, and that's fine. They don't have to mesh - you can have a closet full of fun clothes and a wardrobe of work clothes.
  • Perfume and Cologne - Your scent (even if you smell good) can be an issue. I once worked for some who wouldn't hire anyone he could smell from across the room. Also, scent is one of the strongest senses and your favorite perfume or cologne might be the same scent the interviewer's ex-girlfriend or ex-husband wore. That subliminal negative impact could squash your chances of getting a job offer. With any type of scent, less, or none, is better.
  • Pantyhose - The question of whether women should wear pantyhose on a job interview created a lot of discussion on this site and the answer was overwhelmingly yes.
  • Tattoos and Piercings - Depending on where you are interviewing, you may want to consider covering your tattoos and taking out your rings. There are companies that have policies which limit both.
  • Starting Your New Job - If you're not sure what to wear on the job, ask the hiring manager before you start. You can also visit the workplace to see what the people coming in and out of the building are wearing. There is no better way to make a bad impression than to show up for your first day because you're underdressed or overdressed.

How to Tie a Tie
Studies have presented that most interviewers make their decision to hire a candidate within the first 2 seconds, even before the first question is asked. Given this knowledge, it is vital that you make a successful first impression. Taking steps to make an impression that projects professionalism, ability, and capability will optimize your chances for success.

To get a handle on how to properly dress for a job interview, let's focus on mastering the professional look of the suit and tie. The key to achieving this professional look is to assemble an outfit that is tasteful, coordinated, and composed appropriately.

Let's take these steps one by one:

Tasteful: Taste is in the eye of the spectator and the spectator in this case is the interviewer. Of course your personal taste will be the one establishing the decisions, but keep in mind that your choices should represent the expectations of your interviewer. You should be careful about the image and style of dress of the company in your sights.

Are they conservative in their appearance like a bank, or more contemporary like an ad agency, or are they somewhere in-between?

Coordinated: What looks good together is both are an art and a science. The first step is to select a suit that is a single dark color or a subtle dark pattern. The classic choice is the dark blue business suit. The color choice of the suit will set the framework for selecting the shirt and tie.

Choosing the shirt and tie is the second step. A good rule is that either the shirt or the tie should have a stronger pattern or color while the other should have a subtler pattern or color, but they should both not be too strong nor too subtle.

With these ideas in mind it is helpful to gain hands-on experience to see what looks good on you and what you feel confident wearing. One of the easiest ways to learn this is to visit a quality department store and try on a variety of suits and ties. When you arrive, ask for help and tell the salesperson, "May I please get your assistance in selecting a suit and tie that would be appropriate for a job interview at ABC Company". A good salesperson will be able to provide you with several excellent choices of attire that meet your needs.

The Internet is another good place for ideas. Visit the "suit" section of any major department store's website for the latest in what is in style for this season and what appeals to you.

Composed Appropriately: At a basic level this means brown shoes go with a brown belt and black shoes go with a black belt. Clothes should be cleaned and shoes polished and ready to go the night before your interview. More substantively it means the proper tie knot, tied correctly. The tie is the most crucial component of the outfit because it is the most prominent and can be worn correctly or incorrectly and it signals your competency immediately. If you haven't had sufficient experience with tying ties now is the time to learn. A better suggestion would be the Pratt Knot, a very easy to tie knot. It should be noted that shirt collars have different sized openings. The choice of tie knot should correspond to the type of collar opening.


The Pratt Knot is a medium-sized, symmetrical knot appropriate for most shirt collars and should be in everyone's repertoire. Here is how to tie a Pratt Knot.
  • Place the tie around your neck with the inside of your tie, the side with the label, facing OUTWARD, i.e. backward. Place it so the wide end in your right hand and the narrow end in your left hand.
  • Cross wide end under the narrow end and end on the left side.
  • Continue by bring the wide end of the tie up over the narrow end and down through the loop around your neck, remaining on the left side.
  • Next cross the wide end in front of the tie from left to right ending on the right.
  • Now come up through the neck loop and down through the loop made by the previous cross at the front of the tie.
  • Tighten carefully and draw up to collar.
  • The tip of the tie should just cover your belt buckle. If it is too long or too short, reverse these steps to untie the tie and shorten or lengthen it accordingly.

Teen Interview Attire
Applying for a teen part-time or summer, non-professional, job is a little different from applying for a full-time professional position. Dress should be, at the least, neat and tidy. Business casual is usually appropriate.

Your shoes should be moderate and you should avoid extreme hairstyles or colors. Also, keep makeup and perfume to a minimum. No jeans or shorts, no tank tops, crop tops, or anything especially low cut (shirt or pants) or too short (skirt or blouse) - keeping everything professional is a must.

Business and Business Casual Attire
When interviewing, it's always fundamental to dress professionally and to dress in your best business attire, regardless of the dress code of the organization.

Dress Appropriately for Your Workplace

After you have accepted the job offer, you may be working in an environment where business casual or just plain casual is appropriate workplace attire. If you're not sure what you should wear, ask. There is no better way to make a bad impression than to show up for your first day of work standing out likes a sore thumb because you're not dressed correctly.

Business Attire vs. Business Casual Attire

One reason that it's important to ask, is that you could have interviewed on a dress-down work day, so, don't assume that the way you see people dressed is how you should dress on the job. Another, is that business casual can mean different things to different employers. There is no strict definition of the phrase. In some cases, business casual attire means pressed khakis and a button-down long-sleeved shirt. To other companies, it might mean dress jeans and a polo shirt. In general, the following is appropriate attire for interviewing and for dressing in business casual.

Business Attire for Interviews

Women

  • Solid color, conservative suit with coordinated blouse, moderate shoes, tan or light pantyhose, limited jewelry
  • Neat, professional hairstyle, manicured nails, light make-up, little or no perfume
  • Portfolio or briefcase

Men

  • Solid color, conservative suit, long sleeve shirt, conservative tie, dark socks, professional shoes
  • Neat hairstyle, trimmed nails, little or no cologne or after shave
  • Portfolio or briefcase

Business casual attire

Women

  • Khaki, corduroy, twill or cotton pants or skirts, neatly pressed
  • Sweaters, twinsets, cardigans, polo/knit shirts
  • Solid colors work better than bright patterns

Men

  • Khaki, gabardine or cotton pants, neatly pressed
  • Cotton long-sleeved button-down shirts, pressed, polo shirts or knit shirts with a collar
  • Sweaters
  • Leather shoes and belt
  • Tie optional

What not to wear

Regardless of gender, when the dress code is business casual it's not appropriate to wear your favorite old t-shirt, ripped jeans and antique sneakers. Keep in mind the "business" part of business casual, and leave your old comfortable clothes at home.

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