For many companies, job interviews are crucial to hiring employees. Applicants are only given a short window of time to impress their would-be-employers. Once an applicant’s resume or curriculum vitae is approved, they are called in for a job interview where they test your general feel, disposition, knowledge, trustworthiness, and likability. Many employers look at how you hold yourself, how you answer questions, how you groom yourself, and–more often than not–what you’re wearing for the interview.
What you wear for a job interview is one of the key elements to inspiring a good first impression to your interviewer. A good job interview outfit can show that you’re professional, capable, organized, and confident. That’s where I come in. I’ve interviewed (and sat in a lot of interviews) many prospective employees where I work and I’ve seen outfits spell the difference between someone getting hired or having their resumes thrown in the trash. I’m here to give you a few do’s and dont’s then give some suggestions for what to wear to an interview.
Like I said earlier, it’s important that you have a good outfit for a job interview–one that communicates professionalism, capability, confidence, organization, and trutworthiness. Here are a few DOs that will help you snag that job.
Take time on your looks. What’s the use of a good outfit if the wearer looks like a street side bum? Take that extra hour in the morning to fix your hair, shave, put on make up, and manicure your nails. When you feel beautiful, you’ll radiate more confidence–and of course it would help that you’d look much much better in your outfit.
Stick to simple hairstyles like buns, ponytails, or simply leaving it down (blow dry it if your hair looks like a mess down). As for make-up, natural looking make up is always the best. Enhance your natual beauty and save the heavy eyeshadow and blush for nights out. Nails should be cut to an acceptable length and they must look clean and simple. If you’re wearing nailpolish, make sure the color doesn’t clash with your outfit, and please please please take off that black nail polish!
Smell nice. Aside from taking time on your looks, make sure you also smell nice. I’ve had people walk in with overpowering perfume or really strong body odor and I couldn’t wait to get OUT of that interview room!
Bad breath is also a major bummer since your interviewer will be smelling your breath every time you open your mouth. Always bring along some breath freshener and avoid smoking before an interview.
Take into consideration the type of job you’re applying for. Different types of jobs have different standards and opinions on what you can wear to an interview.
Formal jobs, such as banking or commercial real estate, require you to dress more formally and conservatively–meaning a traditional suit in very conservative colors for men and women.
For employers who have a slightly more casual approach, corporate casual is the way to go–meaning khakis/slacks and polo shirts for guys and work dresses, non-sleeveless blouses, slacks and mid-length skirts for girls. While corporate casual is more relaxed, this doesn’t mean wear ratty clothes, jeans, shorts, or mini-skirts. Some conservativeness is still required.
For creative jobs in marketing, advertising, fashion or beauty, dress to impress. You’ll want to look trendy, chic, and/or unique. Just avoid the sloppy bum looks. If you aren’t sure whether you can dress liberally for your interview, try making a chic interpretation of what you would wear to a corporate casual interview.
Dress conservatively. Save your party dresses for another occassion! Once, we had an applicant come to the office dressed like she was going to a night club. I can tell you that that interview did not go so well. Girls, remember to keep your backs and cleavages hidden and your skirts no shorter than the tops of your knees. Guys, don’t wear wifebeaters or board shorts. While some companies are more liberal with what is acceptable dress in the workplace, it’s better to play it safe than be sorry later on.
Make sure your clothes are neat, pressed, and clean and that your shoes are well polished and have little to no dirt on them.
Stick to neutrals and/or soft colors. Neutrals and soft colors are more appropriate for interview clothes. They don’t impart a strong, loud in-your-face sort of vibe (as opposed to colors like hot pink) that’s unsuitable for many large offices. Of course, there are exceptions, especially for creatives applying for a job in a creative line of work. But for job interviews, it’s important to leave a good impression. While some people can carry it off–it’s good to remember that loud impressions are not necessarily good ones and they may give off the wrong vibe.
If you’re going to wear a skirt, make sure to wear nude colored stockings. While some interviewers don’t take notice of this, there are others who are more observant to the details of what you’re wearing.
Err on the conservative side. If you’re choosing between two outfits, I would almost always suggest that you err on the more conservative-overdressed side. Seeming too casual or lazy is not one of the impressions you want to leave.
Wear elaborate, over-the-top jewelry. Dangling earrings and chandelier earrings are a big no-no for a job interview. They’re much too flashy, showy and not suitable for the more formal atmosphere of an office. Instead, stick to small and elegant studs when accessorizing.
In addition to this, unless you’re applying at a piercing or tattoo shop, get rid of any piercings that adorn your face and that’ll be visible on your body (aside from one piercing per earlobe for girls)
As for bracelets, while some bracelets work with outfits, I would suggest picking a simple metal (gold or silver) watch to increase your professional impression.
Wear clothes with holes, rips, fraying, or fading. It’s quite fashionable today for jeans and shirts to have holes, rips and tears. While it does look good as a very casual look, it gives the wrong impression of the employee to the interviewer. It sends the message “I’m messy, irresponsible, and unprofessional.”
Wear clothes that are too small or too big. Pick out your right size and make sure it’s at the right length. Clothes that are too small will, at best, make you look like you’re spilling out of your clothes, and at worst, like you’re dressing inappropriately. On the other hand, wearing clothes that are too loose will make you seem untidy and lazy.
Wear strappy sandals or slippers. Wear conservative shoes that give the impression that you are serious about the interview and not like you’re headed out to the beach or a club right after.
Bring a messy bag. Take the time to fix the inside of your bag and organize whatever you have to bring. If you know that you’re bag is going to mess up your sometime during the day, try using a bag organizer or simply change your bag to a more structured one.
Pull something together last minute. It’s your first impression to a potential employer we’re talking about here! Take the time to put together, fix, try on your outfit at LEAST the day before the interview. If you’re unsure if what you’re wearing is alright, get some help from stylish friends or family.
Remember! more informal offices give more allowances as to what applicants wear to an interview. If you’re really unsure of what to wear, call the office’s Human Resources department and ask for a few suggestions or what the general attire for the office you’re applying for is or if they can give you suggestions for what to wear to an interview.
Good luck on choosing your own perfect interview outfit!