Interviewing

What To Wear to an Interview

May 12, 2021

First impressions matter, especially in an interview. Even the clothes you wear contribute to the impression you leave on an interviewer, so it's important to wear the right attire to look professional. In this article, we discuss why its important to dress properly for an interview, what to wear to an interview, and give you some general tips for choosing what to wear at your next interview.

Related: Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

Why it's important to dress properly for an interview

It's important to dress properly for an interview because it gives the interviewers a strong first impression of how you present yourself professionally. You might be the most qualified candidate, but if you don't present yourself well for your interview, then you may leave a bad impression. It can also give the interviewers the idea that you don't respect them enough to make an effort to dress properly for the interview, further reducing your chances of getting the job.

Dressing for properly for an interview can also give you confidence and put you in the right state of mind. The psychological benefit of wearing professional interview attire can help you perform at your best. This can even benefit you during a phone interview because it puts you in a professional mindset, which you wouldn't have if you were sat in your comfortable clothes.

Related: Phone Interview Tips to Get You to the Next Round

What to wear to an interview

The clothes you wear to interview will depend on a number of things. This means that you should do some research on the company you're interviewing with before choosing what to wear. For example, when interviewing for a legal position, you would normally be expected to wear formal clothing. On the other hand, if you were interviewing for a tech startup, you may only need to wear business casual clothing.

With that in mind, however, if you're not sure about what to wear, always err on the side of caution and wear formal clothing. It's unlikely that your interviewers will be ok with you wearing jeans and a t-shirt to your interview, unless they've specifically said so. Here are some general guidelines to follow when choosing what to wear to an interview:

Clothing

For a formal interview, the safest and most widely accepted clothing choice is a suit and pants or suit and skirt combination. This should be combined with a button down shirt or formal blouse. Typically, you should choose muted colours for the suit such as black and dark blues. Formal button down shirts should also follow the same colour guidelines, but white is also an acceptable colour choice. Alternatively, a dark-coloured formal dress that comes down below the knee is also acceptable.

For a business casual interview, the options available are more varied. In terms of shirts, there are many options including button down Oxford shirts, polo shirts, blouses, collared shirts, and professional dresses. Smart-casual pants include khakis and trousers. Skirtst that come below the knee are also acceptable. Try to avoid jeans as they are considered informal. For overwear, a jumper or blazer is suitable, or a professional looking coat.

Try to avoid wearing casual clothing to interviews, regardless of the dress code (unless specified by the interviewer). This includes t-shirts, jeans, and other informal clothing. Also avoid wearing your work clothing, unless specified by the interviewer. For example, if you are interviewing for a mechanic job which requires a practical test, they may ask you to bring your own overalls and work boots.

Footwear

The footwear you choose for a formal interview must be clean and professional. You should also aim to wear comfortable shoes, and not be breaking in new shoes on the day of the interview. For a formal interview aim to wear smart dress shoes in black or brown, pumps or low, closed-toe heels. They should be clean and not scuffed or scratched.

Similarly, for a business casual interview, try to choose a pair of comfortable, professional looking shoes that are clean. Wear similar shoes to the formal interview format, but you have more room in terms of colour and variety. For example, wear smart leather shoes, open or closed heels, or flats.

Avoid casual shoes such as trainers, running shoes, sandals, high-heels or excessively brightly coloured shoes. These may be more fashionable but they can also give a less than professional impression to the interviewer.

Accessories

For formal interviews, it's a good idea to keep it simple in terms of accessories. Wear simple, professional jewellery and avoid large, attention drawing pieces. Simple earrings are also acceptable as long as they aren't distracting.

For a business casual interview, you have more freedom in terms of expressing yourself with accessories. However, don't overdo it. Watches, bracelets, rings and earrings are all acceptable in moderation.

Be sure that your accessories are comfortable and practical too. Especially if you may be required to complete a practical component of your interview. An oversized ring that makes it difficult to write is not a practical option.

Tip for choosing what to wear at an interview

Here are some top tips to help you when you're choosing what to wear at your next interview:

If in doubt, keep it simple

If you're not sure about what to wear, the best approach is to keep it simple. A suit and pants or a suit and skirt combined with a smart shirt and shoes are an excellent, simple option for interview clothing. Owning a well-fitted black suit to wear to interviews will give you the confidence and security to know that you always have a good option, even if the interview is last minute.

Always keep the job and company in mind

You should always keep the job and the company you're applying to in mind when choosing what to wear. Sometimes it will be obvious that you need to wear formal clothing like a suit for the interview. In other cases, you may have more freedom in what you wear. For example, if you were interviewing for a fashion writer position, it would be reasonable to be more fashion oriented with your clothing choice.

Aim for comfort and confidence

When thinking about what to wear for your interview, the two things you need to focus on most are comfort and confidence. Feeling confident in your clothing has an obvious impact on your mental state during the interview; if you feel confident, you can act confidently. In a similar vein, it's important to feel comfortable during the interview. It can be challenging to sit through an interview in uncomfortable clothing, and this may negatively impact your performance.

With that in mind, avoid clothing that is overly tight or restrictive. Try to also avoid shoes that you haven't worn before as they may hurt your feet. Also, aim for jewellery that is practical and not restrictive.

Be subtle with aftershave and perfumes

If you're going to wear aftershave or perfume to your interview, try to be subtle. Take a "less is more" approach to the amount you put on. Too much aftershave or perfume can be offputting to an interviewer as it overwhelms the senses. You also run the risk of the interviewer having a negative reaction to the smell.

A subtle, pleasant fragrance can leave a positive impression on the interviewer. However, a smell you find enjoyable, may be less so to someone else. If you're unsure about a fragrance, it might be better to avoid it.

Do a dress rehersal

When you've made a choice of clothing for your interview, make sure to do a dress rehearsal. Try on our outfit and wear it for an hour. Make sure everything looks clean, professional and fits you properly. Make sure you try walking around in your shoes, and also try to sit in the clothing. This will give you a good idea of whether you're going to be comfortable or not during the interview.

Before the interview, be sure to give your outfit one last look over. The clothing should be clean and free of any stains, holes, wrinkles or pet hair. This way, you can be confident that you're going into the interview wearing something that looks clean and professional, and you feel comfortable in.

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