What to wear to a job interview: A comprehensive guide

What to wear to a job interview: A comprehensive guide
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 22 January, 2024
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A job interview is a significant moment; every detail matters, starting with what you wear. Interview attire is not just about clothes, it can also affect how your potential employer perceives you and whether they hire you. Being strategic in your interview attire can help you make a good impression. To help you in your next interview, here is a comprehensive guide on what to wear.

Importance of dressing right for an interview

First impressions are important in job interviews. The psychology of first impressions suggests that an interviewer forms judgments within mere seconds that can significantly influence the course of the interaction. One key element that shapes these impressions is the candidate's choice of attire.

First impressions matter

Human brains often make snap judgments, and your interview attire is pivotal in shaping those initial perceptions. A polished and thoughtfully chosen job interview suit or outfit signals professionalism, attention to detail, and respect.

Looking put-together and professional can boost your confidence and present a positive image to the interviewer. Investing time in your appearance before an interview can help you show your values and reinforce the skills in your resumé.

Aligning with company culture

Interview attire is a visual cue that shows whether a candidate aligns with the company's established norms and values. It influences the interviewer's perception of how well a candidate understands and respects the organization's culture.

Adapting your clothing to match the company's culture shows that you understand the organization's workplace and can fit in well. This helps interviewers relate to you and shows them how well you already align with the company.

Reflecting on role awareness

Dressing appropriately for the job signals a candidate's understanding of the responsibilities and expectations of the position. It showcases a level of preparedness and seriousness about the opportunity. It also shows that you've researched the position, indicating that you may be a good fit. This can help the interviewer see you as a strong candidate.

Building trust through professionalism

Professional attire, such as business casual, fosters a sense of trust and credibility. It conveys a candidate's seriousness and commitment to the interview process and the potential future collaboration.

When you dress professionally for an interview, you show that you respect the interviewer's time and are taking the opportunity seriously. This helps you build trust with the interviewer – an important aspect of job interviews.

Woman and man talking in an office

Interview attire

Whether navigating the corporate jungle or seeking your dream job, correctly presenting yourself through how you dress for an interview speaks volumes. Here's a comprehensive guide on how to dress for a job interview for both men and women, covering tops, bottoms, jackets/blazers, and shoes.

Interview attire for men

Here are some options to consider when choosing your interview outfit:

  • Tops: Choose a well-fitted classic long-sleeved shirt in a solid color like white or light blue or with a subtle pattern. Avoid flashy details or bold prints because neutral tones convey professionalism.
  • Bottoms: Choose tailored trousers that complement your body shape in colors like navy, charcoal, or black. Classic straight-leg or slightly tapered styles work well.
  • Jackets/blazers: Ensure your blazer or suit jacket is well-fitted and has structured shoulders. Stick to single-breasted blazers in classic colors such as navy, charcoal, or gray.
  • Shoes: Choose closed-toe dress shoes in classic styles like Oxfords or Derby. Match the color of your shoes to the color of your belt, but stick to neutral shades like black or brown.

Interview attire for women

Slightly different, here are some outfit combinations to consider for women:

  • Tops: Choose a conservative well-fitted blouse or button-down shirt. Stick to classic styles in neutral tones like white, light blue, or pastels.
  • Bottoms: If you choose to wear a dress or skirt, it should reach the knee or slightly below. Alternatively, you could wear trousers that complement your body shape and have a neutral tone.
  • Jackets/blazers: Blazers for women should be well-fitted with a defined waist to give a professional and polished appearance. Stick to single-breasted styles in classic colors.
  • Shoes: Heels or flats in neutral colors are ideal. Prioritize comfort, especially if the interview involves extended periods of standing or walking.

General interview attire tips

Ensure your hair is neat and well-groomed, your nails are clean, and your accessories are minimal and professional. Wearing a watch or a subtle necklace can add a touch of sophistication. Regardless of the specific item, always prioritize well-fitted clothing. Clothes that fit well contribute to a polished and professional appearance.

How to dress for interviews in different types of workplaces

Understanding the appropriate attire for job interviews is crucial to making a positive and lasting impression. Whether you are interviewing for a professional, business-casual, casual, or virtual workplace, you should be aware of the subtleties of each environment. To make the best impression, present yourself in a way that aligns with the company's culture and dress code. Let's explore how to master the art of dressing for success in different workplace cultures.

Professional workplace

Professional workplaces often adhere to a formal dress code. They prioritize a polished and sophisticated appearance.

  • Men: Wear a well-tailored suit in neutral tones like navy or charcoal. Pair it with a crisp, long-sleeved dress shirt, a conservative tie, and polished dress shoes.
  • Women: Wear a tailored suit with a neutral-colored blouse or a knee-length business dress. Closed-toe professional heels often suit these options best.

Business-casual workplace

Business casual allows for a more relaxed company dress code, but you should ensure that you maintain a professional appearance. It's a balance between formal and casual.

  • Men: For a business casual interview, wear khaki pants with a button-down or polo shirt for a polished look. You can also add a blazer for a more formal touch.
  • Women: A business casual outfit can include a knee-length skirt or dress pants paired with a blouse or knit top. A blazer or cardigan complements the outfit well.

