The hard work you’ve put into writing your CV has paid off and you’ve been invited for an interview. Congratulations! Now your thoughts may turn to what to wear.
Dressing too casual and you may come across as you don’t care about making a good first impression. Dressing too formal and you may look out of touch with the company’s culture.
This guide covers how to dress appropriately for an interview, including what to avoid and the best colours to wear so that you make the right impression and hopefully get the job.
What not to wear to an interview
We thought we’d start off by briefly covering what NOT to wear to a job interview.
First impressions matter, whether that’s a face-to-face interview or a virtual interview. We strongly advise that you don’t turn up dressed like you’ve pulled on whatever you can get your hands on from the wardrobe. Even if the job doesn’t involve you dealing with the public or if it’s not stipulated that you’ve got to dress smartly for the interview, turning up in dirty or torn clothes and battered shoes or trainers, will not convince an employer to hire you.
If getting to the interview involves travelling or taking public transport, wear shoes that are comfortable for travelling or walking in and then swap into your smarter shoes once at the interview.
Job Interview dress codes explained
When researching what to wear to a job interview you’ll likely come across these terms; smart-casual, business-casual and business-formal. But, what do these terms actually mean? Let’s see:
This refers to attire that is less formal and more relaxed and comfortable. For men, this could be a smart button-shirt worn with a pair of cords or cotton trousers with a plain tee or jumper. Ideas for women could be a pair of slacks with a collared shirt and a blazer or a dress and flats.
Smart casual attire is usually suitable for interviews at: startups or hospitality jobs like bar work or waiting.
This style of attire can be a cause of confusion as it sits in the middle of smart-casual and business-formal. An example of a business-casual outfit for a woman could be straight leg trousers, with ankle boots and a shirt or rolled-neck jumper. For a man, cotton trousers, a belt and a tucked-in shirt could make a good business-casual outfit.
Business-casual attire is usually suitable for interviews at: small to medium businesses, family-owned firms or creative businesses.
The term business-formal refers to the ‘fully-suited and booted’ interview attire. For men, this is a matching tailored suit, neutral coloured shirt, tie and smart shoes. A matching skirt-suit, tailored trouser-suit or a jersey-style dress and blazer and pumps or heels is a good business-formal option for women. Business-casual attire is usually suitable for interviews in: corporate settings like banking, legal or financial institutions or when interviewing for C-suite level jobs.
Best colours to wear to an interview
The term 'psychology of colour’ isn’t something you hear mentioned every day. If you’re not familiar with it, it refers to the study of colour and how it affects people’s perceptions and behaviours.
In relation to clothing, some believe that certain colours help people connect with you and other colours can create a barrier. Based on this study, here are some of the best colours to consider wearing at a job interview:
Black is a bold and powerful colour. Wearing black can give the impression that you’re confident and are comfortable being in charge. A black suit is suitable for an interview in a corporate environment like law or banking, or for a job interview at C-suite level. However, it may be overpowering for more relaxed office environments.
White emits a sense of calm and truthfulness. When used with powerful colours like black it creates a balance.
When we think of or hear the mention of the colour blue it’s easy to relate it to the ocean or the sky above us, both of which give a sense of calm and tranquility. Blue is also associated with trust. If you think black will be too dominating, swap it for blue instead.
Brown is the ultimate ‘earthy’ colour and it reminds us of soil that is nourishing and reliable. If you want to come across as someone that’s dependable and eager to learn, brown is a good colour to wear.
Red is a daring colour and often associated with danger, but it also reflects warmth and energy. If you don’t have the confidence to wear an outfit entirely of red, it can be added as an accent colour to neutral coloured outfits.
Colours to avoid
In an interview, your ultimate aim is to create a connection with the interviewer and to convince them that you’re the right person for the job. Colours that may work against this include orange, purple, yellow and green. These colours are associated with attention-seeking which isn’t necessarily what an employer wants in their employee.
Should you adapt your interview attire for each interview?
Just like you should tailor your CV or cover letter to each job you apply for, you should consider adapting your attire to suit the company and job you’re interviewing for.
The easiest way of doing this is to research the company and its culture and create an interview outfit that you feel matches this. For example, company websites often have an ‘About Us’ or ‘Work For Us’ page where they explain their company culture. This may be accompanied with pictures of the team, giving you the opportunity to see what people wear to work.
If you can’t find this information on the company’s website or social media, check out reviews left by past and present employees on the company’s Glassdoor Company Review page.
You can also contact the recruiter or hirer for advice on what to wear to the interview. If you’re still uncertain, stick with the traditional smart suit and neutral coloured shirt or top.
Related [How To Decide What To Wear At Work]
Interview attire dos and don'ts
In summary here are some of the key interview attire dos and don’ts:
- Plan your outfit in advance. You don’t want to be stressing about what to wear just before the interview.
- Make sure your interview attire is clean and ready to wear - this includes your shoes as well.
- Keep bold colours to a minimum. You don’t want your clothes to outshine your skills!
- Ignore company culture. Research the company to gauge whether it’s relaxed, formal or somewhere in-between
- Forget about footwear. They say the shoes you wear are the first thing people notice about you
- Be afraid to include an accent colour into your outfit. This could be through adding a tie, handkerchief, scarf or with jewellery
Related [How To Prepare For A Job Interview]