What to wear to a job interview

Job Interview Clothing Tips

You only get one chance to make a first impression. What you wear to an interview will affect how you are perceived by the employer. Many employers will not admit it but they place a great deal of importance on the manner in which a candidate dresses for an interview. Remember, a lasting impression is a great start, so dress to get hired.

Congratulations on securing yourself an interview. Appearance does matter when it comes to making a first impression - the question is, 'what should I wear to a job interview?' We have collated top industry tips to help you decide your interview outfit.

You should always be smart in an interview, aiming to dress in the same dress code as the company or be a little smarter. The statement ‘you can never be too smart’ does, most of the time, hold true. If you're going to get it wrong you should be too smart rather than not smart enough.

You should dress according to the season. If it's the middle of summer and you've decided to wear a three piece suit to your interview, replace it with a smart, light-coloured shirt and a jacket.

Plan ahead of time

It’s important to allow yourself plenty of time to choose your outfit in advance. Firstly, planning your outfit enables you to deal with any wardrobe mishaps. There’s nothing worse than throwing something on in the morning of your interview to find that it doesn’t fit or that there’s a button or two missing.

Secondly, outfit preparation lets you relax on the day of your interview. You don’t want to be rushing as your haste is likely to follow through to your interview, and recruiters or employer will be able to sense it. But if you plan ahead, you’ll be able to don your outfit at a relaxed pace and go over your interview preparation notes one last time.

Look into the company

When deciding what to wear to an interview it’s important to consider the company in question. Many offices and corporate environments operate in traditional business attire, in which case you should go for a conservative look; think tailoring, suits, shirts, ties, dresses, blazers and leather shoes. The first thing you should do is research the culture of the company or ask people you know who are in the same industry. Is it a professional environment where employees wear suits and ties every day? Or is it a more casual workplace where t-shirts and jeans are okay? If the company interviewing you is more creative or a start up, you can opt for something a little more casual.

If you’re genuinely not sure what to wear to your interview, simply call the employer or recruiter to ask. Your proactive nature is sure to win you brownie points.

Be comfortable in your outfit

We’ve all seen the debates about heels in the workplace. Don’t feel you have to wear heels to look the part, but if you do opt for a bit of height, make sure you can walk in your shoes comfortably. You don’t want to be distracted by the fact that you could topple at any moment, nor do you want to faceplant the lobby floor.

Comfort also applies to your outfit. Your interviewer will be able to tell if you’re uncomfortable in your clothes.

If you feel a little nervous, the ‘fake it until you make it’ tactic does work. Just as putting on a smile and adjusting your body language can improve your mood, dressing up sharply can help you to feel more confident even if the thought of an interview makes you feel like a nervous wreck.

Do all interviews require the same attire?

There are positions that you can leave out the suit jacket for men and women, but all other suggested guidelines need to be considered. Creative positions such as advertising and design may allow for a more liberal look. You also need to consider the company; if you’re interviewing for a front desk position in hospitality, acceptable interview attire for a position with 3 Star Hotel will differ from the Luxury Hotel.

For a formal interview (one in which you have been invited by the employer), you should always dress smartly. As a general rule, an appropriate interview outfit for both men and women is a suit.

Comfort Looks Good on Everyone

Interviews are nerve-wracking enough, so don’t let what you’re wearing add to the stress. If you’re physically comfortable, chances are you’ll feel more at ease during your interviews. Not to mention, constantly fixing or adjusting a piece of clothing is distracting and will take away from your conversation. So, if that button up is a little too tight, or those heels are fire but you can’t walk in them, leave them at home. A comfortable candidate is a confident candidate.

A Little Tailoring Goes a Long Way

In addition to what you wear, the way your clothes fit speaks volumes. You don’t want your clothes to be too baggy or too tight - both for making a good first impression and for being comfortable. Do your pants drag on the floor? Do the shoulder seams of your blazer or blouse end where your shoulders end? If you’re not sure, ask a friend while you’re out shopping or find yourself a tailor. And an iron or steamer should be your new best friend.

Personality is a Fashion “Do”

It’s important to be authentic and let your personality shine through your style. Add something that’s memorable – a statement necklace, printed shirt, etc. More of a minimalist? Wear something you typically reserve for special occasions like a silk scarf or your favourite pair of patterned socks. You’ll get a mood and confidence boost that’ll keep you on your A game.

One caveat: You want the hiring managers to focus on your answers, thoughts and questions, NOT what you’re wearing, so make sure your outfit doesn’t become distracting.

Dress for the Job (and Department) You Want

Thinking back to the grey area theme, there is no one-size-fits-all interview outfit. Different departments have different expectations, and different companies will have different ideas of style. For example, are you interviewing for a role that is client facing or computer facing? Don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter for help if you’re stuck on what that grey area is for the team you’ll be interviewing with. We’re here to help!

