What to Wear to a Job Interview for College Men

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What to Wear to a Job Interview for College Men

Young man holding laptop
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Your alarm clock rings and you see the time: 7:51 A.M. With nine minutes to get to your first class, chances are, you roll out of bed and pull on the first thing you see. Or, maybe you even wear your pajamas.

If this sounds familiar, make sure you set that alarm clock early on the day of a job or internship interview. Although most college job interviews don't require full-on, business formal dress - meaning you don't need to wear a suit, tie, and fancy dress shoes - you do need to look like you put some effort into your appearance.

Maybe that means doing a load of laundry; maybe it even means finding an iron somewhere in your dormitory. Either way, make the extra effort, and it'll pay off. Everyone knows first impressions are key, and when it comes to a college job interview, this is even more so the case.

You'll need to dispel the stereotypical image of a college student and present yourself as professional, mature, and serious enough to commit to a job, even if it's just a part-time or on-campus job.

Here's a guide to what to wear to a college job or internship interview for men.

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Campus Casual Interview Options

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If you're heading to an interview for a job located on your college campus or applying for a non-professional job - like in a café, restaurant, or retail store - it's acceptable to wear a more casual look.

A button-down shirt with a nice pair of slacks will work in this case. But, remember that when it comes to a casual look, presentation is key. That means you should make sure your clothing is un-wrinkled, stain-free, and freshly laundered.

Top Interview Tip: Research the company, organization, student association, or campus office, so you know what to expect before you go into the interview.

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Don't Wear Denim-on-Denim

Man working at laptop
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Many students wonder about wearing denim to an interview. The general rule is that you should avoid denim-on-denim. What does that mean? If you're going to wear a denim shirt, like in the above example, pair it with khaki pants or a colored slack.

And, if you're going to wear denim on the bottom, opt for a dark-colored, unripped pair of jeans and choose a dressier top to balance out the look.

Top Interview Tip: See if you can convince your roommate to help you practice for your interview by going through sample interview questions and answers.

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Choose Footwear Carefully

Man tying sneakers under desk
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If you don't own a pair of dress shoes, don't fret. For non-professional or part-time jobs, you can wear a pair of "fashion" sneakers to "dress down" a more formal look. 

Although you can make an outfit work with a pair of street sneakers, it's unlikely you can pull this off with athletic trainers or shoes you might wear at the gym. If in doubt about your sneakers, stick with a pair of loafers instead.

Top Interview Tip: At the end of an interview, a majority of interviewers will ask you something along the lines of, "So, do you have any questions for me?" You don't want to appear disinterested or bored by having nothing to say, so make sure you have a few questions on hand to demonstrate your enthusiasm.

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Check Out Casual Interview Attire Options

Business associates, portrait
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If you need a relaxed business casual look that works in almost all seasons, this is it. If all you own for interview attire is two button-downs, two-sweaters and one nice pair of dark jeans, you'll be able to come up with a variety of outfits for different interviews.

Top Interview Tip: It's not just what you wear or what you say that matters in an interview; you can use nonverbal communication to impress your interviewer, too.

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Use Layers to Vary Your Interview Outfits

A young man standing on a rooftop working at an open laptop with a cellphone beside it.
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Dressing for an interview doesn't have to be hard, especially if you put together a few staple pieces you already have in your closet. The key is to create a balanced look.

Although a t-shirt on its own is too casual, you can make it work by layering it under a stylish jacket, like the one above, a cardigan, or a relaxed blazer.

Top Interview Tip: Do your homework before the interview and review the list of most common job interview mistakes in order to improve your interview technique.

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Consider a Modern Approach

Let's talk business
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If you're tired of the button-down and khaki look that you may have seen your dad wear time and time again, take a more modern approach, as demonstrated in the look above. If you need some style tips, read up on the latest in men's fashion.

Top Interview Tip: Review the guide to business casual interview attire for further inspiration.

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Show Your Personal Style

Portrait of a young man looking up, outdoors
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If you have a favorite blazer, scarf, or pair of shoes, with a little tact you can incorporate it into your interview outfit and express some personal style. This is a great way to complement your individuality, which you can also do by showing your personality during the interview experience.

This is especially important if you're interviewing off-campus for a job with a unique company culture - in that case, you should consider a  "startup casual" look.

Top Interview Tips: Unconventional companies sometimes employ unconventional interview techniques, like a group interview, so read up before the big day.

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When to Wear a Polo Shirt

Businessmen working in cafe
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A polo shirt is a good choice for milder temperatures, as well as for jobs where the workplace is casual. However, because it's a more relaxed look, it's a good idea to wear a polo shirt with khakis instead of jeans.

Top Interview Tip: Hungry for more interview tips? Check out our readers' input on how they've aced interviews, and how you can too.

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Dress It Up With a Formal Look

Man tying tie
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If you're interviewing for a position that you think might require a more formal look, add a blazer, or a tie - you probably don't need to wear both, and you might get some funny looks if you roll up in a full suit and briefcase unless you're interviewing for a corporate position where business attire is a requirement.

That said, it's usually better to overdress than to underdress, but listen to your gut. Still unsure about what to wear? When scheduling your interview, it's acceptable to inquire about the office dress code, which should give you a good sense of what to wear.

Top Interview Tip: Still unsure how to dress for success? Check out the differences between business vs. business casual, and if you have to wear a formal outfit, make sure you've taken the time to dry clean or iron your clothes as necessary.

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The Classic Go-To Look

Young man on office balcony
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Tired of style advice? Don't worry, there's a simple "go-to" look that works for almost any non-professional college job position, and this is it: a wrinkle-free patterned button-down, comfortable, but well-kept slacks, and any pair of casual loafers.

Now go ace that interview!

Top Interview Tip: So, you've made a good first impression by dressing well, and sending a post-interview thank-you note is a great way to make a good last impression, too.

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