Job Interview Prep
Congratulations! You got a job interview. It’s a step in the right direction, but now you’re asking yourself, “What do I wear?” That’s a good thing. It means you want the interview to go well, and your attire is a major factor in creating a great first impression. In this guide, we’ll go over a few “what not to wear” items as well as the general style rules you should follow when preparing for a job interview. Then, to top it all off, we’ll give you a few tangible examples you can take and apply to your next interview.
Table of Contents:
What NOT to wear
A large part of making a great first impression in a job interview is how you dress. You don’t have to go overboard on spending (i.e. buying luxury designer brands), but if you put in a bit of thoughtful effort on your wardrobe, it’ll pay off in the long run. In preparation for your next interview, run through the following DON’T DO checklist to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
Don’t #1: Wear flashy colors
The flashy new shirt you bought may fit in well at dinner or a nightclub, but it’ll stick out like a sore thumb in a job interview. It’s best to keep your color scheme simple and neutral for an occasion like this. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t wear any colors, but you do want to save the bright “pops” and accents for less professional situations, such as a wedding.
Don’t #2: Go overboard with patterns
In a similar vein to avoiding flashy colors, you want to avoid crazy patterns. A simple pinstripe or check pattern is fine, but when you mix too many of them without caution, it becomes incredibly easy to fall into the tacky bucket.
Don’t #3: Assume a blazer will fix everything
Unless you’re interviewing at a startup company, throwing a blazer on an old t-shirt and hoodie combo won’t fly. While a blazer is a great choice to elevate your look, the clothes you wear underneath it still matter. Opt for a buttondown shirt or wool sweater for a safe but refined look.
Don’t #4: Misinterpret “casual”
If a company’s dress code has “casual” as part of the name, it doesn’t mean you’re free to wear flip flops, a t-shirt, and shorts. It just means you don’t have to wear a two-piece suit. Whether it’s smart casual or business casual, you’re still expected to present yourself in a professional manner.
Bonus: Don’t wear too much cologne
This doesn’t have anything to do with style per se, but it does have a lot to do with creating a great first impression. You want to blow your interviewer away with your poise and professionalism, not your pungent scent of cologne and aftershave. Moderation is key, especially in this instance.
General Rules for Job Interview Success
There’s no universal rule book when it comes to dressing for an interview, but there are a few given rules and expectations hiring managers and interview conductors have. Here are a few tips you can take and use as a general guide for your next interview outfit.
Tip #1: Do your research
Every company has a different combination of work culture, industry, product positioning, etc. This means that each company you interview at may have a different expectation of you when it comes to the attire you wear. Law firms, for example, may frown upon your outfit if you show up any less professional than a two-piece suit. Consulting firms and banks are likely to do the same.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, showing up in a two-piece suit at a startup tech company may work against you as well. It’s important to do your research on the company ahead of time so you can get a feel for what is expected of you and your attire. A simple email or call to your point of contact at the company should get you this information. In the worst case, business casual is a safe, middle-ground bet.
Tip #2: Overdressed is a good thing
Slightly overdressed, I mean. If you discover through your research that a company has a more casual dress code, it doesn’t hurt to show up in business casual attire. In fact, it’ll help you make your case as a serious candidate. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Dress for the job you want”? This applies here. For candidates who have aspirations of career growth, there’s no better way to telegraph that than overdressing (just a little bit).
Tip #3: Simple speaks magnitudes
It’s important to restate that simplicity is key when making a great first impression. It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. The simplest clothing items worn with the proper fit and appropriate style accompanied by unmatched confidence will never fail to impress. There’s no need to add an extensive amount of accessories or any other unnecessary clothing items to your outfit if you’re already wearing the basics really well. Remember the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).
Tip #4: The devil is in the details
When you have a simple, sharp outfit on, the tiniest details can make a lasting difference in the impression you make. An unironed shirt, baggy pants, a stained jacket, etc can derail your efforts to impress. It’s important to show up to your interview prepared, and I’m not just talking about your interview answers.
Tip #5: Proper preparation
To prepare for a job interview, it’s common to go through a “mock” interview with someone you know who can ask you potential questions. This is a smart preparation strategy that you should also apply to your chosen outfit. In order to catch small mistakes, you should wear your chosen outfit in front of a friend or loved one and listen to their feedback. They may point out something you wouldn’t have caught otherwise.
Let’s take a look at a few outfit ideas you can wear to your next job interview!
Outfit 1: Business Professional
Business professional is normally reserved for consultants, bankers, lawyers, etc. It’s the most professional you can get.
Featured: White Dress Shirt
Outfit 2: Business Casual
Business casual is meant to be a flexible dress code, but for a job interview, we suggest pairing a fitted jacket with dark denim jeans. Some companies would be fine with you skipping the jacket and donning a sweater, instead. This is up to your judgement.
Outfit 3: Smart Casual
Smart casual is the dress code you want to go for if you want to portray yourself as more stylish and on-the-edge. While we don’t suggest going too outlandish with your outfit, smart casual is a good way to express your taste and personal sense of style.
In a job interview, your main priority is to impress. Your interviewer, potential managers/coworkers, the CEO of the company — you want to blow them all away. When you put on a well-fitted, stylish outfit, you’ll not only look good, you’ll feel good. That’s confidence. And when you bring confidence to a job interview, it puts everyone else at ease and ready to follow your leadership.