How to Dress for an Interview

10Nov10

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” – Anonymous

Building on the interview theme I started last week, I thought I’d talk today about how to dress for an interview. A mistake many people make early in their careers is not putting enough thought into their initial appearance (I don’t mean you have to be a supermodel to get a job, I do mean you should make an effort to look put together).

Even in a casual office (like Intel), it’s important to make a good first impression when you walk into your interview. Dressing the part is more about professionalism than your fashion sense, so keep that in mind.

I’m not very skilled at putting outfits together for men, so I didn’t even try. But my co-worker Nick, being a male himself, had some insight on what men should wear to interviews. This is what he had to say:

“Men should wear a dark suit that is well fitting – the fit is everything, a suitable tie (not too flashy) and good quality shirt. It can be coloured, but again, shouldn’t be too flashy. No single part of the outfit should pop or stand out. Not wearing a suit is reserved for specialised jobs only. It is a question of respect.”

So there you have it, gentlemen.

Here are some interview outfit examples I put together for females:

And for males (and females), here are some suggestions I have for dressing for an interview:

  1. Dress up. Even if you think the environment you’re going to work in is fairly casual, dress up anyway. It’ll make it look like you’re taking the interview seriously. It’s always better to be over dressed than under dressed. For men, a suite and tie always looks nice. And for women, a blazer and pencil skirt hits the spot as well.
  2. Wear clothes that fit you and that you’re comfortable in. This seems simple enough, but unless you’ve worn the outfit for an extended period of time before, you may be treading dangerous waters. Last year, I had an interview for a PR agency and I borrowed a friend’s belt. The belt looked great with my outfit but I wasn’t used to wearing belts, and this one didn’t fit quite right. As a result, I spent half the interview fidgeting with my belt instead of focusing on the questions I was being asked.
  3. Don’t wear jeans. Seriously. Pretty much every generation older than Gen Y sees jeans as very casual, and sometimes even sloppy. Jeans may be fine for the office once you get the job (or they may not be), but don’t wear them to an interview. If you want to be taken seriously, wear some nice pants instead.
  4. Dress conservatively. This is kind of a no-brainer for men, but ladies, this means absolutely no cleavage, no short skirts, and wear tights.
  5.  Keep your hair neat and avoid trendy styles. This means your hair should be clean, brushed, and tidy. Skip trendy hair styles like poofs and messy buns (if your female) and shaggy or spiked hair (if you’re male).

Do you have a “go to” outfit that you always wear to interviews? What are your interview dress rules? Remember, you only have one chance to make a FIRST impression. So make it count.

Ps. Now that you know how to dress professionally, you’re on your way to ace your next interview. But more important than clothing, you need to be prepared to answer those tough interview questions. To do this, check out: “5 Difficult Interview Questions and How to Answer Them.”

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5 Responses to “How to Dress for an Interview”

  1. 1 apbatpdx

    I couldn’t agree more. It cannot be understated how much one should dress-up to get the job they want. I know that people say “first impressions are important” all the time, but it is because they are!

  2. Well-fitting is key! Glad you mentioned this. Sometimes guys just don’t understand…

  3. Great advice. Dress is a very important in making a good first impression. Being comfortable is one to remember for me, I mistakingly buy formal wear that makes me feel stiff. Interviews are stressful enough, there’s no need to be worrying about a belt, in your case, or an uncomfortable pair of heels. There should be a balance between professionalism and having good taste. Thanks for including the suggestions on clothes combo’s, they’re stylist with a business flare. Good point about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have.


  1. 1 5 Difficult Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them « The Confessions of a PR Gal
  2. 2 Staying Sane « The Confessions of a PR Gal

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