There are so many factors that play into landing a job. In a perfect world, the most qualified person for a position will get the job automatically. Or even if there was an interview process, it would only focus on the skill of the person being interviewed. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and interviews score much more than just your qualification and skill.
One thing that comes up again and again as a deciding factor in many interviews is the presentation of the interviewee. If two people with the exact same qualifications applied for a job, the one with the better presentation in the interview would land the job 99% of the time. So, how do you improve your interview presentation? Well, you start by adopting the philosophy of “dress to impress.”
Impact of Your Clothing
Outfits, clothing, and fashion choices have a bigger impact on our overall presentation than most people realize. Sure, you might have amazing confidence and great skills to back it, but if you don’t look like you’re serious about the job, no interviewer is listening to you properly.
This might seem unfair to you at first. After all, shouldn’t you be judged by your skills and qualifications and not your clothes? Yes, you should be. But, testing qualification requires a lot of time and resources. However, the large majority of job opportunities simply cannot afford that, and thus your presentation becomes an indicator of how serious you are about the job. In the eyes of an interviewer, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to dress up properly for the interview, you are ready to do the job properly as well.
How to Pick Interview Clothing
Now that you understand how important your clothing choice is to the interview process, it is time to recommend some outfits that will work. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. There is no piece of essential clothing that everyone can wear to their next interview. Similarly, there isn’t anything that everyone should avoid for their interview, with just a few exceptions.
What Job Are You Applying For?
The answer to “what to wear to an interview?” depends entirely on the job you’re interviewing for. For example, a three-piece suit with shiny leather boots, a gorgeous dress shirt, and a classy tie would be the right choice if you’re interviewing for the position of manager in an office environment. But the same clothes will look completely out of place in an interview for a barista in some local coffee shop.
The right thing to do here would be to talk about individual jobs and what outfits are best for their interview. But that is way beyond the scope of this guide. We can write an entire book on this topic, and there will still be stuff that got left out. Instead, what we’re going to do is give general advice on how to dress for a formal, business casual, and worker job interview. You can then use these recommendations and tweak them a little to better suit your specific needs.
Formal business attire is more difficult to rock than you might initially think. You can’t just wear any formal suit and expect yourself to look sharp. First, ensure that the suit you’re wearing actually fits. A suit that is too big or too small will look terrible no matter its design or material. So, either get a custom suit or buy a pre-made suit and get a tailor to adjust it for your body. Also, wearing darker colors like black, dark gray, and navy blue is the better option.
Next, focus on details outside the main suit. So, wear suspenders under the suit jacket, rock a colorful pocket square, and match the leather belt to your leather shoes. There isn’t anything strict about the type and color of tie you should wear, so you can get a bit creative with that. Just make sure that nothing is sticking out like a sore thumb, and you’re good to go.
Business casual treads the line between the comfort of the casual and the professionalism of business formal. Start the outfit with the right pants. Both chinos and cotton dress pants are fantastic options, with woolen dress pants being the close second for the winter season. Now top the pants off with a plain, light-colored button-up. You can go light-on-light with khaki or light brown pants and a light blue shirt. However, a more visually appealing combo is dark pants (charcoal or black) and a light-colored shirt.
If the shirt on its own feels too incomplete for you, then a basic black blazer is the perfect upper to tie things together. You can also experiment with other blazer colors like gray, brown and navy. But, if you don’t want to spend much time on it, black is the best option. Lastly, ties are optional and completely up to your preference. What you can do is observe the culture of the office you’re applying at and make the tie decision accordingly.
Worker clothes are for interviews in service industry jobs and other blue color labor jobs. The right attire for these is just a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. However, the jeans need to be clean, so no ripped or gradient jeans. Similarly, printed t-shirts are a big no-no. Just wear a basic casual outfit that is clean and fits you well. You can also top it with leather jackets for additional warmth in winter.
These are also the outfits that teenagers should wear for most of their first job interviews. There is no need to wear a full suit for an interview at a fast-food restaurant. So, save yourself the trouble, and instead of looking dorky in an oversized suit, just wear a pair of jeans and a plain hooded sweatshirt for the interview.
