What to wear to a job interview

Posted January 05, 2021

What you wear to a job interview can say a lot about you. And as a result, they can be a baffling and stressful aspect of the interview process, and in fact the entire job search process. After all, not only must you focus on making a great vital first impression in person, but your interviewer will also likely be evaluating your attire to get a sense for how you might fit in with the company culture. So knowing the right way to dress for any interview is critical to not only making a memorable (good) impression, but also fitting in with the environment around you. 

Our team at Careerbliss knows that while clothes don’t change what kind of employee you are, they can definitely affect how you’re perceived. And when an employer doesn’t know you beyond your resume, perception is everything. 

But does your interview attire really matter? Isn’t it your experience, how you carry yourself, and the work you showcase the most important things for an interviewer to consider in the hiring and decision-making process? 

Why your job interview attire matters

Numbers don’t lie. Fifty-five percent of first impressions are based on your clothing choices (styles, colors, groupings. But even more astounding is that 65% of interviewers cited clothing and style choices in their selection of one candidate over an equally qualified candidate.

What do your clothes say about you? How do you want to be perceived? Capable? Good leader? In control of the situation? Dependable? Ready for anything? We hear you. Clothing can help highlight those aspects about yourself. Ready to choose your interview attire? Without further adieu, here’s your quick guide to choosing the perfect outfit for your interview, 

Dressing by industry

As you peruse the article and start to pull together the perfect interview outfit, keep this in mind: The industry you’re interviewing in should inform your style choice. Are you going to a startup? A fortune 500 company? A small, family-owned business? Not all interviews call for the same look. Something too formal and professional can make you look unyielding and unable to fit into a family-oriented culture that doesn’t take itself too seriously. On the other hand, if you’re interviewing at a professional services firm, you’ll want to bring your A-Game so your interviewer can see the professionalism with which you’ll face the public in your role daily. 

Interview attire for men

  • Business casual attire for men

A neutral button-down collared shirt pairs well with a clean, pressed pair of slacks and a belt. Leather or patent leather shoes are always a good look. The “casual” part isn’t an excuse for loafers.

  • Professional attire for men

A crisp white shirt under a tailored suit jacket and neutral colored tie can make you look like the true professional you are. A good-fitting suit and shiny shoes say alot, and are a good investment if you’ll be showing up to work everyday at the company.

  • Casual startup attire for men

Ditch the hoodie. A good pair of khakis or dark-wash jeans with a polo or a collared shirt under a sweater are always a solid casual startup look. Toss on a blazer, and you’re golden.

Interview attire for women

  • Business casual attire for women

A sheath dress with a cardigan or blazer, or a pair of slacks with a blazer and some dressy flats can pull an instant business casual outfit together in a snap. Wear a button-down collared shirt or a no-button blouse

  • Professional attire for women

You can’t go wrong with a good pantsuit or skirt and matching jacket. These are the standard pieces of the formal work attire. Pair a neutral, white or blue top with your formal outfit to add a touch of brightness to the look. You’ll exude confidence, leadership and professionalism.

  • Casual startup attire for women

Startups and casual environments are not an excuse to be sloppy or show up in yoga pants. This is a chance to show your smart style with a pair of flats, some khaki or dark-wash denim, and a button down collared shirt. Break the barrier of the old and new company interview paradigms in sleek style.

What NOT to wear to a job interview

While it’s very important to know the best practices of dressing for a job interview, it’s equally important to know what to not wear, and what to completely avoid wearing to a job interview. Remember, your clothing and style can say more about you than you want them too. Your job interview is a time to let your experience shine, not your bling or your wild personality. As you prep your job interview toolbox and closet, be sure to keep in mind these clothes, accessories, colors, and hairstyles to avoid.

  • Avoid costume jewelry or anything too big or “statement-y” 
  • Avoid crazy hairstyles or styles that show off your tattoos. 
  • Leave the bright, crazy or loud colors at home
  • Women: Don’t wear anything revealing or too short. Err conservative.
  • Avoid overdoing your makeup
  • Don’t go too casual
  • Leave the flip flops, strappy sandals, keds and sneakers behind
  • Avoid sloppy, overly baggy attire.

Best colors to wear to a job interview

Yes, colors matter. Colors hold meaning and subconsciously invite like or dislike. So what types of colors are best to wear to an interview? Your job interview is not the time to get experimental with colors and style. In general, when it comes to colors, it’s best to err on the side of caution with a more neutral or subtle palette. 

  • Neutrals

Neutral colors help keep the attention on your job qualifications and ability to connect how your past is shaping your present and future. They also promote a sense of calm and quiet, allowing your personality to shine through rather than be lost in loud colors.

  • Blue

Light blues promote a sense of peace and calm while dark blues give off a sense of confidence and leadership, and are always a good conservative look. Light blues shirt or blouse under a suit jacket can also help soften up a look. 

  • Gray

When you’re heading into a less formal, less high-powered interview, a shade of grey is a fantastic alternative to the serious formality of black attire. It’s softer, giving its wearer a more personable, social vibe than black does.

  • White

White is crisp, clean and conveys brightness and enthusiasm. It’s a good staple that goes with anything in your interview closet, and adds a pop of contrasting light to any of the darker pieces.

  • Black

Black is a good option for a very formal interview. Unless you’re applying for a very high-powered position though, you’ll likely want to soften up your look with some alternative colors.

Worst colors to wear to a job interview

Orange is typically considered a faux pas in the interview world for the strange vibes it can give off in an interview when you need to look confident but not flippant. Leave this color in the closet as you prep for your interview and just stick to the neutrals.

However, while brown is a neutral, the color brown can also come off as dull, old-fashioned and lacking creativity. Therefore, while it’s certainly acceptable to wear, we recommend drawing on other colors such as white, gray, and light or dark blues.

Style your hair for success

Good grooming never goes out of style. You don’t need to visit the hairdresser for an updo before your interview, but you should definitely run a brush through your hair and put at least a few minutes into cleaning yourself up. Don’t forget hairspray or a styling gel to avoid loose flyaways. Some good hairstyles for job interviews include:

  1. Low side buns or low side ponytails
  2. Loose curls or waves
  3. A long braid or ponytail
  4. A slightly look (not messy) bun
  5. Well-styled bobs, pixies and side parts can take your interview game to the next level
  6. A well-groomed beard
  7. A freshly-shaven, beard-free look

Quick tips to take with you to the fitting room

As you prepare for your interview and choose your attire, here is a quick pocket-sized cheat sheet you can reference to ensure that you alway are at the top of your interview style game.

Know the typical dress code for the industry, and if you can find out, for the company you’re interviewing with.

Take a cue from how executives in the company dress

Dress for the job you want. 

  • Research dress codes for your position and industry.
  • Look at the two immediate positions above you for inspiration.
  • Dress for success, but don't go overboard.
  • Stick to pattern-free, neutral palettes
  • Stick to current styles to avoid looking dated.
  • Know what the daily dress code is, then take it up a notch or two with your interview attire.

Dressing for your interview doesn’t require an advanced degree, but it does require you to put a little thought and preparation into how to put your best foot forward.

The CareerBliss Team

Your career happiness is our #1 priority here at CareerBliss. To help you succeed in your career, we offer a wide variety of tools and resources to help you out along the way. Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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