Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Dress for a Job Interview

Over the years, millions of otherwise competent people have lost job opportunities because they did not dress properly for their interview. 70% of human communication is non-verbal, and what people see is often what makes the biggest and most lasting impression, especially if their opinion of it is negative.

Through the way you’re dressed for an interview, you are trying to tell potential employers that you are a professional, that you are serious about the meeting you are having, and that you won’t embarrass them in front of clients with your off-the-wall or casual look.

From my experience, new college graduates and workers who have not had to look for a job in a while are the most likely to make clothing faux-pas. Generally, the key is to dress conservatively and err on the side of formality. With certain clear exceptions (such as fashion design), an interview is not the time to show of how creative you are, clothes-wise.

Here is a brief, basic guide to how to dress for a job interview. This is, of course, not a set of hard and fast laws, just some general ideas of how to go in order to make the best impression during a meeting:


Men: Hair should be cut or at least combed back away from the face. Face should be clean-shaven, or the mustache/beard should be trimmed.

Women: Women should wear their hair up and back so the employer can see your face and you don’t have to keep brushing your hair from it (which looks like fidgeting).


Men: A long-sleeve white or neutral solid color dress shirt with a collar. A suit jacket, cleaned and pressed, in dark blue, black, grey, or brown. A tie, clip-on or otherwise. The tie is the one item where a man can express some creativity with the color and pattern, as long as it doesn’t clash with the rest of the suit.

Women: A short- or long-sleeve blouse that covers the shoulders, with or without a suit jacket. Unless you want the interviewer to be distracted by other things than your qualifications for the job, no cleavage should be showing.


Men: Slacks that (ideally) match the color and fabric of the jacket, cleaned and pressed. If you’re not sure if different color jacket and pants match, ask a female friend or family member.

Women: Slacks that match or compliment the jacket, or a dress/skirt that meets or goes past the knees. Hosiery, as long as it’s not fishnet stockings.

Men and Women: No jeans, cargo pants, or shorts.


Men: Black or brown dress shoes that have been shined. Black or brown dress socks.

Women: Dress shoes that cover the toes. No 6-inch pumps or anything someone could call “stripper shoes.”

Men and Women: No sandals, sneakers, flip-flops, or bowling shoes.


Make sure teeth are brushed and flossed. Do not wear cologne or perfume (you never know if your interviewer is sensitive to smells or has allergies). Other than a wedding/engagement band, men should not wear jewelry (earrings, necklaces, bracelets, tie clips, etc.). Womens’ jewelry should be small and tasteful, and should not include nose rings or piercings other than the ears.


Dress with greater latitude ONLY if the employer mentions it before the interview. When you’re setting up the interview, if you are told explicitly “Don’t worry about dressing up” or “Leave the tie at home”, that’s a safe sign to relax the formality. Still, try to dress exactly like other people in the office. If you don’t know how that is, call someone (like a receptionist) and ask.

Otherwise, even if you know workers come to the office in tank tops and shorts, you come to your interview dressed for business.

Do you have other ideas for a basic interview dress code, or corrections to this one? Do you have a story about a serious interview fashion no-no? Submit a comment to this post!


  1. that's really nice. i am here from a different country, where we ladies wear sarees (cotton) for an interview as formal, landed in a place where everyone wears suits. had no idea what to wear and how to compliment it with other accessories. this really helps me. nice job. thanks.

  2. Tks very much for your post.

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