Tips for Dressing for Job Interview Success

Woman waiting for interview
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Would you show up for a job interview wearing jeans, shorts, grubby sneakers? Would you chew gum during the interview or arrive in disheveled or wrinkled clothes? Wearing inappropriate or outlandish attire to a job interview can potentially cost you the job. 

An interviewer's first impression is often a lasting one, so the way you present yourself during an interview is important. And while some outfit no-nos are clear (always, always stay away from denim), some guidelines may be more subtle.

Read below to find out why your appearance matters and get recommendations on appropriate attire during job interviews.

Dress Your Best When Interviewing

Does it really make a difference how you dress for an interview? In many cases, it does. I'll never forget the gentleman I interviewed for an accounting position. He had been out of work for a few months and wanted to show me why. He took off his jacket, unbuttoned his shirt, and started to pull down his pants (this is a true story) to show me the scar from a boat propeller that had injured him. He didn't get the job. Neither did the young lady in a bright red skirt so short and tight that she could hardly sit down!

In the conservative business climate I worked in at the time, appearances did matter. In other environments, it isn't as important. For example, attire for a summer job interview or a startup job interview will be less formal.

However, it does make sense to dress your best for the interview, regardless of the dress code at the organization.

If you're in doubt about how to dress for an interview, it is best to err on the side of conservatism. It is also much better to be overdressed than underdressed (or undressed). If you're not sure, check with the person who scheduled the interview and ask.

 

Here's advice on what colors to wear to a job interview and what not to wear to a job interview.

According to Kim Zoller at Image Dynamics, 55% of another person's perception of you is based on how you look. So while your outfit may seem like a shallow concern compared to your experience and ideas, what you wear really makes a difference to how interviewers will assess you as a candidate. 

Zoller shared some tips on how to look your best, without necessarily spending a lot of money. Here's a quick look at the basics:

Women's Professional Interview Attire

  • Solid color, conservative suit
  • Coordinated blouse
  • Moderate shoes
  • Limited jewelry
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Tan or light hosiery
  • Sparse makeup and perfume
  • Manicured nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase

Men's Professional Interview Attire

  • Solid color, conservative suit
  • White long sleeve shirt
  • Conservative tie
  • Dark socks, professional shoes
  • Very limited jewelry
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Go easy on the aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase

More Ways to Ensure You're Dressed Appropriately

As you can see, the guidelines can be more complicated for women. Appropriate interview attire for men is pretty straight-forward, and the dividing lines between business casual and business professional attire are clearly demarcated.

Along with choosing an interview outfit, women must also style their hair and select an interview-appropriate bag

Interviewers of any gender should stay away from denim — jeans are never a good choice for an interview. (Here are more things you shouldn't wear to a job interview, like flip-flops and shorts.) In general, unless you are applying for a position in the fashion industry, drawing attention to your clothes is best avoided. The best interview outfit is clean, well-fitting, appropriate for company's culture, and not attention-getting. After your interview, you want people to be talking about your experience and your ideas — not your flashy tie, sparkly shoes, or too-tight pants. 

Your outfit isn't the only part of how you present yourself during an interview. 

Make sure to wear deodorant, brush your teeth, and comb your hair.

Bring along breath mints if you won't be able to brush your teeth before the interview (but make sure not to eat breath mints or chew gum during the conversation). Keep scented items — cologne, perfume, and aftershave — to a minimum. 

Here are more tips for how to make a good impression during an interview

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