Dress For Success: How To Choose Your Outfit For An Interview

What you wear to an interview can make or break your chances of getting hired. But with today’s varied workplaces (think Wall Street vs. Silicon Valley), there is no hard and fast rule for what to wear. Some companies mandate employees wear suits every day. At others, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone wearing a tie - billionaire CEOs included. Given all the different standards and information out there, do you know how to choose your outfit for an interview?

Why A 3-Piece Suit Isn’t Always A Safe Bet

Significantly over dressing (i.e. wearing a suit jacket and tie to a workplace where the standard is blue jeans, tennis shoes, and t-shirts) can be awkward for both parties. As the candidate, you might look around, see flip flops galore, and start feeling insecure (the opposite of how you want to feel during an interview). On the other side, current employees might see your fancy pants and feel that you don’t understand their culture. Since an interview is all about proving your fit, this is not the feeling you want to leave the employer with. Should you always mimic the company’s attire? Not if the office dress code completely casual. In this case, dress one to two levels above. For instance, wear a skirt or khakis instead of jeans and wear dressy shoes instead of flip flops.

How To Find Out What A Company’s Dress Code Is

If you’re not sure what the expectation is, do a little digging online. Look for photos on the company’s website and Facebook page, and check out its employees on LinkedIn. If the dress code isn’t obvious, ask HR or whoever your point-of-contact is when you’re offered an in-person interview. Some candidates are shy about asking; don’t be. If anything, the employer will appreciate that you’re detail-oriented and considerate of the company culture.

A Few Guidelines

Regardless of whether a company is business professional or internet casual, there are a few rules that apply nearly everywhere.
  • Clothing should neither be baggy nor skin-tight
  • Don’t show too much skin - no shorts, short skirts, or low-cut shirts
  • Shoes should be close-toed and in good condition (no noticeable scuff marks, frayed laces, etc.); those who opt for a heel should keep it to a couple of inches or less
  • Accessories are fine, but don’t don anything too flashy (unless you’re going into fashion or another industry where it’s appropriate)
  • Hair (including facial hair) should be well groomed
  • Avoid perfume and cologne (some people are allergic)
  • Makeup should be subtle
  • Nails should be clean; if wearing polish, choose a natural color
  • Comfort is king - don’t wear anything that will distract you or make you visibly awkward
How do you dress for success? How do you select your interview outfit? Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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