What to Wear to an Interview in 2021 + Attire & Outfit Ideas

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You have big dreams. Usually, those dreams start with getting a job that will pave the way for your future. In order to earn that job, you need to have a successful interview. That’s what this post is all about.

Throughout this post, you will find everything you need to know about preparing for your interview, what items you need to have with you, and, most specifically, what to wear to an interview. Whether you are interviewing for a job at your local coffee shop or at a Fortune 500 company, you will be fully prepared after reading this post.

We cover different types of interviews. Some of these include Zoom interviews, lunch meetings, one-on-one interviews, and interviews with groups of people. Once you are done reading this, you will know some of the most common interview questions, which questions you should be asking yourself, and the difference between business casual and business professional interview clothing.

After you have finished reading, you will be ready to ace your next interview so you can start turning those big dreams into reality.

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The Interview

Successful job hunting requires preparation. Perhaps you already know that your resume needs to highlight your skills and experience, but are you prepared for what happens next? Before you can get your dream job (or any job), you need to nail the interview. This chapter explains exactly what an interview is, the different types of interviews and what you can expect.

Once you are finished with this chapter, you won’t be caught off guard by a strange interview format that you never expected. You will be ready to take on your next interview full of knowledge and confidence. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

What is an interview? 

The simple interview definition is a face-to-face meeting between people. It is a time that allows the two people to get to know each other better through a series of questions and answers. A job interview has the specific goal of finding if the applicant is suitable for a position.

Understanding the interview definition is the most basic, first step to having a successful interview. Think of this knowledge as a foundation for gaining all that you need to start an interview with a smile and leave it with a job offer. When it comes to a job interview, you can’t wing it. You need to be prepared for anything.

I have conducted hundreds of interviews, maybe thousands, over the course of my career. I can tell you without a doubt that it is easy to point out the applicants that arrive with fundamental knowledge of what to expect and those who walk through the door completely unaware of how a job interview works. Those who have done their homework will always outshine those who haven’t.

Though there are different types of interviews – more on that later – the very basic method is you, the applicant will be asked a series of questions by a representative of the company where you applied. Questions will be specific and open-ended. You need to be prepared to answer all of the questions as honestly, openly, and quickly as you can. You will also be expected to ask some questions of your own.

The Interview Format

There exist several types of interview formats. You may need to go through an individual interview, a group interview, a panel interview, or a phone interview. So, you’d better be prepared for typical and unexpected interview situations. 

What is an interview format?

A typical interview format begins with an introduction and some get-to-know-you chitchat. The interviewer will then provide information about the business and the specific job. The interviewer will ask a series of questions and follow-up questions. In some cases, the interviewer will ask you to take a test or complete a survey. You will then be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer before you are sent on your way.

Most employers follow this basic format. It is the easiest way to get to know a potential hire. However, there are always those businesses that like to think outside the box.

Some companies may ask you to ask your questions first. They might have several different people speak with you at once or at different times. Companies that are looking for quick hires might skip most of the questions. Others might keep you onsite for hours as they grill you about your skills and future plans. Occasionally, a job interview will end with the need for a second interview.

It is always wise to plan for the typical interview format while remaining prepared for the unexpected.

Main types of interview formats

Along with the basic outline of an interview is the method in which it is carried out. Most interviews are conducted with a human resources representative or a departmental manager. Some interviews are conducted with teams of people for a variety of reasons. It is good to try to learn in advance exactly who will be interviewing you so you can prepare to interview with an individual or a group.

Individual interview

An individual interview is an interview in which you are the only applicant being interviewed by one other person. This is the most common type of job interview for entry-level positions. These interviews are usually conducted by a manager but might be conducted by an HR rep.

The individual interview might take place in an office or a conference room. The interviewer will try to find a spot where you are comfortable and undisturbed by the commotion of daily activity. The one-on-one interview might also include a tour of the facility and introductions to potential future co-workers.

Group interview

A group interview is an interview in which several candidates are being interviewed at the same time. This type of interview is common when a company has several of the same positions open and has a tight deadline to fill those positions.

Group interviews are popular choices for fast food employment, retail workers, entry-level manufacturing, and basic clerical positions. An employer will give you the meeting time for the group interview and will talk with everyone at once. This is usually in the form of a group discussion followed by individual questions. The interviewer will take note of who answers questions, who pays careful attention during the process, and how well the interviewees get along with one another.

Panel interview

A panel interview is an interview in which a single applicant is interviewed by a group of people. This is a common structure in high-level positions, jobs that require significant technical expertise, and positions in which you may be working very closely with a team.