Business formal for women is also focused around suits. The main difference between men and women is that women get to choose between pants suits and skirt suits. Both of these are equally viable options in most situations, so the final decision is completely up to your personal preference and the weather.
If you decide to go in a skirt suit, make sure that it is at least knee-high. Any higher and the skirt would not be appropriate for most business environments. On the other hand, if you choose a pants suit, then ensure that the pants are well-fitting. Loose pants might be more comfortable, but they don’t look very professional, especially for an interview. As for the shirts, any light-colored button-up is perfect, though pure white holds a special place.
Lastly, black closed-toe shoes are the right choice as far as footwear is concerned. Do not wear heels that are too high or shoes that look too bulky.
Business casual for women is a bit tricky as there are proven outfits that work for every woman in every situation. A great place to start would be a knee-high pencil skirt alongside a loose-fitting shirt that’s tucked into the skirt. Opting for a black skirt will give you the most options for the color of the shirt.
If skirts aren’t your jam, then you can rock a solid-colored shift dress. These are also the better option for summer. For the colder times of the year, a pair of cropped pants combined with a white button-up and a brown woolen sweater provides a charming look. You can further top this outfit with a fall jacket if the sweater isn’t enough to protect you from the cold.
Outfits pertaining to working job interviews for women are pretty much the same as for men. Jeans are the ultimate pants, and hooded sweatshirts are the ideal top. Additionally, it is difficult to find better footwear for these interviews than plain low-top sneakers. If you’re looking for outerwear to combine with these outfits, then there is no better option than women’s leather jackets.
Just avoid stuff like ripped or skin-tight jeans, printed t-shirts, and shoes that are way too big, and you’ll land the job just fine (provided you are also qualified for it as well).
Mistakes to Avoid
Recommending outfits to wear for each and every job is not practical as there are thousands of different variations and unique scenarios to take into account. However, there are only a handful of mistakes that you should avoid. These are the ones you should know about.
Not Wearing the Right Size
We mentioned this briefly when talking about suits, but this point applies to almost every piece of clothing. Remember, wear your own size. Even if the oversized item isn’t accidental but a fashion statement, just don’t. The last thing you want is to lose the job just because the interviewer thought, “This person cannot wear the right size; how will they ever manage to do the job right?” This is especially true for outerwear, as an oversized t-shirt will be covered by the jacket. But there is no hiding a suede jacket that is a size too big.
Not everything that is OK to wear on your own will fly in a job interview. This is especially true for business casual and casual clothes since formal attires are usually the right shape. So, before you go for an interview, look in a mirror and think to yourself, “Is this outfit too revealing?” If you even have a sliver of doubt about it, then it most likely is, and you should change.
Colorful outfits are perfect for expressing your personality and injecting some life into your life. However, vibrant colors do not belong in an interview room. You might look fantastic in a bright maroon bomber jacket, but please don’t wear it to a job interview. You will look extremely unprofessional and someone who doesn’t know basic workplace etiquette.
Frequently Asked Questions
The world of interview clothing is vast, and there is still much to learn. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding this topic to further increase your knowledge.
Interview clothes need to be clean and devoid of stuff like rips, prints, large logos, text quotes, etc. Overly vibrant colors or mismatched sizes are not the right choices either. Also, the acceptable clothing for an interview depends on the job you’re interviewing as well.
Yes, you can wear clean jeans to both worker job interviews as well as for regular office positions. Remember to wear plain box cut jeans in basic blue or black colors.
Hoodies are an acceptable choice but only for teenagers attending the first interviews of their life. You might be able to wear it as an adult, depending on the type of job, but it is better to avoid it altogether.
Yes, you absolutely can. For example, a teenager wearing a three-piece suit for a job at a fast-food place is overdressing.
Yes, you can wear a cardigan as long as it is worn over plain button-up shirts and clean pants. Also, the color of the cardigan should not be too vibrant.
Your outfit for the interview plays a bigger role in your job selection than you might think. Luckily, there aren’t any complicated rules or fashion choices that you have to follow in order to look presentable and professional. Remember to wear clothes that are right for the job you’re interviewing for. Also, be confident in what you’re wearing, as that will also affect your overall presentation.