What To Wear To An Interview
Posted March 21, 2017, by Vivien Luu
Wondering what to wear to an interview? You’re not alone. Figuring out your best ‘hire-me’ outfit is a pre-interview dilemma that stumps even the most fashion-forward amongst us. Beyond looking professional and polished, you need an interview outfit that’s a balance between being ‘you’ and a respectful nod to the company culture.
It’s a lot to think about, especially when you’re already stressed about preparing for the interview itself – so that’s why we’ve made it easy for you. We’ve gathered all the science, fashion advice, and HR tips on how to dress for an interview into one place, so you can dress to impress and land the job of your dreams!
You just got ‘the call’ and now, and you’re feeling absolutely pumped. Getting a callback for an interview is the ‘swipe right’ equivalent for jobseekers worldwide. It’s that spine-tingling thrill that proves your cover letter was on point, and your LinkedIn profile’s sleek AF.
You’re feeling AWE-SOME. Until you realise you actually need to prep for the big day. And more importantly, ‘What the Helsinki do you wear to an interview?’
Are jeans okay? Or should you wear a suit? It says ‘business casual’ on the job ad, but how casual is ‘too casual’? Oh man, does this mean you need to go shopping? What time do they shops close tonight?!
Pre-interview outfit jitters are totally normal. You’re worried because you care. And you’re right to care, because what you wear to a job interview matters. Science shows that a great outfit can empower you, boost your confidence levels, and help you make a killer first impression.
So whether you’re meeting with a recruiter, having an informal catch-up about a role over coffee, or need to shine at a group interview, here’s how to put together your best ‘hire-me’ outfit.
The Three Rules To A Great Interview Outfit
1. Fit And Quality
Ask anyone in fashion and they’ll give you the same advice. A great outfit isn’t about being uber-trendy or spending a tonne of money. It’s about investing in quality pieces that fit you perfectly. The key, as Vivienne Westwood puts it, is to: buy less, choose well.
Fit and quality are king. And no, you can’t have one without the other.
Buy a suit that fits you perfectly but is poorly constructed and uses cheap fabric, and you’ll end up throwing it out next season because it’s either fallen apart, or doesn’t breathe properly. Buy a well-made suit that oozes luxury but is the wrong size, and you’ll have wasted your hard-earned dollars on an outfit that bunches in awkward places or drowns you in excess fabric.
Make sure you buy well-fitted clothes by:
- Knowing what a good fit looks like (and feels like) on you
- Getting yourself a great tailor
To invest in quality pieces that stand the test of time, look for:
- Wardrobe staples that are versatile and can be mixed and matched with other items
- Pieces that are timeless and will transcend seasonal trends
- Neutral colours like navy, grey, black or white
- Garments made from high-quality fabrics like wool, cashmere and silk
Does this mean you’ll need to drop some serious coin for an awesome interview outfit? Absolutely not. Just buy the best quality your budget allows, and aim for garments that will help you build a solid career wardrobe.
2. Emulate The Workplace’s Dress Code
You only get to make a first impression once. So, don’t waste it. Do your homework and find out what the company’s dress policy is.
Why? Because your outfit is the perfect opportunity to show the interviewer that you’re down with the company culture, and that you’d fit right in with the team.
So stalk the company’s social media posts, check out their website or better yet, ask around. If you’re not 100% sure, remember it’s always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.
Depending on the field you work in, and the company you’re applying for, you’ll also want to consider:
- Covering up any tattoos if the workplace is a conservative one.
- If you’re umming and erring about whether you should wear a tie, wear one anyway.
- If you’re a chef, builder or fitness professional, bring your tools and an appropriate change of clothes just in case there’s a practical component involved in the interview. Most interviewers will give you a heads up about this, but it’s better to play it safe.
3. An Outfit That ‘Feels Like You’
If it doesn’t ‘feel like you’, don’t wear it. Being comfortable = being confident, and that’s advice straight from the fashion editors at ELLE magazine.
The last thing you want is to feel self-conscious, distracted or uncomfortable while you’re trying to answer those tricky interview questions. So make sure you put together an outfit that lets your personality shine through, is super comfortable and represents your personal brand.
You want to wear pieces that make you feel amazing because if you look great, you’ll feel great too!
How To Dress For A Corporate Job Interview
Professionals: Lawyers, accountants, business executives, financial advisers, realtors, law enforcement.
Ladies, if you’re after outfit inspiration for a corporate role, look no further than TV legal drama, The Good Wife – a show that’s redefined the business look for any female executive who’s ever felt bored by the same old pantsuit combination.
When it comes to pulling together an outfit that’s powerful, sophisticated, and effortlessly chic, the show’s Emmy-nominated costume designer, David Lawson, gives these top tips for executive women:
- Dress in monochrome: Whether it’s navy, black or another colour you decide on, dressing in what Lawson describes as a ‘column of colour’ will help you come across as a solid mass and make you feel stronger.
- Don’t over-accessorise: Have one significant piece of jewellery, like a necklace or earrings, that pulls your entire outfit together – rather than many pieces that will clutter your look.
- Invest in a statement handbag: Get something that’s elegant, streamlined and big enough to carry your files and laptop around with you to meetings. Nothing kills a beautiful outfit quicker than schlepping around a beat-up handbag.
Outfit Option 1
Outfit Option 2
Gentlemen, if you’re heading to an interview for a corporate job, a well-fitted suit is an absolute must. Whether this is your first ‘proper’ suit for the office or you’re making a return to the corporate world; an impeccably tailored suit will make you look sharp and feel incredible.
