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What To Wear: Dressing For An Interview

Mothers may advise wearing a standard navy suit to an interview, but times have changed and that old-fashioned statement may get you eliminated instead of hired.

Attractive surprised young woman wearing sunglasses on zig zag bThese days, appropriate business attire is much more personal and difficult to define. What is appropriate for one organization may be too formal or informal for another. So, how DO you figure our what to wear? Here are the areas to consider when creating your look.

Look Like What You Do

As an interviewee, your qualifications and your look should support each other. Your image is your packaging, it’s a preview of your skills, talents and character. Your outfit is like a movie trailer – giving the interviewer a preview of coming attractions – your qualifications and personality.

If your focus is interior design, your should be designed and coordinated…like the spaces you create. If you speak about the interaction of Baby Boomers and Gen Y in the workplace, your image should reflect Boomers, Gen Y and business. If your topic is provocative, your outfit should be too…not revealing, but cutting edge or unexpected in someway.

Look Like You Belong

Most companies no longer have a written dress code. You have to be a bit of a detective to figure out what’s appropriate. When your interview is scheduled, ask some detailed questions about the dress code.

  • Is it business formal, business casual, do they wear a uniform?
  • What do people wear who have the position you want?
  • Is it more dress shirts and pants or polos and khahis?

Be a fly on the wall. At least a couple of days before your interview, go to the business to see what they wear for yourself. Sit in the lobby or on a bench outside the building in the morning or at lunch when employees are coming and going. Choose your interview outfit based on the best of what you see people wearing.

Does the company have a uniform? If so, choose an outfit that mimics the uniform so you look like you are already part of the organization. If you’re going for a job as a flight attendant, wear something similar to the flight attendant’s uniform. If you’re going for a job at Target, wear red and khaki (for all levels at Target, including management).

Jackets & Blazers

A blazer-style jacket is a great addition to an interview outfit because it adds gravitas to your look. A suit jacket/blazer makes any outfit a bit more respectful and serious. For a more casual work environment, go with a denim, corduroy or knit fabric. For a more formal business environment, go with Ponte knit or woven wool. If you don’t want to wear a jacket during the interview, wear it into the room, then remove it and place it on the back of your chair before you sit down.

Interview Attire?

Generations Matter

If you haven’t met your interviewer before, search social media and other online sources for photos of them in business and social situations to get a feel for their age and how they dress.

If your interviewer is Gen Y, skip a formal suit and choose mix and match separates. Definitely leave the panty hose at home! On the other hand, if you are meeting with a Baby Boomer, choose a more cohesive suit or coordinated separates and definitely consider wearing panty hose.

Respect The Culture

Different countries and cultures have different norms. In the United States, business dress is always modest. To be on the safe side, women and men should choose closed-toe shoes, short or long sleeve shirts and tops, necklines that completely conceal cleavage (and chest hair), waistbands that completely conceal caboose cleavage, and skirts that completely cover the thighs. Underwear should always be invisible. Leave anything snug or body conscious in the closet.

Keep tattoos covered unless your recon tells you that tattoos are accepted in the work environment.

Attention To Details

Grooming, the condition, and the fit of clothing reflects your attention to details. Clothing should be clean and in good condition. Shine shoes. Clean and press clothes. Fix or skip anything with stray threads, loose buttons, fabric pills, worn hems or stains.

For men, skin should be clean and moisturized without being oily. Neatly groom/trim facial hair, ear hair, nose hair and arm hair. Other body hair should be concealed. Nails should be natural, clean and manicured.

For women, neatly groom eyebrows and nose hair. Remove visible hairs on face, and legs (if you wear a skirt/dress). Nails should be clean and manicured. Makeup is part of grooming and is expected in most work environments. Keep it simple and natural.

Image And Substance

Image is a reflection of your substance, not a substitute for it. Companies invest lots of time and resources in packaging to get customers to notice their products on store shelves. Your interview look merits time and attention so you get the opportunity to show off your skills and experience.

Sarah Shah is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.


The post is presented by the National Publicist, Annie Jennings of the NYC based PR Firm, Annie Jennings PR.  Annie Jennings PR specializes in marketing books for getting authors booked on radio talk show interviews, TV shows in major online and in high circulation magazines and newspapers. Annie also works with speaker and experts to build up powerful platforms of credibility and influence.