Casual workplace

In a casual environment, the emphasis is on comfort, so choices of attire are often more flexible.

  • Men: For a casual dress code, wear clean and well-fitted khakis or dark jeans paired with a collared or button-down casual shirt. You can add a casual blazer or sweater to complete the look.
  • Women: Wear dark jeans or casual pants with a blouse or casual top for a polished appearance. Add a cardigan or casual blazer to finish the look.
Woman wearing a headset in a virtual interview

Virtual workplace

Virtual interviews still require a professional appearance, even if the work environment is casual. It's essential to convey competence through the screen. Dress as you would for an in-person interview based on the company's culture. Pay particular attention to your upper half and the background, which is visible on the screen. Wear a professional shirt, blouse, or blazer for your upper half. For the background, sit in front of a neutral space like a plain wall or you can blur out your background if it’s too distracting.

General tips

Offering more guidance, here are some other tips to consider:

  • Look into the company's culture and dress code before the interview.
  • When in doubt, it's always better to be slightly overdressed. It's easy to remove a piece of clothing, like a blazer, if you're overdressed.
  • Always pay attention to personal grooming, regardless of the workplace culture.

What not to wear in an interview

On the flip side, certain interview outfits can detract from your qualifications and leave a less-than-ideal impression on the interviewer. The key is to strike the right balance between showcasing your style and following the expected dress code. Let's explore some specific items to avoid for in-person and virtual interviews.

Tennis shoes or sneakers

Athletic footwear can give the impression of being too casual and may not align with the professional setting of an interview. Instead, choose polished dress shoes or loafers that complement your interview outfit.

Excessive accessories

Over-accessorizing by wearing flashy watches or too many bracelets can be distracting and might give off an unprofessional vibe. Keep your accessories minimal with classic choices like a simple watch or a subtle tie clip. Oversized or noisy jewelry can also divert attention from your qualifications and professionalism. Choose smaller subtle jewelry like stud earrings or a delicate necklace.

Ill-fitting clothes

Clothes that are too tight or too loose can create a sloppy appearance and suggest that you don't pay attention to detail. Ensure your attire is well-fitted for a polished and put-together look.

Too much makeup

Heavy makeup may be distracting and not suitable for a professional setting. Choose polished, natural makeup that enhances your features without overpowering them.

Overly trendy outfits

While staying fashionable is important, overly trendy outfits may not align with the conservative nature of many workplaces. Choose classic, timeless pieces, such as the ones mentioned under the business-casual section, that convey professionalism.

For virtual interviews

Here's some guidance that can help you find what to wear for a virtual interview:

  • Vibrant colors or busy patterns can be distracting. Wearing those could make you seem less professional.
  • On a similar note, a messy or cluttered background can distract your interviewer and show that you do not have good organizational skills.
  • Even for virtual job interviews, dressing too casually, like in loungewear, can make you seem unprofessional.

Conclusion

Dressing professionally for a job interview is a crucial element that can greatly influence the outcome. First impressions matter, and your attire is a powerful tool that can shape the interviewer's impression of you. It is essential to understand the nuances of dressing appropriately for different workplace cultures, including professional, business-casual, and casual settings. This guide helps you to understand what you should wear to a job interview. As you prepare for your next job interview, remember that dressing professionally is more than a formality – it's a strategic move that can make a lasting positive impression.

Woman interviewing a man

FAQs

  1. Is it better to overdress or underdress for an interview?
    When in doubt, it's generally better to overdress. Business casual or formal attire signals your professionalism and respect for the opportunity. It's easier to adjust a slightly too formal outfit in a conservative environment than to modify an outfit that is too casual.
  2. What kind of shoes should I wear to an interview?
    Polished dress shoes or loafers are a reliable and safe choice for men. Women can go with closed-toe flats or heels as long as they are comfortable and not overly flashy. Clean and well-maintained shoes contribute to an overall polished look.
  3. Are there specific colors I should avoid when choosing interview clothes?
    Avoid overly bright or flashy colors, as they can be distracting. Stick to neutral tones like navy, gray, black, or white. These colors convey professionalism and add to an overall polished look.
  4. Should I wear jewelry or accessories to an interview? If so, what's appropriate?
    Keep accessories minimal, and choose classic pieces. For men, a simple watch or tie clip often suffice. Women can choose subtle earrings or a delicate necklace. Avoid anything too flashy or distracting.
  5. What should I do if I'm not sure about the company's dress code for interviews?
    When in doubt, asking any of the company's human resource (HR) representatives, recruiters, or hiring managers about the organization's dress code is acceptable. Alternatively, you can browse the company's website or social media to get an idea of the accepted attire.
  6. Is it necessary to consider regional or cultural differences when dressing for an interview?
    Yes, it's crucial to consider regional and cultural norms. What might be appropriate in one location or industry could be inappropriate in another. Researching the local expectations or asking for guidance can help you make the right choices.
  7. Can I incorporate my personal style into my outfit, or should I stick to traditional business attire for an interview?
    It's important to balance your style with appropriate interview attire. This means finding a middle ground that works for you. Stick to formal business attire as the foundation of your outfit, and use accessories or subtle style choices to reflect your personality. But ensure that any personal touches are still professional and appropriate for the setting.

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