What to wear to a job interview
Ready to plan your interview outfit? These tips on what to wear to an interview (and what not to wear) will help you look and feel confident on the day.
Deciding what to wear is an important step when preparing for an interview. Making a good impression as soon as you walk through the door (or appear on screen in the case of a video interview) is what every interviewee wants. The tips throughout this article should help you dress for success and take the stress out of what to wear for your interview.
Imagine what you'd wear if you got the job and were going to a meeting with clients, for example. Try to look as professional and smart as possible.
Different industries have slightly different dress codes but, even so, it’s best to err on the side of formality. Even in creative industries such as the media or publishing, where day-to-day office dress may be more casual than in finance or law, interview candidates are still expected to dress smartly. For example, don't turn up to your interview in jeans, even if you know for a fact that everyone who works there wears jeans most days. Dressing smartly shows your interviewers that you understand the need to look professional when meeting clients or representing the employer in some other way.
Choose comfortable interview clothing
Although dressing smartly is essential, you should not be in discomfort. If you feel comfortable in your outfit you will likely appear more confident to your interviewers. It’s not always a good idea for the interview to be your first time wearing the outfit. If you do buy new clothes for your interview, find an hour or two to wear it the day before the interview. The same goes for shoes – you don’t want to find out that your shiny new shoes give you blisters, especially if the day will involve a lot of walking.
Make sure that everything is clean and in good condition
You don't have to forge a long-term commitment with your iron but, while you are attending interviews, make sure you wield it regularly! Small touches like a crisp shirt and clean shoes can really boost your confidence and help you feel the part. Check that everything fits properly and that there aren’t any holes in your smart trousers or that your favourite shirt isn’t missing a button or two.
Dress in layers: be prepared
Your focus during the interview should be on showing that you’re the best choice for the job, and not on worrying whether you are visibly shivering/sweating. You won’t be able to control the temperature of the room, but you can control what you are wearing. Bring along a jacket or a light jumper that you can put on/take off if it gets too chilly/warm.
Interviewers won't care about Chanel
You want to look good for your interview, but it’s not worth spending hundreds of pounds on designer clothes. From the recruiters’ point of view, as long as you look the part, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on your outfit – or whether you borrow it from your sibling.
Remember the finishing touches
You’ve prepared an impressive interview ensemble, so don’t let the side down with a grubby rucksack, a broken umbrella or a tattered raincoat. Make sure any bags, coats or other accessories that you take along with you fit the professional image that you want to project.
The most formal option is a trouser or skirt suit. However, business wear comprising of a smart blouse and trousers or a dress and tights is an equally acceptable option outside of very corporate environments, such as City law firms and investment banks.
Professionalism and comfort are key so consider the cut, length and sheerness of your outfit. Try to avoid any clothes, jewellery or accessories that might irritate you, get in your way or restrict your movement.
A suit is the rock-solid foundation of your interview outfit and you rarely go wrong with sticking to darker colour palettes: black, grey and navy/dark blue. Even if you don’t think it will be necessary, stay on the safe side by wearing a jacket. You can always take it off if you feel it’s a bit too formal once you’re in the interview.
Ties are a must to complete the interview look. Keep ties either plain or very simply patterned; anything that could be described as ‘novelty’ might be unwise. The same rules apply when it comes to socks.
Being more formal than expected isn’t a bad thing. It will suggest you’re serious about the role, whereas dressing too informally can be interpreted as lack of enthusiasm.
Shoes should be smart and appropriate for the office. Prioritise your ability to walk – including climbing stairs – but leave the trainers at home. Ladies, you don’t need to wear heels if you don’t want to.
While the interviewers are likely to just see your face and shoulders during a video interview, your safest bet is to still dress your entire body smartly. You can’t plan for events such as your laptop becoming unplugged or your housemate opening your room door, but you can make sure you’re not sorting them out while showing the interviewers your stripy pyjama bottoms. Remember that the interviewer might see your head more closely than they would across a desk from you – so brushing your hair and making sure your makeup isn’t smudged will be even more important.
In some situations – for example, if you’ve sent a speculative application to an employer or have been introduced to a recruiter through your network – you might be invited to an ‘informal interview’ or to have an ‘informal chat’ at their office or in a neutral setting, such as a café. In this case, you can probably leave the suit at home. You should still avoid jeans or loungewear though. Think smart casual – or what some call business casual.
They are important but not everything. An interviewer is most interested in your reasons for applying and your ability to succeed in your organisation – essentially, in your words rather than your fashion sense. That said, what you wear for an interview will demonstrate to employers that you have the professionalism to dress appropriately for an important work event and that will only benefit your chances of getting a job offer. The outfit you choose should also give you an added confidence boost to help you better show why you are a great candidate for the role.
So, take care to choose interview clothes that are smart and make you feel good, but you don’t need to obsess over, for example, whether an employer would prefer a black or navy blue suit.
The only time when your interviewers could be paying extra attention to what you wear is if you are going for a fashion-related role – for example, with a fashion media company or in fashion design. If that is the case, this is the time to combine looking smart with showing your awareness of trends.