The panel may be comprised of a manager and several other employees. It could include a managerial team and representatives from human resources. In many instances, the panel interview is a board of directors who have very specific needs that must be met. In any instance, you should be prepared for more questions than in a one-on-one interview. You must also be prepared to build rapport with each person on the panel. A panel interview can be stressful, but there is a big benefit that isn’t seen with individual interviews. In a one-on-one meeting, your fate is dependent upon the singular interviewer. With a panel, you have the chance to impress multiple people.

Phone interview

A phone interview is an interview that takes place over the telephone. A phone interview is often a precursor to a more formal, in-person interview. Phone interviews might also take the place of in-person interviews for remote jobs and positions that require relocating.

woman calling phone laptop
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Phone interviews usually cover the basic needs of the employer. The interviewee might ask for a brief skills overview, availability, and salary requirements. Like an individual interview, the phone interview usually takes place with an HR rep or manager. However, some phone interviews are meant to “weed-out” people who might not be a good fit. An office assistant may ask brief questions to ensure you have the skills required for the job.

Formal phone interviews might include a panel that meets through a conference call. These interviews have similar formats as in-person interviews. An interview like this is somewhat rare but may be necessary if location is a factor.

Interview environment 

Interviews may take place in any number of locations. The standard locations for interviews are the interviewee’s office, a conference room, or a third-party location, like a restaurant. Interviews that are conducted remotely should be held in a quiet location that is free from distractions.

In-person interview

An in-person interview is an interview that takes place physically face-to-face. This type of interview is the most common in all types of positions. In-person interviews may be individual or group interviews conducted by a single person or a panel.

An in-person interview allows the interviewee to get to know you in the best way. They can see how you respond to questions, how you interact with others, and whether you seem comfortable in the new work environment. An in-person interview also judges punctuality. Being late to an in-person interview doesn’t bode well for future job performance.

Formal interview

A formal interview is an interview that takes place in a formal atmosphere, like an office or conference room. This is the standard interview for most positions.

Formal interviews are conducted on-site with one or more representatives of the company. A formal interview will have serious questions that are meant to determine if the interviewee has the right skills and demeanor for the job at hand. Most interviewers will have a copy of your resume, which they will discuss in great detail, along with any other questions.

Formal interviews are typical of jobs of all types. Whether entry-level, minimum wage, or upper-level management, you can assume that your interview will be in a formal setting. There are very few exceptions to this general rule.

Casual interview

A casual interview usually refers to an interview that is held in a location other than the place of employment. It might take place in a restaurant, coffee shop, or even outdoors. Casual interview might also refer to the interview style.

A casual interview might have questions that are less structured than a formal interview. These interviews encourage the applicant to have a conversation rather than answer pre-written questions that are asked of all prospective employees. Those companies that prefer casual interviews may be looking more for a personality fit than specific skills.

In all instances, a casual interview is much more laid back than a formal interview. However, casual interviews should be taken just as seriously as their formal counterparts.

Meal interview

A meal interview is an interview that takes place at a restaurant while food is being served. It may be a lunch or dinner interview. Some meal interviews are conducted over appetizers and drinks.

A meal interview is a form of casual interview. It is often considered more as a “get to know you” situation than one that questions whether or not you have the skills to complete the job. Meal interviews might take place before a formal interview to assess your interpersonal skills. Conversely, some companies conduct a formal interview first and then choose a meal interview as a follow-up form of questioning.

Virtual interview

A virtual interview is an interview that takes place through a conference call or, more often, through a video platform like Zoom or Google Meetings. A virtual interview is a good alternative to an in-person interview when time or location makes in-person meetings difficult.

Zoom interviews have become more and more popular in recent years. They allow employers to interview more candidates from a wider geographic area than ever before. This can make jobs more difficult to obtain due to the increase in competition, but it is also a convenient way to interview without having to sit across a table or desk from another person.

The downside to virtual interviews is that it is easy for the interviewee to let their guard down. A comfortable environment could equal less preparedness. Likewise, any distractions that are common at home could disrupt the interview process. For example, noisy children or needy pets might prove to the interviewee that you are unable to concentrate on the task at hand. This is particularly important if the job itself is virtual.

Video interview tips

Video interviews are excellent tools for employers. They save money and time while opening up the pool of possible employees to those in locations both near and far. However, video interviews aren’t always the easiest option for the interviewee. There are a few tips you need to remember before logging into Zoom and putting on your best “please hire me” smile.

