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What to Wear to a Job Interview

by Marianne Stenger
Posted: September 01, 2015

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When preparing for a job interview, researching the company’s mission and practising some basic answers and questions is important, but one thing job seekers often overlook is ensuring that their outward appearance will send the right message too.

Hank Boyer, career coach, business consultant and CEO of Boyer Management Group, notes that while there is some allowance for personal style, job seekers should be aware they only get one chance at making a positive first impression.

“Before a candidate opens his or her mouth to speak, his or her appearance has already communicated volumes,” says Boyer.

“If you show up dressed in a manner that is entirely at odds with a company’s norm, their very first impression of you is that you look as if you don’t belong. And if they can’t see you fitting in, your chances of being hired are greatly reduced.”

So what exactly does it mean to dress the part? Depending on the type of job you’re applying for as well as the company culture, the right outfit may vary from business professional to smart casual, so your first step when deciding what to wear to a job interview is to research the company.

Boyer shares the following five tips for doing just that

Four sets of legs, 2 male and 2 female, waiting in a job interview room, wearing professional attire

1. Understand your audience, industry and profession

It’s important to understand what your prospective employers deem appropriate interview attire, as showing up under or overdressed may harm your candidacy.

For instance, it’s typical for IT professionals to not wear a suit to an interview, but a Wall Street Analyst candidate almost always dresses in a suit, and the fashion industry expects you dress for style.

2. Use your network

If possible, speak to people you know and trust who work for a specific employer. You can use their insider knowledge to find out what the preferred standards for interview attire are.

3. Check contains comments from candidates about their interview experiences with specific employers, including references to the dress code there, so it’s a good place to get advice on a specific company’s preferences.

4. Check with HR and visit company websites

Consider reaching out to the employer’s HR department to ask about interview attire guidelines. You can also visit the company’s websites and see if there are pictures, especially in news articles, of what people wear to work.

5. Too formal is better than too casual

In lieu of knowing what an employer’s standards for interview attire are, a general rule of thumb is to understand what the typical workplace attire is and dress one step above it. It’s better to err on the side of more formal than less formal attire.

Once you have a better understanding of the work environment and dress code you’ll be dealing with, keep the following three things in mind to bring it all together and make a good impression.

Choose your colours carefully

Group of young friends shopping the the markets and deciding what to wear to a job interview

Believe it or not, even the colours you choose can affect the way an employer sees you. According to a survey by the U.S. job site Career Builder, employers prefer conservative colours like blue, grey and black, while the colour orange is often viewed as unprofessional.

Employers also associate different colours with different attributes. For instance, the colour black might suggest leadership skills, while blue could signify that you’re a team player, and white may show that you’re organised. Solid or small patterns are also better than loud or busy ones, which might be somewhat distracting.

Don’t overlook the details

Even the smallest details can make a big impression, so once you’ve picked out your outfit, try everything on to make sure it fits well and have your clothes cleaned and pressed the day before the interview.

Your shoes should also be cleaned and polished, and your socks should match the shoes you intend to wear. Also, make sure your jewellery and accessories complement your look rather than detract from it.

Avoid revealing too much

Crowd of diverse professionals in job attire

In order to keep your interviewer’s attention on your skills, qualifications and winning personality, it’s best to avoid overly revealing outfits. For women, this might include low cut blouses or short skirts, and for men, anything that’s too tight or reveals a lot of skin (including shorts or sandals) could be considered inappropriate.

You may also want to cover up any visible tattoos or piercings, because although body art has gained wider social acceptance in recent years, a neutral appearance is still your best bet for most jobs.

Now that you know how to dress for an interview, check out which top 5 questions you should ask in a job interview, to help you stand out. 



Marianne Stenger

Marianne is a London-based freelance Writer and Journalist with extensive experience covering all things learning and development. Her articles have been featured by the likes of ABC Education, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Psych Central.

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