Whether you’re applying for your first job or making a major career change, you should know how to successfully prepare for a face-to-face interview. On top of crafting an impressive resume or learning how to answer challenging job interview questions, it’s also a good idea to learn what to wear for a job interview to get ahead of the pack.
Here are seven tips to help you make a great first impression.
1. Get a sense of the company culture
Kim Zoller is the CEO of ID360, a company that specializes in personal branding. She says that knowing what a company does and what they expect from you as an employee isn’t enough anymore. It’s also important that you know their culture, values, and priorities.
What does this have to do with clothes? Well, imagine showing up to an interview with a laid-back tech company wearing an overly formal suit. They may assume that you haven’t the slightest idea who they are.
To determine what to wear for a job interview, start by researching how the company’s employees dress on a regular workday. Alternatively, you could also directly ask their HR department how you’re expected to dress for the interview. There’s a chance they might even appreciate the gesture.
2. Try wearing a business casual attire
Let’s say that you’ve done your research, and you’ve discovered that you’re applying for a company that’s a little less traditional. Maybe you’ve even seen their current employees coming into work in a casual outfit.
In this case, stay on the safe side by going for a business casual look. It strikes that happy middle-ground between the awfully relaxed jeans-sneaker combo and the strictly formal suit-and-tie look. This would show your potential future bosses that you can be professional without taking yourself too seriously.
You can come up with your own business casual ensemble by assembling dress slacks, closed-toe shoes, and a presentable top. Specifically, for women, that could be any professional-looking top with a conservative neckline. Men, on the other hand, could opt for a sweater or a shirt with an optional tie.
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3. Be prepared to wear these formal closet staples
Meanwhile, if your applying for a bank or a government agency, chances are they err more on the traditional side. You may expect their standards on workplace attire to be a bit stricter in terms of formality. This is why you should pre-stock your wardrobe with the following traditional staples to complete your interview outfit:
For Women: Formal Job Interview Closet Staples
- Navy-blue blazer
If you’re looking for something slightly more interesting than a black jacket, then the versatile navy-blue blazer is the way to go. You can dress it up with khaki pants or a professional dress. You could also go the other route and dress it down by rolling up the sleeves and pairing it with well-fitted jeans. The key is to make sure that the blazer fits you well and is free of any tears or stains.
- Button-down shirt
A classic staple in any professional look, the button-down shirt doesn’t have to be boring. You can be a little more playful with your choice of fabric (silk or chiffon, anyone?) or color, as long as you don’t go overboard. For instance, a neon-colored button-down made of leather will surely help you make a statement… but not the kind you should be aiming for.
- Suit skirt
To complete your office wardrobe essentials, look for a suit skirt in a solid color like black, gray, or navy. Although you can choose a lighter-colored skirt, consider that you might have a harder time keeping that clean and stain-free throughout the day. In terms of length, stay on the safe side and avoid the bad kind of attention by going for a skirt that doesn’t go above the knee.
For Men: Formal Job Interview Closet Staples
Fortunately for men, the business formal look is more straightforward, making the margin of error significantly smaller. You can’t go wrong with a solid-colored pair of coat and slacks (black, gray, and navy are safe bets) that is well-tailored and cleanly-pressed.
- Long-sleeved shirt and tie
If your goal is to go back to basics, you should have a couple of long-sleeved shirts and ties to go with your coat-and-slacks set. Since you only have a few pieces to concern yourself with, just make sure that the colors are complementary. Opt for the fresher gray-and-blue combo instead of the black-and-white.
- Leather shoes and tie
The state of his shoes can say a lot about a man. Keep yourself looking both professional and stylish for your job interview by having good-quality leather shoes in black or brown and a belt that is similar in color.
4. Give yourself enough time to plan and try on your interview outfit
Don’t feel silly about worrying over your interview attire this much because you’d be doing yourself a favor. It’s one last thing to think about on the big day, and, ultimately, you’d be avoiding the hassle of mending a loose button or stitching up a tear. After all, seasoned interviewers and hiring managers can easily pick up on body language cues indicating that you’re unprepared or uncomfortable. It’s best to avoid that as much as possible.
5. Choose practicality over personality
Remember that the main point of a job interview is for them to see what you have to offer. So, you may consider toning down the makeup and accessories, even though these may, on a regular day, let you express yourself. Perhaps you can relax a little when you’ve crossed the threshold into becoming an employee and memorized company’s dress code.
6. Don’t gloss over the basics
Once you’re confident that you’ve put together a winning outfit, it’s time to double-check the basics. Make sure that your hair and nails are clean and properly trimmed. Additionally, and this couldn’t be said enough, your clothes for the interview should be clean, well-pressed, and stain- or tear-free. Finally, the only thing your interviewers should be overwhelmed with is how qualified you are, so keep the makeup, perfume, or aftershave to a minimum.
7. Unless you don’t really want that job, don’t wear these
If you still don’t know what to wear for a job interview, maybe knowing what not to wear will give you a better idea. Try to stay away from ripped or acid-washed jeans, any open-toe footwear, or anything that shows your underwear. If you’re applying for an ultra-conservative company, it may also be a good idea to cover up visible tattoos or remove noticeable piercings, at least until you know their rules about such things.
The Bottom Line
Take these tips as what they are – guidelines, not rules. At the end of the day, there’s only one important thing to remember when you’re deciding what to wear for a job interview. You should be donning clothes that not only showcase your best self, but also make you feel more than ready to take on the challenges of a new job.