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What to Wear to a Job Interview


Stock photo. Posed by model.

When you feel good about the way you look, you naturally convey confidence and a positive attitude.

Interviews are formal situations. A clean and neat professional appearance is an important step in making a good first impression. You want the interviewer to focus on you and your skills not your clothes. Dress as you want to be seen: professional, successful, and the kind of person the company wants representing them.

You will want to have at least one good outfit ready to wear. That way you won't have to scramble when you get a last-minute interview.

Dress the Part

While there are no absolute rules, a good tip is to dress as you would if you were working at the company. Before you interview, visit the company to see how people in positions similar to the one you applied for are dressed. That way you can show up for the interview dressed as if you already belong there.

Not all workplaces require employees to wear business suits. Those industries could include factory assembly work, fast food restaurants, building maintenance, and many retail positions. Some positions may also require you wear a uniform. In both cases, a business casual outfit would be more appropriate. This might be khaki pants and a sweater or long-sleeve shirt. Don't go too casual.

In any job interview, you need to make sure that your clothes fit well and are clean, not wrinkled or stained. Clean, appropriate shoes are also important. Below are clothing items that are not acceptable for interviews:

  • Denim and shorts
  • Tank tops or crop tops
  • Flip flops, sandals, or tennis/running shoes
  • Trendy or loud clothing
  • Very short, tight, or low-cut clothing

Formal Business Wear

If you are interviewing for a corporate, professional-level job, your wardrobe basics should include formal business wear:

  • a two piece gray, black, or navy suit
  • a long-sleeved, white, collared shirt
  • clean, polished, and dark-colored conservative dress shoes in good condition

Men should wear a conservative tie that coordinates well with the suit. Dress socks should match shoes and pants. Pants should be high enough to cover the ankle and leg while sitting.

Women's hosiery should be a neutral tone or sheer black. Skirt suits should be no shorter than the top of the knee, and you should be able to sit comfortably. Heels should be closed-toed and no higher than 1 1/2 inches.

Many organizations collect clothing donations for working adults. If you need help getting work clothes, check out resources like Goodwill and Salvation Army in your area.

Grooming

Personal grooming is just as important as what you wear. You may select the right clothes, but neglecting personal hygiene can ruin the image you wish to present. Review the following grooming checklist before meeting with an employer.

  • Get a good night's sleep.
  • Wear a classic or simple hair style. Avoid extreme hair color.
  • Be freshly bathed and showered. Use deodorant.
  • Wear little or no cologne or perfume.
  • Keep makeup to a minimum and use neutral or muted colors.
  • Have your nails trimmed and neat.
  • Have facial hair trimmed and neat.
  • Have well-brushed teeth and fresh breath.
  • If women do wear nail polish, it should be a subtle color and style. Nails should not be excessively long.
  • No body piercings should be visible beyond conservative ear piercings for women.
  • No tattoos should be visible.
  • Keep jewelry items (such as watches, necklaces, bracelets) at a minimum. No large earrings or thick chains.
  • Do not chew gum or have candy in your mouth during the interview.
  • Don't wear sunglasses.
  • Avoid smoking before the interview. The smell of smoke will linger on your clothes and in your hair.

Source: Adapted from Creative Job Search, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the SYMS Dress to Achieve website.

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