Err on the side of caution

If you’re not sure what to wear for your interview this year, it’s better to play it safe as it takes seconds to make an impression.  If you turn up to your interview slightly overdressed, you’ll be fine; the interviewer will see you’ve made an effort and are keen to create a positive impression. But if you arrive underdressed, you’ll come across as uncaring, badly prepared, and you may well cost yourself the job.

I recommend staying away from:

  • Sneakers or flip flops
  • Plunging necklines
  • T-shirts and tank tops  
  • Jeans (even though, yes, your interviewers will probably be wearing them)

How to Dress for an Interview – Men

  • Matching 2-piece suit – colour, navy or dark grey – solid or soft pinstripe – tailored fit including trouser length
  • Shirt – long sleeve with a collar – colour, white or neutrals – soft stripes work well but no loud patterns.
  • Tie required – you can add a pop of colour but don’t go overboard with a wild pattern or print.
  • If your job interview doesn’t require a suit then it’s suggested you wear dark colour trousers (navy, dark grey or black) with your long sleeve shirt and tie.
  • Shoes – dark leather or leather looking – clean and polished.
  • Socks – dark colour dress socks.
  • Belt – leather to match colour of your shoes.
  • Finger nails – clean and neatly trimmed (manicured if possible)
  • Facial hair – neatly and tightly trimmed.
  • Hair – neat and professional, make sure the back of your neck is trimmed.

How to Dress for an Interview – Women

  • Your overall look should be sharp but not flashy, and elegant but not overly formal.
  • Suit – navy, black or dark grey.
  • Skirt – should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably, just at or past the knees is appropriate, stay clear of miniskirts (it’s not advised to wear a dress for an interview).
  • Coordinated tailored shirt or blouse, should have a collar. Transparent blouses are absolutely unacceptable. The colour should work well with the suit (white, ivory or light blue work well) and the neckline should be towards the high side; never reveal too much skin
  • If your interview is informal, consider smart natural casual wear
  • Underwear – a bra is required, use a natural skin colour and if you are wearing a skirt tights or stocking are suggested
  • Shoes – closed-toe conservative shoe that you can walk in that should complement your outfit but not be the centre of attention.
  • Hairstyle – should be conservative and should not cover your eyebrows. Avoid styles which excessively cover your face and avoid spiked. It should not be wild and messy; wearing it up sometimes can give you a more professional look.
  • Make up – be conservative and it should match your complexion, lip stick should be neutral.
  • Nails – trimmed and clean (manicured if possible), keep colours toned down.
  • Wear simple jewellery, no bling; pearl earrings and a simple watch works the best
  • Avoid bangles, charm bracelets, large hoop or door knocker earrings – anything that will clang or jingle at the interview.
  • Don’t over accessorize, you can add a silk scarf to bring in colour and personality.

Try on your outfit a couple of days in advance to ensure that you are happy with the way you look. If you feel comfortable and confident, this will help you to relax and perform at your best in the interview

Tips to consider

  • Wear your smile, a smile projects positive energy and sets the stage for the interview.
  • It’s all about the details of being neat, clean and well-groomed and you want the interviewer to be paying attention to what you have to say instead of being distracted by what you’re wearing.
  • Fresh breath – brush your teeth and use mouth wash, bad breath can destroy your interview – bring a breath mint or strips and take one before entering the building.
  • Go easy on the perfume, after shave and cologne – you never know what scents can remind someone of someone they don’t like or some scents are over powering
  • Check the corporate imagine of the company you are being interviewed for – cover any visible tattoos
  • We suggest getting your clothes ready the night before so on the day of the interview you don’t have to make any nervous decisions.
  • All clothing needs to have wrinkles ironed out.
  • Check your clothing to ensure there aren’t any stains or tears.
  • Use a lint brush on your clothing.
  • Ensure your clothing fits correctly - nothing too big or too tight.
  • If you have dandruff brush yourself off before entering the building - dandruff on a dark suit can take away from your look.
  • Carry a portfolio or briefcase – carry it in your left hand so your right hand can give or welcome a hand shake.
  • Items not to bring into an interview – gum, cell phone, Ipod, any type of beverage.

What if the company has a relaxed dress code?

How employees of the company dress every day for the company has no bearing on how you dress for your interview. Even if the company is business casual or the new Friday casual; it is still highly suggested that you follow expected interview attire.

Some organisations operate a dress code of ‘business casual’ or may not have a dress code at all. This generally means you can be a little more relaxed in your approach, but you should still make an effort to look smart and avoid jeans, trainers, anything too tight and t-shirts with slogans. It’s important to do some research into what ‘business casual‘ means to the relevant company. Dress for an interview the way you would if you were going out to represent the company at a business meeting with a client rather than how you may dress for a regular day in the office.

Final tip

You want to look ready to step into the role you’re seeking. Being able to answer questions and concentrate during an interview is important, so wear an outfit you feel comfortable in. Be sure to check the weather the night before and have a couple of outfits ready just in case the weather changes unexpectedly.

Good Luck