How to Dress for a Job Interview

  • Work
  • July 16, 2018
  • Updated September 10, 2020
What to wear to a job interview - woman and man waiting for a job interview
What to wear to a job interview - woman and man waiting for a job interview

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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    Tanya is a seasoned journalist based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Specializing in fashion, beauty, and travel, she loves to explore new places, read as much as possible, and scour the web for fabulous finds — all in the name of research, of course.

    Blog Comments

    Love the black bag, and very affordable too!!

    Shoes are so important. I remember interviewing young women when I used to hire staff for a clothing store and so many times they would show up looking professionally dressed except they would be wearing flip flops. Flip flops are for the beach or doing a quick errand whether have been bedazzled or not. Definitely wear proper shoes to an interview because you are being scrutinized from head to toe.

    The general advice of “neat, clean, simple, and polished” given above is great, but the specific details are not good for every interview. There is such a thing as being overdressed for an interview, and it says to interviewers that you may not fit in. Before going on an interview, always do your homework on the company (this is crucial in general for the interview) and make sure you take notice of the corporate culture and how other employees dress. Then, take a cue from that and just take it up a notch. Yes, it’s better to be slightly overdressed, but in some industries, a classic conservative look can make you appear too stuffy.

    hey Meira- The only issue with your advice is that while others at the company may dress more casual, you are still trying to get the job, you It is always better to be on the safe side.

    Meira and TBF – I agree with what you both say. I’d love to add a comment that the workplace is becoming so much more causal that I think some companies are turned off by traditional work attire. One should just use their discretion when creating an ensemble for an interview. Investment bank – black suit with jacket and your resume in a leather covered case, NGO – some Birkenstocks and free-trade pull over you got on your gap year in Burma.

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

    great tip…

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

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