Every other Tuesday, you’ll get actionable tips to land your dream job. Subscribe

What to Wear to an Interview: Nailing the Dress Code

On a job interview, your attire choices can mean the difference between a great first impression and a negative one. Your interviewer will make a first judgment about you before you get to say a word.
What to Wear to an Interview: Nailing the Dress Code

In a job interview, your choice of clothes can mean the difference between a great first impression and a negative one. Interviewers make first judgments about a candidate even before they get to say a word.

That’s why it’s so important to convey a professional appearance and choose your interview attire carefully, even if you are interviewing at a company with a laid-back dress code.

So, what to wear to an interview?

It’s hard to go wrong with a polished business suit for a professional interview. Even if you know the company has a relaxed dress code, it’s important to remember that you don’t have the job yet.

If you are interviewing at a firm with a highly creative and casual culture, you may be able to get away without wearing a suit as long as you choose a business-like outfit and look put-together.

When in doubt, it’s better to err toward a more conservative outfit. You can show them your trendier attire after you get the position.

What to Wear to an Interview: Basic Guidelines

  • Business suit – Darker colors generally look more professional.
  • Skirt suit – For a conservative environment, opt for a skirt suit with a skirt that is at least knee-length. A professional-looking pants suit is also cool.
  • Long-sleeved shirt – White is your best choice.
  • Blouse – Select a blouse that coordinates with the suit and doesn’t show cleavage.
  • Belt – Choose a dark color that coordinates with your outfit and shoes
  • Tie – Don’t go with anything too daring, solid colors or pinstripes look best.
  • Shoes – Keep them conservative. Wear black or dark brown dress shoes with dark socks. No stilettos, open toes, or bright colors.
  • Hosiery — Wear stockings in a neutral color with a skirt suit, knee-highs or trouser socks with pants.
  • Jewelry – Limit jewelry to a wedding ring and a watch. If you’re wearing earrings or necklaces, choose only one or two quality, conservative pieces.
  • Hair – Keep your hairstyle simple and elegant. Consider an up-do or polished ponytail. Touch up those roots if you color your hair. In all cases, make sure your hair is clean and neat, trimmed and combed (beards, goatees or mustaches should also be well groomed).
  • Accessories – Carry a professional-looking briefcase, shoulder bag or portfolio.
  • Make-up – Keep your make-up light, your fragrance subtle, and your nails manicured.
  • Accessories — Carry a professional-looking briefcase or portfolio

What Not to Wear to a Job Interview

  • If you’re applying to a conservative firm, it’s best to cover up your tattoos until you’ve wowed them with your skills and personality.
  • If you’re pierced anywhere but in your ears, leave the jewelry at home for the first interview at least (again, until you’ve impressed them with your other qualities). The idea isn’t to force you to conform, but to avoid snap judgments that can hurt your chances.
  • Consider buying something new for a big interview. A new suit, shirt, or tie can give you an extra boost of confidence.
  • Take the time to get your clothes together the night before. Clean, steam, and de-lint wherever necessary. You don’t want to be worrying about wardrobe malfunctions on the day of the interview. Prepare ahead of time so you can relax and focus on practicing your responses to the interview questions.

Bonus tips:

  • Don’t chew gum (or anything else).
  • Leave your cell phone in the car, along with your iPod. If you took public transportation, put your iPod and cell phone away inside your briefcase or portfolio and make sure your phone is turned off.


Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.

Turn interviews into offers

Get our Chief Coach’s best job-seeking and interviewing tips in your inbox every other week.

Share this article