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What to Wear for an Interview

Congrats! You’ve got an interview. Now, what to wear?

Figuring out what to wear to an interview used to be easy, but it can be a challenge in today’s fast-paced world. Men would pick a good suit, matching tie/shirt, and dress shoes. Women would go with a suit, though they might have to decide between pants and skirt, matching shoes and accessories.

The general rule was that you couldn’t be overdressed for an interview.

But while that’s still generally accepted, because it never hurts to look your best, today’s more relaxed working environments complicate the matter. Plus, you don’t want to feel out of place and ill-at-ease if you show up in a suit and everyone else is wearing… jeans.

That’s not likely to happen, but walking in and finding you’re the best-dressed candidate might have you wondering about your attire – and that’s not a good thing to be focused upon when you should be thinking about your skills and why you’re the best fit for the position.

So where do you start?

There are basically three types of interview attire: formal business, semi-formal business and casual.

Formal business attire would be a suit and tie for men, dress suit and stockings for women.

Semi-formal business attire would be a suit coat, dress slacks and maybe a tie for men; slacks, skirt and top or a dress for women.

Casual business attire would be khakis, chinos or other type of non-jean pants, button down shirt, casual top (not a t-shirt) or sweater. This would work for both men and women.What to wear for an interview

But how do you know which you should pick?

The best thing is to ask whomever sets up your interview. That person should be able to tell you which attire would be appropriate. If the answer still has you confused, ask what the interviewer will likely be wearing and do your best to match it.

The other thing you can do is look at the company website for clues. Many companies will describe their culture and working environment on their “about” page. Look for terms like casual, laid-back or comfortable to determine whether a casual business attire would be a good match for your interview.

You can also check the LinkedIn profiles of the management team and the interviewer, or their profile pictures on the company website. If they’re all in suits, formal business attire would be the right pick for your interview.

Of course, if you know someone who works at the company, you should ask them. Inside perspective on what to wear is usually the best option. But if you don’t know anyone, a call to the HR department is a good idea.

Human Resources departments want candidates to be successful in their interviews so they should be very helpful and may be able to send you a copy of the company dress code policy.

Additionally, you can ask them specific questions like, “would a dress be better than a skirt and top” or “should I wear a button-down shirt under my sweater.” Make sure to ask HR if your clothes should cover any tattoos or if you should remove certain piercings. Many companies have relaxed their rules about body art, but others, especially those with public customers, may have restrictions on what they want employees to show.

When to prepare?Business Casual

Lastly, don’t wait until the day of, or even the night before to select your outfit. That doesn’t give you any time to research, make phone calls, or try things on to make sure everything fits properly.

The best thing is to have two outfits in each type of attire ready, cleaned and ironed, at all times. Why two? Because, hopefully, you’ll have a second interview and get the job!

Don’t forget – the basics of making a good first impression always apply.

Everything should fit properly, with no holes, wrinkles, dangling threads or stains, and nothing too revealing. Interviewers don’t want to see chest hair or cleavage. For women, bra straps should not show, so no sheer materials or spaghetti straps.

Accessories, like jewelry, should be minimal and not make noise when you move your head or hands. For men, your belt and shoes should be the same color. For women, makeup should be professional with no glitter. And it’s best not to wear tennis shoes (unless you’re applying for an athletic position).

If you follow this advice you should feel confident in how you look so you can focus on the interview itself and showing what a great choice you’ll be for the position.

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Topics: Establishing a Career, Preparing for an Interview, Managing Stress