what-not-to-wear-to-a-job-interview

What To Wear To An Interview

By Mike Simpson


Give yourself a pat on the back.  After all…

You did it!

Only a week ago you got that call that you had a job interview coming, and a long, stressful preparation lay ahead of you.

“What do I need to study?  What questions am I going to be asked?  And what the heck is a behavioral interview question?“, are just some of the questions you probably asked yourself.

But guess what?  You figured it out, maybe even with a little help from The Interview Guys!

OK, so no what?

Well, you’re not quite at the finish line yet because you’ve yet to actually have your interview, which means you’ve yet to make your first impression.

And what’s (unfortunately) the biggest part of a first impression?  Well the way you look, naturally.

Making A First Impression

This world is in many ways a wonderful place.  Unfortunately, one thing that we haven’t been able to fully grasp as a species is that there is almost always more than meets the eye regarding someone’s appearance, and to take the cliche one step further, one shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover”

In other words, when it comes to your job interview, it DOES matter how you dress and how you present yourself because your first impression is going to go a long way in determining how well you fit in with the company.

Why bring this up?

Well, because I don’t want you to waste any time or brain power banging your hands on the table or shouting from the hilltops about how unfair, insensitive or inappropriate this is.

It just IS THE WAY IT IS unfortunately.

So now that we can both agree on that, the most important question is “What do we do about it?”

Make The Hiring Manager “See” You In The Position

This is your ultimate goal, and should define how you present yourself in the interview.

You want the hiring manager to subconsciously (or hopefully consciously) visualize you as a part of the team already, and your appearance is the first thing they will analyze when making this consideration.

So think about this…

If you’re applying for a job where you’re expected to be a door-to-door Bible salesman, it might not be in your best interest to show up to your interview dressed like a dominatrix.

Now, this is an extreme example, but you get the picture.

You want to try and get a feel for the work environment and dress accordingly.  Here are some categories of dress along with their corresponding industries:

  • Conservative: Corporations, financial institutions, accounting firms, law offices.
  • Business Casual: Sales, government agencies, education, retail, small companies, information tech, engineering, real estate.
  • Casual: Construction. repair, landscaping, plumbing and any other job where you may get dirty (obviously).
  • Creative/Fashionable: Fashion, entertainment, graphic design, video game design, music.

What you need to do is figure out which industry that you are interviewing in and the culture of the company (or even department/team) that you’ll be working in and try to match up as best as possible.

Here’s a great chart from Business Insider that can give you a little hint as to how to dress for your interview:

how-to-dress-like-a-leader-in-any-work-environment-infographic-professional-dress-interview-attire

(Now obviously these are guidelines. I don’t think you need to break your back trying to “conform” to these guidelines. These are just to help you get an idea…)

How To Find Out The “Dress Culture” Of Your Company

Believe it or not, this is a pretty easy thing to do.

The easiest way to find out how people dress at a certain company is to ask questions.

Do you have any contacts within the company?  If so, ask them!  What do people around the office wear everyday?  What did they wear for their interview?

It shouldn’t be too hard for you to get a feel for what an industry standard is for your industry and role.  Look it up online, there’s a lot of info out there.

Try websites like Indeed.com.  They have great forums where you can post questions.  This is a great resource to find all kinds of information regarding both dress code and anything else relating to your company.

TRY THIS TACTIC:

1. Head over to the Indeed Forum

2. Search for your company’s culture or work attire (Or anything else you want to know about the company!). For example:

3. Check out the result I got:

MIKE'S TIP

You can get a good feel for a company's culture (including dress) by also visiting their website.  Often they will have videos (maybe even their own YouTube Channel) that will show videos of "life at work". They often interview employees from various departments, one of which may be the one you are interviewing for.  To take it a step further, take a look at their Facebook and LinkedIn pages because they often post what I like to call "culture clues" there.

Avoid These Common Job Interview Attire Mistakes

If interviewing for positions outside the entertainment/bar environment then be careful not to make these mistakes:

  • Wearing clothing that fits improperly. Don't look like a kid playing dress up in mommy or daddy's clothes!
  • Wearing clothing that is too revealing.  It's great to "show off what you got", but there is a time and a place for this and the interview room is NOT the place.  Error on the side of being overly conservative if anything!
  • Don't be too flashy!  You want to be remembered for your personality and your ability to answer the questions with aplomb and not because of your bright green suit!
  • Avoid outfits with large logos or odd or inappropriate messages.
  • Stay away from too much jewelry.  Too many chains, necklaces or bangles can cause unnecessary noise (clanging together) or a distraction
  • Resist the urge to make large statements with your grooming choices.  Again, know your audience!  Dying your hair pink, painting your nails bright green and putting thirteen new facial piercings in is completely within your right, but it may not make you the most attractive candidate for the position.

MIKE'S TIP

No one is asking you to completely "sell out" and to be something other than yourself.  But here's the deal.  There is a job.  And you want it

How badly?  

If your level of desire for the job is not enough for you to make some minor changes to your appearance, than perhaps you should consider looking in an industry or for a position that has more relaxed standards.  As I said before, nobody loves the way the system is set up now.  But it's the way it's set up.  So you have to make the decision for yourself if it is all worth it for you.

Pulling It All Together

At the end of the day, you want to become the hiring manager's Perfect Candidate, and the first impression you give will start you headed in that direction.

