It was the morning of the job interview that I was absolutely thrilled to score, and I was busy. Busy doing what? Not rehearsing my answers to common questions or putting the finishing touches on my elevator pitch. No, I was preoccupied tossing nearly every single clothing item I owned across my bedroom.
Despite the advice I frequently offer to others, I had failed to select an outfit the night before. Meaning I was spending the morning of my interview—a time when I should have been slowly sipping coffee and taking deep, cleansing breaths—vetoing every single thing in my closet. It felt like such a big, important decision, and nothing in my wardrobe was rising to the occasion.
Needless to say, figuring out what to wear to a job interview can be a definite challenge, especially when company cultures run the gamut from strictly professional to completely laidback. It can be tough to determine if you’ll be sitting across a mahogany conference room table from a hiring manager in a three-piece suit, or strolling past a keg and bean bag chairs on your way to your meeting.
But, don’t panic and start tossing everything out of your closet just yet! I’ve got all that you need to know about selecting the perfect interview outfit—regardless of what company you’re interviewing at.
Do Your Research
Like I said, company cultures (and dress codes!) can vary greatly from employer to employer. You might have an interview with one organization who allows jeans and even encourages employees to wear slippers around the office. Then, you might encounter another company who enforces a strict, business professional dress code.
This is why it’s incredibly important to do some research in order to get an idea of what exactly you’re in for before you stroll into your interview.
Take a look at the company’s website. Do they use more casual, conversational, or humorous language? Or, are they more stiff and formal? Even better, peek at their social media accounts and see if you can find any photos of their staff members inside the office in order to get a feel for what people dress like on a daily basis.
Of course, you shouldn’t mirror their daily dress code for an interview. But, getting a handle on what their normal apparel expectations are will help you determine just how dressed up you need to be.
You don’t want to end up like me on that dreaded morning of the interview. So, it’s always smart to be proactive and set out your outfit ahead of time.
Take a few moments to not only select and lay out of all of the items you’ll need (including shoes, belts, and jewelry!), but also make sure that everything is clean and presentable. Iron anything that needs some attention and wash anything that’s looking a little dingy.
You could show up in a tuxedo for your interview. But, if your pants are wrinkled and the jacket has a large stain on it from the chicken cordon bleu at that wedding six months ago, you won’t be impressing anyone.
I get it—dressing for an interview isn’t always the most comfortable. After all, who actually likes ties, pantyhose, or high heels? But, while you can’t show up in your pajama pants, you should still opt to incorporate at least a little bit of comfort into your interview ensemble.
Why? Well, if you attend your interview in anything that makes you unbearably uncomfortable, it’ll be painfully obvious. You’ll be constantly pulling at that skirt that’s too tight. You’ll incessantly fidget with that shirt collar that’s far too snug. You’ll be rocking back and forth in those sky-high heels when you get a tour of the office.
So, while looking your best is important, acting your best is even more crucial. Wear something that looks professional, without making you feel ridiculously uneasy, and you’ll be much better off!
Avoid Anything Over the Top
Your style is undoubtedly an expression of your personality. But, when it comes to interview choices, you should stay far away from anything that’s too trendy, ostentatious, or over the top.
Unless you’re applying to work in the fashion industry, stick with more traditional pieces in classic colors. It might seem boring, but there’s no denying it’s a safe choice.
Yes, standing out in an interview is a good thing. But, you need to make sure it’s for the right reasons. You want to be remembered as the candidate who knocked the interview out of the park, rather than the applicant who showed up in that ridiculous, obnoxiously colored dress. Let your qualifications and accomplishments shine—not your outfit.
When in Doubt, Dress Professionally
Maybe you have a sneaking suspicion that the hiring manager will be wearing jeans and a sweater to your interview, and that you’ll be positively overdressed in your professional ensemble.
It doesn’t matter. If you haven’t been provided explicit instructions that it’s alright to dress casually for your interview, you should err on the side of caution and always dress professionally. In fact, most employers expect that you’ll show up for your meeting looking polished and put together—regardless of what they’re wearing in the office.
So, iron those dress pants and polish those shoes. Being overdressed might be a little uncomfortable. But, trust me, being underdressed just makes you look sloppy and unprepared. And, that’s likely not the type of candidate that’s going to get a call back.
There’s no doubt that there are tons of challenges that come along with preparing for a job interview, including rehearsing your answers to commonly asked questions and researching everything you need to know about the company. But, picking out what to wear on the big day is usually enough to turn those little flips in your stomach into a full-fledged internal rollercoaster ride.
Take a little of the pain out of the process by keeping these tips in mind, and you’re one step closer to acing that interview!