Dress for the Interview

Appearances shouldn’t matter, but they do when it comes to an interview. You will be judged to a certain extent by your attire. A clean, polished look can be reassuring to prospective employers. Research the organization’s dress code policy and their company culture. Remember that an interview often requires more professional attire than you might wear after being hired.

Most importantly, you should wear something you are comfortable in and that makes you feel confident and polished.

Bottom line: You want to be remembered after your interview, but not for your outfit.

Business Casual vs. Business Formal

Typically, business formal is a matching pants or skirt suit (often a dark color) with a button-down shirt and tie or a blouse.

Business casual is more open ended. Think dress pants with a button-down shirt or a pencil skirt or dress pants with a blouse and a cardigan.

What To Wear: The Basics

Wear something you are comfortable in and that makes you feel confident and polished. Presenting yourself well is more than what you are wearing; it’s also how you interact with your interviewers, which is harder if you are uncomfortable or are worried about how you look.

What not to wear? Avoid sweats, pajamas, jeans, sneakers, or anything that you would wear in a very casual, hang-out, or party environment. You’re not going to the gym or on a date.

Options to consider:

  • Dress pants or skirt with a button-down shirt or a blouse. To make this more formal, you can add a blazer.
  • A suit, pants/skirt with matching blazer
  • A dress with a blazer or cardigan

Generally, darker colors and solid colors present a more conservative image.

What To Wear: Finishing Touches

Find a full-length mirror to appraise your final look.

Well-chosen accessories (tie, scarf, etc.) can help you stand out and can add a splash of color.

If you wear a tie, the knot should be centered under your chin. As for color/pattern, coordinate with the rest of your outfit so that it doesn’t clash. Ties with smaller patterns and darker colors look more authoritative and more conservative.

If wearing jewelry and/or makeup, do what is comfortable for you. If you don’t usually, but want to do so for an interview go for minimal and conservative so that you don’t feel distracted and uncomfortable.

Be cautious about wearing perfume/cologne as many people have allergies and it’s easy to overdo.

Extend your polished look to your outerwear and the bag you bring. Consider a trench coat or a wool pea coat. Use a portfolio case, attache bag, or light briefcase for your resume copies, notepad, questions, etc.

Make sure you can walk in your shoes and that they match your outfit. If you choose to wear high heels, we recommend they be no more than 2 inches.

General Tips: Looking Polished

Dressing more formally for the interview than you would for the job itself is frequently the best choice.

Plan out your wardrobe well in advance. Make sure everything fits, and there’s plenty of time for any cleaning or alterations. If wearing a tie is still new, learn a knot or two and practice.

If you plan to wear a skirt or dress, remember that you’ll be sitting for at least part of your interview. We recommend that your skirt be no more than 2 inches above the knee.

Don’t let an ill-fitting suit send the wrong message. Find yourself a good tailor. The right one can make a $100 suit look like a million bucks.

Don’t forget to remove the labels and any extra stitches on any new professional attire. Typically this stitching can be found on the pockets (pants, blazers) and side or back vents (blazers, skirts, dresses). Manufacturers add this so the clothing retains its tailored shape while people try it on.

If you’re wearing a men’s button-down shirt, knowing your measurements (neck, sleeve length) will help make sure you’re getting shirts that fit you well.

Make sure you’re comfortable in your clothes. If you want to wear a suit, but aren’t used to it, find some excuses to wear it so you feel comfortable the day of your interview. The same goes for shoes; if you get new ones, break them in so that you’re not distracted during the interview.