Guide to What To Wear for an Interview (And What to Avoid)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Part of your preparation for a job interview is deciding what to wear, which can sometimes be challenging. Presentation is important for interviews and helps leave a good impression on the employer. Learning how to choose the appropriate attire for your job interviews can help reduce stress and increase your chances of getting hired. In this article, we provide tips on what to wear for an interview and discuss the conventions of business casual attire.

What is business casual?

Although it doesn't have a strict definition, business casual generally means dressing professionally without being overly formal. Often this is fashion more formal than jeans but less formal than a three-piece suit. Most businesses create a dress code to promote business casual attire. This contributes to the company's image and work environment.

Related: Business Formal Attire vs. Business Casual Attire

How to dress business casual

It's important to wear something comfortable that helps make the right impression on the interviewer. Consider the options below when choosing an outfit for an interview:

1. Simple, professional blouses

Wear a blouse that's comfortable, professional and conservative. Try a button-down shirt paired with a cardigan, a simple blouse with a casual jacket, a navy blue blazer or a knit sweater. Neutral colours, such as grey, beige or light colours, are often the best choice. It's also a good idea to wear a simple pattern that won't be distracting or solid colours.

Another option for a top is a long-sleeved shirt with a collar. Check that you button all the buttons and tuck the shirt neatly into your pants for a professional appearance. Wearing a tie is optional, but you may consider it to elevate your outfit. You may also choose to wear a sweater over a button-down shirt. With this option, blues, blacks and greys are popular and appropriate. If the weather is cooler, you can wear a sports jacket or a blazer to stay comfortable while still looking professional.

2. Casual dresses

You might choose a casual dress paired with a cardigan and simple belt. If you wear a dress, ensure that it's knee-length. Similar to choosing a top, it's best to wear a dress with a solid colour or with a simple pattern so that it doesn't draw attention.

3. Dress pants

Options you have for bottoms are pressed cotton pants, light-coloured chinos or khakis. To match your shirt colours, it's best to wear neutral colours like grey, black, brown and navy blue. Sometimes offices allow dark coloured jeans but for an interview, chinos or dress pants are more appropriate.

Wearing slacks or a skirt is also appropriate for business casual. If you wear a skirt, choose one that is knee-length or longer and fits well. Colours such as back or navy will match your top and look professional. If you're wearing a button-down shirt, tuck it into your skirt or pants.

4. Closed-toe shoes

You have several options for footwear that match the business casual dress code. You can wear black or brown closed-toe flats, pumps or low heels for your interview. Ensure that your shoes are clean and in good condition.

Other shoes that are appropriate include loafers, lace-up dress shoes, or another professional closed-toe shoe. Wear dark coloured socks that match your trousers as well as dark-coloured shoes.

5. Simple accessories

You might choose to accessorise your outfit, but try to keep your selections simple. For example, you can wear small hoop or stud earrings or a wristwatch. If you wear a bracelet or necklace, limit this to one piece of jewellery. Silver or gold are colours that look most professional and can complement the neutral colours of your outfit.

Try to match your belt to your shoe or pants colour if you choose to wear one. You can paint your fingernails a light or neutral colour and it's good to check that your nail polish isn't chipping before going to your interview.

Related: Body Language Tips for a Job Interview

Tips for choosing what to wear for an interview

Your outfit can have a significant effect on potential employers and their opinion of you. How you dress can also affect your confidence and help you prepare for a successful interview. Review these tips to decide what to wear for your job interview:

Research the company dress code

Researching the company dress code where you are interviewing can help inform your decisions about what to wear to your interview. Places you can look to learn about what company employees wear include, social media pages and the company website. You could also call the human resources department and ask what they suggest you wear to an interview.

It's helpful to consider the industry and job role for which you are applying. For example, if you're interviewing for a position at a law firm, you may dress more formally than if you are interviewing for a construction company because these businesses have different dress codes.

Related: Guide to Smart Casual Attire in the Workplace

Do a dress rehearsal

Trying on your outfit a few days prior to your interview is a good practice to help ensure that the clothes fit properly and are clean. Check that your pants or shirt don't have wrinkles and consider ironing your clothes for a neat appearance. You can practise interview questions with a family member or friend while wearing the outfit to help become more comfortable.

Before attending the interview, inspect your outfit for imperfections, such as wrinkles, pet hair, holes or dirt. A clean appearance makes a good impression and shows your professionalism.

Related: Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

Style your hair

How you wear your hair is an important consideration for job interviews. If you have long hair, you might pull your hair up and tie it neatly, straighten it for a sleek look, braid it or wear natural curls. For short hair, comb it and consider applying a styling product to keep your hair in place.

A hairstyle is a part of how you present yourself and can influence the impression you make on an interviewer.

Wear perfume or cologne

Wearing either perfume or cologne can help give a pleasant scent and may help you become more memorable to the interviewer. Try to choose a subtle scent, such as a floral fragrance. Consider that some people may be sensitive to certain smells and may feel put off by strong scent perfume. It's also helpful to wear only a small amount so that the smell is not distracting.

Take care of your personal hygiene

Be sure to shower, clean your teeth and groom your facial hair if applicable, before your interview. Cleanliness is very important to appear professional. Taking care of your hygiene shows an interviewer that you are prepared and sincere in your interest in the job.

What should you avoid wearing to a job interview?

Your goal in a job interview is to make a good first impression, and how you dress is an important part of how others perceive you. When dressing for a job interview consider if you would wear the outfit for work at this company in the job position for which you are applying. This is a helpful way to determine if the outfit is appropriate. To make sure you look your best, avoid the following:

  • Open-toed sandals: Shoes that expose any part of your feet could be unsafe in the workplace.

  • Athletic shoes: Athletic shoes appear more casual. Avoid ones that come in bright colours as they can appear unprofessional.

  • Tank tops or shirts with thin straps: A modest look is most appropriate for a professional setting. It's also versatile, meaning that you may feel more comfortable in temperature controlled offices.

  • Shorts: Shorts are casual wear that can also cause a risk because they don't protect your skin like pants.

  • Visible undergarments: Tucking in your shirt can help avoid this problem. Ensure that your undergarments aren't visible above your pants, skirt or shirt.

  • Skirts or dresses that are too short: If the hem of your skirt is shorter than the end of your fingers, choose a longer one.

  • Low necklines: This can look too revealing and isn't as professional as a button-down or blouse.

  • Strong perfume or cologne: Some scents can irritate others and may distract the interviewer.

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