When dressing for an interview, you want to put forth a professional image and show the potential employer that you’re serious about becoming a member of their team. You can’t accomplish either of these goals when dressed inappropriately. So it’s important to put some thought into what you wear when dressing for an interview.
For a typical white collar office job, you want to wear formal business attire to an interview unless the person setting up the interview tells you otherwise. In the latter case, feel free to ask for clarification if you’re told something vague like “you don’t have to wear a suit” or if they say you can dress business casual. There’s nothing wrong with you confirming that you both share the same meaning of business casual.
Formal business wear for men typically means a suit and tie. Stick with the basic suit colors of black, blue, brown or grey and wear a white long sleeve dress shirt underneath. Your tie doesn’t necessarily have to be plain, but you’ll probably want to avoid gimmicky ties such as ties with beer bottles on them as they don’t look professional. Make sure your shoes are polished, the bottoms are clean and wear calf-length socks.
For women, a business suit either with pants or a long skirt is most appropriate. Again, stick with conservative colors. If you wear a skirt, make sure you wear stockings underneath, even during warm weather. Avoid open toe shoes and shoes with heels over two inches unless you’re in an industry where being stylish is important.
When it comes to jewelry, simple is best. For men, it’s okay to wear a watch, wedding band or class ring but all other visible jewelry and piercings should be removed. Women can additionally wear a bracelet, necklace and a pair of earrings. Just avoid anything with sayings, religious or political symbols or that is excessive as it can be a distraction. Women should also not overdo it with makeup — again, simple is better.
If you have tattoos, cover them up as best as possible for your interview. While a lot of folks have them these days, including those in professional positions, they still look unprofessional to some folks.
Don’t overlook the way you smell when you’re getting ready for an interview. These days, people can be allergic to certain fragrances and even cigarette smoke. So go light on the perfumes, colognes and avoid smoking right before an interview.
If you’re applying for a blue collar job, formal business attire might not be required. But at the very least, you should dress a bit more formal than they people on the job. If you have any doubts about how to dress for the interview, you can scope out the potential employer a few days before and watch what others wearing or you could simply ask. The best way to ask is at the end of the conversation with the person setting up the interview. As you’re ready to end the conversation just say something like, “I just wanted to confirm with you that formal business attire is appropriate for the interview. I know it’s a silly question but I spoke with another company yesterday and they told me to not wear a suit. I just want to make sure I’m following your rules so we can focus on my qualifications.”
One last tip:
If you’re ever in doubt about how to dress and prepare for an interview in your particular industry, then your best resource will be a recruiter from your industry. Most recruiters are paid by the companies they place people at so there’s no cost to you for working with them. They’re a wealth of knowledge and can tell you what’s considered appropriate dress for an interview in your industry (and sometimes for a particular employer). Another excellent resource is your local employment office- although some offices are better than others.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.
4 thoughts on “Job Interview Success: How to Dress for an Interview”
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Also do NOT wear clothes that are saturated in cigarette smoke. When people can smell you 6 feet away, that’s NASTY.
Thanks for the comment. I agree 100% about the smoke smell – I once interviewed someone that stunk of cigarette smoke to the point that it made my eyes.
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