Remember, the most important thing to do is dress like you already have the job you are interviewing for.

You Should share these interview attire tips with your social friends!

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19 Comments

  • Mike Simpson

    Reply Reply March 9, 2015

    Have you thought about what you are going to wear to your job interview? Are you stressing out about the dress code for the company you are interviewing with? Let us know below and we’ll give you a hand!

  • ny

    Reply Reply May 6, 2016

    Hi

    Actually, I am having a bit of trouble. I M applying to Canadain Property Stars :working with lawns etc, and even though it’s I think casual, I would still be part of a corporation and so … I’m just confused.

    And the interview is next Sunday, and they scheduled it very formally. On their website, they also mentioned that the interview process was rigorous. what do u think this means?

    thanks

    • ny

      Reply Reply May 6, 2016

      Oh and thanks for making this page!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply May 12, 2016

      I would dress a bit more formal just to be safe..

  • RC

    Reply Reply May 17, 2016

    My problem is a bit unique… I am applying for a different role in my company. And my company is very large (worldwide, even), and we are known for our standards to dress codes, even though in recent years they have become more relaxed. The position I am interviewing for is an assistant to an executive (formal) in a leisure business (informal) area. I’m not sure if a suit will be overkill, or if dress slacks and a professional top would be to casual… What side do I err on?

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply May 18, 2016

      RC,

      Do you know the person who had your job before you? How did they dress? How will you be expected to dress on a daily basis? This would be a good place to start.

      If you had to err, it would be on the side of being over-dressed. Generally speaking, executive assistants are expected to be “business semi-formal” dressed, so that’s what I would shoot for.

      Mike

      • RC

        Reply Reply May 18, 2016

        The person who has the job (and who I do know personally) is currently out on vacation, so no such luck in asking her. I will err on the side of caution and wear a pantsuit.

  • Jay

    Reply Reply June 1, 2016

    I am getting interviewed at a Montessori Academy School and possibly others like it. I typically wear black slacks, a nice shirt and a blazer for interviews. I know I will be working with children and the teachers working there wear jeans and t-shirts but should I still wear the blazer and a colorful shirt? I typically wear dark color, especially black, but I do have other “colorful” shirts. What should I wear.

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply June 2, 2016

      Hi Jay,

      In this situation, you want to strike a balance between “impressive” and “approachable”. Typically, the environment you are walking into is a more casual one filled with colors, laughter and imagination. Walking into this dressed in black might be the wrong choice despite the level of professionalism that it grants you.

      I’d suggest still maintaining your sense of personal style, but lean more toward the “business casual” look than “business formal”. This means leaving the blacks at home and opting for more earth tones and colors. Think khakis or light-colored dress pants and casual sport jackets instead of double-breasted suit jackets.

      Good luck!

      – M

  • Scott

    Reply Reply September 2, 2016

    I have an interview for a parts room position for farm tractor equipment and would like to know if jeans are okay to wear?

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply September 2, 2016

      Scott,

      I would tend to stay away from jeans for any job interview, unless your interview will require you to get dirty. Go for a pair of khakis or something a tiny bit more formal.

      Hope this helps!

      Mike

  • Carl

    Reply Reply September 7, 2016

    Flying to LA on Sunday to interview for a VP of sales job. President is picking me up Sunday afternoon, and taking me to their office. Being that it is a Sunday….. Do I dress down and just go with a dress shirt and slacks, or up with a sports coat? Is navy September appropriate?

    Thanks Carl

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply September 8, 2016

      Hi Carl,

      Nice work first of all! Since the president is picking you up I would go for a sports coat. Navy is perfectly fine.

      Good luck!

  • Annie

    Reply Reply September 25, 2016

    I am interviewing for an office assistant position in the engineering department of a large utility company north of Seattle. During the testing process, everyone (employees) seemed to be dressed very casually, but it was “blue Friday” (you’re in Seattle, I know you know what that means!) I’ve researched the hiring manager and human resources people on social media, and all seem to be very casual. I feel like a suit is overkill, but this is a relatively high paying position and I don’t want to set myself apart in a bad way. Ideas? Help?

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply September 26, 2016

      Hi Annie,
      It’s hard to be absolutely sure but I would err on the side of something semi casual. Maybe not a full suit but not totally casual either. In other words “in-between”. I like that you did your research on social media and I would say that it’s always best to go more professional looking unless you are interviewing for the type of company that “defines” themselves by their “casualness”. Good luck!

  • Mario Buckley

    Reply Reply October 14, 2016

    I’m interviewing for a senior legal position and I’m meeting the General Counsel (GC) for breakfast on Sunday. The GC is a woman and I didn’t find much information online about how the employees dress, so I’m kinda lost as to what to wear. Would a suit without a tie be a good “in between” outfit or should I go business causal with a sports coat? Thx

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply October 15, 2016

      I think either of those options will work just fine. If it was me I would go with the suit sans tie option.

  • Marcus Morris

    Reply Reply November 7, 2016

    I am going to an interview for the position of residential construction inspector. I was thinking that a nice pair of khakis with a button up shirt and nice shoes would be appropriate. Is this acceptable attire for such a position.

    Thank you,

    Marcus

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply November 8, 2016

      That sounds perfectly fine Marcus. Good luck!

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