Do Your Homework

It should go without saying, but a video interview is just as important as an in-person interview. Prepare in the same way that you would if you were meeting your interviewer face-to-face.

Prepare the Interview Space
woman sitting laptop office
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Make sure your space is free from clutter and any items that may be distracting. It can be a positive thing to show some of your personality but don’t have items on your screen that will divert attention from you.

Remove All Distractions

Other types of distractions need to be removed as well. Hire a sitter to watch the children. Place pets in a different room. Ensure you are far enough away from video games, televisions, and music players that the noise won’t interfere with your interview.

Have Digital and Physical Copies of All Documents

Keep a copy of your resume, cover letter, and any references with you while you interview. Don’t rely on digital copies that you might not be able to see well while in a Zoom interview. Likewise, have all of your questions and notes written out where you can refer to them while you interview.

Dress for Success

Just because you are interviewing from home doesn’t mean you can dress down. Wear the same clothing for your video interview as you would in person. This includes the top as well as the bottom. The last thing you need is to stand up during the interview and show potential employees that you are wearing sloth pajamas with your suit jacket.

Run a Full Technology Check

Before the interview, double-check all of your technology to make sure it is in proper working order. Make sure your internet connection is strong, your video is working, and that your audio is loud enough to hear and be heard. If possible, have a trial video interview with a friend.

Show Up Early

Punctuality is vital for any job. Being late to an interview is practically a death sentence. Show up late to an interview that is in your own home, and you may as well not show up at all. Log on at least 10 minutes early so you can make sure your technology is working and that you are fully prepared.

Check Your Screen Name
laughing woman man office desk
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In 2020, like most people, I spent a lot of time on Zoom. At one point, I thought it would be funny to change my screen name to “Watchu Talkinbout.” Sometime later, I had a Zoom meeting that included a prominent politician and a Grammy-award winning artist. To say I was embarrassed when someone pointed out my interesting screen name is a vast understatement. Learn from my experience and make sure your screen name is correct.

Keep Eye Contact

Don’t look down, at another device, at your notes, or even at yourself while you are on a video interview. It is okay to glance away from time to time but keep the attention on your interviewer.

Be Patient

Technology lags often happen with video interviews. Be patient and understanding. Don’t let frustrations get the best of you, whether the problems are on your end or your interviewer’s. Simply taking it in stride or even making jokes about it will help to lighten the mood. This will show your interviewer that you aren’t easily stressed, which will make you a more attractive applicant.

Now that you have read this chapter, you should feel very confident that you know all about the different types of interviews. You even have a few tips for acing video interviews! There is still so much more to come. In the next chapter, you will learn how to do the interview prep work that is so vital for success. Keep reading!

Preparing for the interview

A job will not simply fall into your lap because you want it. Preparation is an absolute must. This chapter explains exactly what you need to do to have the best job interview possible.

You will learn what to expect, what to bring with you, and how to set up your space for video interviews. Most importantly, you will have the confidence that mental preparation provides. Regardless of the type of job you seek, the interview is arguably the most vital aspect for getting a great offer.

How to prepare for a job interview?

Your interview starts the moment you walk in the door or turn on your video camera. Preparation starts now. Know what to do and what to say during your interview to leave a powerful impression on the interviewee.

woman using laptop table
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What questions will they ask?

The type of questions asked depends on the job. Expect questions that pinpoint specific details. For instance, if you are interviewing for a marketing position, the employer might ask you how you would market certain products to make them stand out. If you are interviewing for a position in computer repair, you may be asked the easiest ways to fix the most common PC problems.

There are questions that are common to most interviews. Where do you see yourself in five years? What caused you to leave your current position? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you manage conflict with co-workers? Why are you interested in this job? What does a perfect workday look like to you?

Prepare answers to these most common questions while also considering out-of-the-box questions that might come up.

What questions will you ask?

Every interviewer takes time to ask you what questions you have. This is where you can show how serious you are about the position. Formulate your question by doing research on the place of business. Go to their website. Read about the company. Do research into the type of job for which you are applying. Take note of everything that stands out to you.

Do you feel as though you have no questions to ask? Don’t go that route. The interviewer wants to know that you are curious about the business and the job. Ask about the work environment, the company’s future plans, strategies for growth, and the boss’s managerial style. Feel free to write down questions as they occur to you during the interview as well.

Talk about benefits and salary

The interviewer will probably ask you about your salary needs. This is where research is vital. Your job may have a preset payscale that has no room to increase. If you are willing to take $20 per hour, but you tell the employer you want $40; you might have upsold yourself out of an offer.

