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How to Dress for a Job Interview

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You nailed the cover letter, wowed them with your resume, and can’t wait to show them what you’ve got. But first you’ve got to get through the job interview. You may not know exactly what you’ll be asked, but you can go all out by making sure you’re dressed appropriately for the occasion.

There’s no need to fret about what to wear to that job interview. Read on and you’ll be ready to make a brilliant first impression.

The 4 Critical Rules of Job Interview Style

1. Stick with the Classics

You might have your favorite LBD that seems to work for everything, but a job interview calls for something that’s decidedly more reserved. First, simplify the process by narrowing down your color choices to a few key neutrals — gray, navy, and black are all stellar options that work well. Next, turn your attention to a polished suit or dress that exudes class and professionalism.

Your choice largely depends on the work environment. In most situations, conservative corporate attire is your safest bet, but don’t be afraid to wear that tailored dress if you’re interviewing for a creative job.

2. Choose Accessories Carefully

Don’t miss the opportunity to dress up your outfit with a few key accessories. There are some obvious no-nos, like statement jewelry, hats, and outlandish shoes. But you can embrace color with a scarf strategically tucked beneath your suit jacket, for example. It adds a little pop of vibrancy that breaks up the monotony of your neutrals. Another option is a sleek belt that pulls together your look if you’re wearing a dress.

If you’re carrying a handbag, opt for a neutral one that’s more no-nonsense than high fashion. It conveys just the right amount of businesslike appeal. You can also stash a sleek leather portfolio, along with a handsome pen, inside for extra cachet. And stick with traditional shoes — think low-heel, closed-toe pumps in a shade like black or navy.

3. Tame Your Beauty Routine

When it comes to hair and makeup, simple does it best. Yes, you can absolutely wear color, but opt for shades on the low-key end of the spectrum. Nix the radiant shades for soft pinks and roses, and leave the heavy eye makeup behind. And although you may have a “good luck” fragrance in your arsenal, leave that at home for interview day — you don’t want to risk your interview suffering an allergic reaction!

A neat hairstyle is always a safe bet, and you should feel comfortable wearing your natural hair, braids, or a low ponytail if that’s your preference.

4. Triple Check the Fit

Try it on your prospective interview outfits and practice sitting, standing and walking. Pay attention to fit around your chest and where the hem falls when you’re sitting down. If you feel even the faintest hint of an urge to tug or reset, put that piece back and try something else.

Job Interview Outfit Picks on a Budget

You never know when a recruiter will reach out and try to schedule an interview for tomorrow at 8am. So if you can swing it, invest in a quality, two-piece suit that will be on standby when you need it.

To maximize your dollar, choose pieces that work separately as well as together. If you land the job, you may not want to wear the whole suit on the daily — but the blazer might match up with a pair of trousers and the skirt, with a patterned blouse.

The Skirt Suit

Navy pin-striped suit for women
Plaid, two-piece skirt suit
One-button Plaid Skirt Suit, $140, ASL Tahari

The Sheath and Blazer

A sheath dress and coordinating blazer works as well as the traditional skirt-and-blazer combo.

Interview Dresses

The traditional, monochrome suit is a job interview standard — but it’s not always the right choice. Depending on the role and the industry, your interviewer may prefer candidates show off some personality and style. This is most common in quirky startups and the creative industries.

Let research guide you here — learn as much as you can about the corporate culture and shoot for fitting in. You can do that conservatively with a patterned dress or stylish details.

Houndstooth dress
Unique Vintage Plus Size Mod Wiggle Dress, $68, Zappos

This post about what to wear to a job interview was originally published in 2011, and rewritten/updated in 2018.

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Meira

Sunday 4th of September 2011

TBF... I agree that for the interview you need to play it safe and not go casual, but depending on the corporate culture, a classic blazer and matching skirt with a classic white shirt may make you seem too formal to fit in. Some industries expect a more casual but polished look, and other may expect a more creative look. I'm just saying that for the interview, there isn't a "fail-safe, no-brainer" look that will work everywhere.

Sophia

Saturday 3rd of September 2011

Thank you! Now I know I can look my best and put my best face forward on my interviews next summer.

Mike

Saturday 3rd of September 2011

I also like your point about bringing a pen and notebook. At the very least it sends a message that you care enough about this job to take notes about important points the hiring manager is making.

Sophia

Friday 2nd of September 2011

Thank you for the advice. I am just 13 though, and wondering if there are any changes to these helpful hints if you are being interviewed for a summer job as a teenager.

TBF

Saturday 3rd of September 2011

Hey Sophia- As a teen, it really depends on where your being interviewed. If it's at a local mall or retail job, you may just want to wear a nice pair of pants (khakis- not jeans) or skirt that hits you at your knees (nothing shorter) and a nice top (not tank top). AVOID FLIP-FLOPS and SNEAKERS... If it is for a business environment, like an internship in an office, definitely wear a suit but you could do a gray, brown, etc. The rule of thumb is if you would wear it to a friend's party, then it's probably not a good idea to wear it to a job interview.

kenya

Friday 2nd of September 2011

hi great advice but you overlooked perfume, your interviewer may be allergic

TBF

Saturday 3rd of September 2011

great tip...

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