I usually tell people to assume NOTHING when dressing for a job interview, so in this article, we’re going to look at how to dress for a job interview and not be over or under-dressed.
The internet and YouTube are filled with many guides for dressing for an interview, and most give the same answer – wear a navy or charcoal single-breasted suit, white shirt, tasteful red power tie, and dark oxford shoes. This traditional advice is good; however, due to the broad casualization of most workplaces, suits (and professional attire in general) are less prevalent than they used to be.
Since the idea of professional attire has become a moving target, the go-to approach for interviews also needs to be updated because there is no single outfit that will always be appropriate – and to get it out-of-the-way now so that I do not get any nasty grams, since every industry is different, the most important thing to remember is that it is more respectable to be overdressed than underdressed.
What Is Acceptable Wear for an Interview?
The goal of your attire in an interview is to underscore your professionalism and qualifications without distracting from them.
While it is better to be overdressed rather than underdressed, your goal should NOT be to dress as formally as possible, but instead to dress appropriately.
Overdressing and under-dressing can work against you, and in the context of an interview, there’s no reason to leave anything to chance.
In today’s casual offices, being overdressed risks making you appear not fully in tune with the modern working environment.
It is essential for us older workers as this may make us look out of touch and not a good fit in the environment where we will be working. It can make you appear like a bad culture fit. Then, being underdressed makes you look like you’re not taking the interview seriously.
Neither of these is the first impression you want to give, so it’s worth trying to find the right balance.
How to match your outfit to the workplace
Research, the company. It would be best if you had a sense of the workplace and what formality is appropriate, so look at their Facebook page and photos on their social media to get a sense of what people wear at the office and the overall office environment.
To look good in the interview, try to match clothes, pick colors and fabrics that go together, and make you feel comfortable. It goes beyond just looking good; it dramatically affects how you think about yourself and your confidence, plus you’ll feel great wearing it.
Matching your clothes isn’t to fit into any current fashion trends or to make a fashion statement.
It’s to look good and feel confident, and it is that confidence that you will radiate during the interview.
What Should Males Wear to a Job Interview?
In a traditional conservative bank or formal work environment, you should always wear a suit — a matching jacket and pants, dress shirt, tie, coordinating socks, and dress shoes. A dark-colored suit with a light-colored shirt is always your best option.
Consider an oxford cloth button-down shirt in white, light blue, or a white/blue pattern like stripes. For the pants, a pair of charcoal gray or dress pants in neutral, like navy blue or gray, can work well here.
Alternatively, if you know the office is a casual dress environment (no suit and ties), try a pair of chino pants with a nice sports jacket to dress the outfit down a bit, such as when going on an IT interview.
What should a male NOT wear to an interview?
Any item of clothing with a stain, snag, or hole, or any item that doesn’t fit properly or is uncomfortable, makes you feel self-conscious or needs to be readjusted as you move. Also, like females, NEVER wear beach-type attire like flip-flops, ripped jeans, or shorts — that is just not clothing for a job interview!
What Should Females Wear to a Job Interview?
Dress pants, pencil skirts, knee-length dresses, blazers, neutral or light-colored blouses, sweaters, cardigans, tights, and suits are acceptable for interview attire.
Dress shoes should be closed-toed heels, flats, or short boots.
What should a female NOT wear to an interview?
Clothing always inappropriate for a job interview includes flip flops, wedge sandals, ripped jeans or shorts, tank tops, halter tops, sandals, strapless tops, and dresses.
Also, athletic attire like yoga pants and sneakers are a significant no-no regardless of the office environment.
Even in our casual society, candidates should be dressed in a conservative manner for professional positions.
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Conclusion – And A Special Note
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, there is no right or wrong way to dress. Still, you do want to stay on the conservative side because while you may work in a very casual work environment, your future co-workers won’t care too much about how you dress, but your potential manager or HR may.
I always used to wear a suit and tie, then when I got there (I would arrive 15-20 mins early so as not to rush), I’d watch the employees who walked in (executives and staff workers) and see how they were dressed. After observing, there would be times I’d leave the suit coat in the car or carry it over my arm if they were dressed casually (jeans & polos, etc.).
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6 thoughts on “How To Dress on a Job Interview, And Not Be Over or Underdressed”
Thank you for sharing how to dress for a job interview.
This is great! I think a lot of people need this tip.
I’ve had friends who’ve worn shorts and a regular shirt for an interview… another person had slippers.
Perhaps I should send this over to them.
What do you think about online interviews? Same concept?
Shorts and a regular shirt for a job interview? Did these friends know in advance or were told that there was a dress code and told to dress down? Sometimes the recruiter or person doing the interview will tell candidates to dress down.
Early in my career, I was applying for an entry-level accounting job and both the HR person, and the recruiter told me to wear jeans and sneakers because (1) that was the office attire, and (2) they were going to walk me through the warehouse to show me their process and inventory — and since it was a rather messy warehouse, they didn’t want to ruin any good clothing.
To address your question about how to dress for an online interview…whether it be a Zoom or other type of online interview; women can wear a more casual dress or a skirt and blouse, or a pair of trousers and blouse combination. However, some companies may still adhere to a more traditional dress code. So, in these interviews, a suit with a tie would be appropriate for men, and heels with a sophisticated skirt or pantsuit will work well for ladies. Even if they will only see you from the waist-up… the point is, you still want to dress the part!
Please let me know if you have any further questions or if there is anything further, I can help you with regarding job searches.
I like it when you said – your goal is to dress appropriately. It will come from a good understanding of the workplace. Research your workplace to understand their ethics interms of work dressing and other basic things. That is the key to being prepared for any interview. As a male or female, you will gain insight into what you should wear. The top of it is that it creates confidence in you and your interviewer
Thank you for reading the article and providing me your feedback on dressing for an interview. Many folks do not pay enough attention to the way they look at an interview. They will spend a lot of time researching for their résumé and cover letter, but they should also be researching for the atmosphere and the environment in which they are applying to.
You should try to learn if it’s a business, business, casual or casual work environment. Also, the type of role that you’re going for whether it be marketing finance, technology, education, medical or other – each one of these careers have their own dress code and you should research that so that you can dress appropriately.
Failing to dress appropriately by wearing ripped jeans or too casual of an outfit will have the interviewer looking at you and thinking that you don’t care about the job and thinking your not taking it seriously enough.
Once again, thank you for your feedback and comments, if there’s anything you have questions about just leave a comment below and I will be glad to respond thank you !
Thank you for these tips on what to wear and not to wear on a job interview.
I’ve been to job interviews at least 3 times and it was not actually the questions that I was concerned about. It was more of the way I looked and how to present myself because as I was often told that first impressions last ☺.
It never occurred to me to do research on the company and find out the dress code for their employees before showing up for an interview. But I always dressed safely and went in dress pants and blouses for all my job interviews.
By the way, I like what you said about dressing appropriately. I think this is the best advice we could give anyone who is going for a job interview.
Thank you, Alice!
Many people fail to make the connection that to make a significant and lasting first impression is, as you say, the way you look and how you present yourself, but also how you dress is what folks see first. Like wrapping on a present, or a book cover, it will set the immediate tone and how you are perceived – well before the interview starts.
It’s the total package per se.
If you have more questions, please share them in the comments below, and I will be happy to answer them!