In fact, studies show individuals feel more authoritative, competent and trustworthy when wearing formal attire. So, get ready to suit up!
Beyond fit, cut and fabric quality (which we covered at the beginning of this article), GQ recommends you:
- Nix the black suit; opt for charcoal or navy instead: Black suits are for weddings and funerals. Period. Unless you’re applying to be an undertaker go for charcoal and navy suits. The two colours are far more versatile – working across all four seasons – and can be mixed and matched with all patterns and colours.
- Wear a crisp Oxford button-down: Again go for basic colours like white, pale blue or pinstripes. If you’re a little more adventurous and want to show off your personality, lilac and pale pinks are also incredibly versatile and can differentiate you from the pack.
- Put on a sharp tie: No floppy silk ties, no novelty ties. Seriously. Instead go for subtle prints and patterns in classic colours like grey, navy or black. Also, make sure the width of your tie is the same as the width of your suit lapels – that way your outfit will be nicely proportioned.
Last but not least, don’t commit any of these common suit mistakes, and remember to polish your shoes, iron your shirt and shave!
Outfit Option 1
Outfit Option 2
What To Wear To An Interview If It’s ‘Business Casual’
Professionals: Marketers, teachers, engineers, health professionals, start-up employees, tech professionals.
The ‘smart casual’ look can be a tricky one to pull off for an interview. You want to look professional and polished, but you don’t want something that’s uptight or too corporate. So if you’re struggling with pulling together a chic ‘business casual’ outfit, try these top tips:
- Add a formal piece to your ensemble: This could be a blazer, silk blouse, or a pencil skirt. Mixing and matching a formal garment with more casual pieces will elevate your look and boost your confidence levels!
- Avoid extreme patterns and colours: Even if neon pink is your favourite colour, or leopard print is your ‘signature’ pattern, for an interview you want to err on the side of caution and go conservative. Aim for neutrals, and add pops of colour if you want to show off some personality.
- Wear great shoes: Why? Because what shoes you wear, and the condition they’re in can say a lot about who you are. In fact, a US study found participants could accurately judge an individual’s socioeconomic background and personality traits purely by looking at their shoes.
Outfit Option 1
Outfit Option 2
Gentlemen, take note. Business casual does not mean slapping on your favourite jeans and calling it a day. Yes, the CEO might be quoted as being a ‘shorts aficionado’, and yes half of the staff were wearing thongs in the company’s latest Insta post, but this doesn’t mean you can.
You want to keep things on the relaxed side, but you also want to let the interviewer know you’re serious about this job. So make sure you:
- Wear chinos or trousers, not jeans: Opt for dark chinos or tailored trousers. Jeans are a risky choice at this stage of the interview process, so save your favourite pair of selvedge denim for the second or third day on the job!
- Throw on a blazer: When in doubt, add a blazer. Grey, navy or tan are versatile choices that’ll instantly elevate your sartorial edge. You can pop in a pocket square to add a little colour too, but don’t go overboard with the accessories.
- Save the fitness gear for the gym: This means no sneakers, and no track pants. I don’t care how comfortable they are, leave your Yeezys and cropped track pants for Sunday morning brunches.
Outfit Option 1
Outfit Option 2
What You Should Wear To An Interview If You’re A Creative
Professionals: Designers, writers, musicians, architects, chefs, advertising professionals, hairdressers.
If you’re applying for a creative role then you can afford to break some rules, and have fun with your outfit. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to look polished and professional, but you also need an outfit that reflects your creative style and shows the interviewer you’re able to think outside the box.
- Add unexpected details: This could be a top with a cool print, a geeky watch, or the latest ‘it’ pair of sneakers (preferably ones that look so goddamn clean they look like they’ve been freshly unboxed).
- Be on-trend, but not too trendy: This is especially important if you work in fashion or design. Make sure your outfit is a nod to what’s on trend, but has enough of ‘you’ in it that it doesn’t look like you lifted the entire outfit off the pages of Frankie or Oyster magazine.
- Don’t be afraid of a little colour: Again, as a creative don’t be hemmed in by the need to stick with a neutral or safe colour palette. Take some risks and throw in pops of colour that are bold and vibrant.
What To Wear To An Interview If You’re A Tradie
Professionals: Builders, plumbers, electricians, crane operators, scaffolders, miners, forklift operators, factory workers
As a tradie or labourer who works primarily in the field or on the tools, you want to wear an outfit that shows you’re professional, but also practical – preferably something that allows you to quite literally roll up your sleeves and start working immediately if need be. This means wearing:
- Dark jeans or chinos: No rips, paint stains or scruffy cuffs either. You want a nice clean pair of dark denim or chinos.
- A collared shirt: Again, go for dark and subtle patterns, and most importantly, make sure the fabric is durable and hard-wearing. Think wool and cotton blends, rather than silk or linen.
- Boots: You want to wear a pair of boots that are smart and practical. A good rule of thumb is asking yourself whether you could wear them out on a date and to a job site.
With these top tips and outfit ideas, you can pull together an outfit that will help you ace your job interview!
Need more help preparing for your job interview? Here are 30+ tricky interview questions and how to answer them.
Viv is a writer who enjoys researching and writing about creativity, how the human mind works, and neuro processes. She values creativity above all else and admires people who pursue their career dreams, no matter the sacrifice. In her spare time, she binges on HBO shows and epic fantasy novels.