Dress the Part: What to Wear In An Interview to Get the Job

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Make a lasting first impression with your (soon to be) new company. Here's what to wear to make your interview a complete success.

You have waited patiently, arranged all of the pieces the puzzle, applied for that position you have been dreaming about, and got the “call”.

They gave you exactly a week until the interview, so that gives you seven days to get ready, next Thursday, is the big day.

You feel confident about how to manage the questions about your skills, accomplishments, past situations, career, conflicts, personality, bosses, and more.

Now it's time to get dressed. Perhaps looking the part is not really your thing. Or, maybe you do love to dress up—too much. 

Related Article: Dress for the Job You Want: Why Looking the Part Matters

So what exactly does it mean to "dress for success"? Is your interview attire hurting or helping you in the job process? Here are the guidelines to follow to get the job you want by looking the part. 

Emulate Company "Style"

Find out how people dress in the company you are going to interview with. Search online, google images of the company, call friends who might work there, and drive by the company, preferably during lunch hours or near the time the company closes. If you still can’t figure it out, use your common sense. Going to an interview with law firm downtown doesn’t require the same formal attire as going to an interview with an Internet startup.

But don't forget the golden rule: it’s better to go overdressed than underdressed. If you're interviewing in a more casual setting—i.e. fashion, technology, etc.—dressing in formal attire might actually work against you. This is why it's important to find out what employees dress like normally. That being said, don't take it as an excuse to wear jeans. Even if you're interviewing in a casual environment, dressing up indicates your level of dedication and attention.

Show Your Personality, But Keep It Minimal

Since an interview is a formal occasion, it's always advised to go for more of a traditional look. This can vary by industry. If you're interviewing in a more conservative industry—medical, finance, legal, etc.—it's advised to dress in a suit (or at least a shirt/tie) for men, and similarly for women, a pant or skirt suit. If you're dying to add a pop of something that makes you "you"—think small, like accessories. For men, think a funky tie or unique pair of socks. For women, possibly a colorful silk scarf or a pretty statement necklace. Just don't go too over the top.

Don’t wear too much cologne or perfume since some people can be very sensitive to fragrances.

Preparation is Key

Prepare your outfit ahead of time. Make sure your outfit is dry cleaned and ironed beforehand. Polish your shoes and check everything for stains. You don’t want to be looking for clothing one hour before the interview.

Shave the night before, but if that is not possible, shave the same day, being careful not to irritate your skin or cut yourself. Shower the same day, it’s a must.

If you are a woman, style your hair properly. If your hairstyle is outdated, update it! – Some people have no clue how important this can be. Don’t use too much makeup. Anything that distracts the interviewer from what matters, which are your capabilities and what you can bring to the table, works against you.

If you are a man, make sure to have a recent haircut and again the safest choice is something elegant and classic that blends in.

Looks That Work

For men, a good choice of outfit for a formal interview is a charcoal or navy 2 or 3 button suit with a white shirt and blue tie. For a business casual interview, you can wear dress pants with a tie and a sport jacket or a button-down shirt and khaki pants. Avoid monochromatic looks as well as athletic cut clothing.

For the suit and jacket looks, wear dark dress shoes with rounded tips and dark socks, preferably with laces. Colors such as cream or brown for suits are jackets, are more appropriate for weddings or social gatherings but not for job interviews. If you are going to a job interview with a company where creativity is valued, you can be more daring and trendy with your outfit, including more colors, styles and patterns on your shirt or tie.

Related Article: Interviews & First Dates: The Tools You Need to Get to #2

Go for this:

Man in suit

Instead of this:

Man in suit

For women, and again depending on what company you are interviewing with, a classic colored suit such as navy, brown, beige or gray are the safest choices for formal interviews. Go for a solid colored or small patterned blouse instead of large patterns. Skirts are more formal than pants so have that in mind when making your choice. Choose a medium heeled shoe as high heels are not recommended, and can be inappropriate in some cases. No sandals.

If your interview is business casual, you can wear dress pants, usually navy or dark and a blouse with a jacket (not a suit). In either case, avoid using too many accessories. I would recommend going for small earrings, a watch, and a small necklace. Avoid bright colors and crazy patterns as well as anything that might distract the interviewer. Also, avoid any clothing that might show or highlight a body part, like very short skirts, tight pants or tops that show a lot of cleavage. Avoid big scarves or bulky sweaters as well.

Go for this:

Woman dressed for an interview

Instead of this:

One of the secrets to getting the job during an important interview is to know that first impression counts more than you can imagine. Make it so your outfit doesn’t overshadow your worth. Lastly, please don’t forget to wear the most important thing of all, an authentic smile. Without that, nothing else really matters. Now good luck on the big day!

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