Most jobs have flexible pay. Research the amount of pay the employer typically offers for the job as well as the standard pay for that position in your area. Ask slightly more than what you want with the knowledge that negotiations will happen. Don’t forget to ask about benefits if the interviewer doesn’t provide that information.

Tips for In-Person Interviews

An in-person interview means meeting the interviewer face-to-face. The interviewer can see your nerves and any lack of preparation. Keep these tips in mind to alleviate those nerves.

  • Eat a light meal about an hour before your scheduled interview.
  • Be friendly and pleasant with everyone you meet.
  • Think about how you will answer interview questions.
  • Have some questions of your own planned in advance.
  • Mute your cell phone.
  • Try not to fidget as you talk with your interviewer.
  • Don’t feel shy about asking for clarification.
  • Do not check cell messages during the interview.
  • Bring all items with you that you might need.
  • Dress for success.

Tips for Virtual Interviews

Virtual interviews give you the freedom of being in a familiar space. You might feel more relaxed, which can give you an edge when it comes to the interview. Still, you need to keep the following tips in mind.

  • Follow the same tips for in-person interviews.
  • Prepare a quiet, clear space for the virtual interview.
  • Make sure sound and video are working.
  • Keep a glass of water nearby.
  • Keep pets, children, or roommates out of the area where you are interviewing.
  • Don’t use your cell phone.
  • Pause before answering questions to ensure there is no overlap or lag.
  • Let the interviewer know if you start having technical problems.
  • Have a phone number on hand so you can call if the session drops.
  • Do not use funny backgrounds or screen names.

What to Bring to an Interview

Being prepared isn’t all about mental preparation. It is a big no-no to show up to an interview empty-handed. Keep this list of items you need to have with you for your next interview.

What to Take to an In-Person Interview

An in-person interview requires some advanced organization. Put all of your supplies together the evening before the interview, so you have ample time to work on your personal techniques the following day.

  • File Pocket: Keeps your papers tidy and organized.
  • Resume: Bring extra copies for each interviewer and yourself.
  • Cover Letter: Bring extra copies for each interview and yourself.
  • References: Have a list of references ready if requested.
  • Writing utensil: For jotting down notes.
  • Small notepad: For keeping track of questions.
  • Samples or Portfolio: Graphic design, artwork, writing, marketing, public relations, and similar jobs might require some samples.
  • List of questions: Don’t try to remember the questions you plan to ask.
  • Breath mints: Confidence is key. Make sure you have fresh breath.
  • Tissues: It’s always best to be prepared.
two woman hands papers
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What to Bring to a Virtual Interview

A virtual interview still requires specific items. Along with the obvious items, like a laptop and webcam, you will need some standard interview items. Unlike in-person interviews, you can skip bringing references and a portfolio. Those should be digital so they can be emailed if requested.

  • Laptop or tablet: You can’t do a digital interview without a device!
  • Webcam, if needed: A poor quality internal webcam should be upgraded.
  • Headphones: Make sure you can hear the interviewers!
  • Screen wipe: You may need to clean your webcam to get the best picture.
  • Resume: A printed resume is easier to access when you are using a device for the interview.
  • Writing utensil: You still need to be able to take notes!
  • Small notepad: The notepad is handy for all of those things you don’t want to forget.
  • List of questions: A pre-printed list of questions is better than digital when in a virtual interview.
  • Water: A dry throat is not your friend.
  • Tissues: Once again, be prepared.

Now that you know how to prepare for your interview and what to bring along, it is time to focus on what to wear to an interview. The clothes you wear tell your interviewer almost as much about you as your ability to answer questions. Are you ready? Keep reading!

What to wear to aN interview

First impressions matter. The ensemble you wear to the interview is the first thing a potential employer will notice about you. Though a great interview might be able to overcome a so-so first impression, it is always better to start things off as well as possible.

In this chapter, you will learn which clothing items are best for interviews and which ones you should avoid. You will find tips about how to wear certain clothing and even how to save a few dollars by buying versatile pieces. You will also come away with a full understanding of the differences between professional, smart casual, and business casual environments.

The interview attire

The interview attire you choose isn’t just about creating the best first impression. It is also important for inspiring confidence in yourself. Wearing interview clothes that you know are appropriate for the job will help you to answer questions more clearly and have a general air of self-assuredness that a potential employer is sure to see as an attractive quality for a new hire.

The best part about great interview clothes is that you don’t have to break the bank. Purchase one go-to interview outfit that you can wear for any and all interviews you have. 

The right pieces are versatile, professional, and long-lasting. Though there are different types of interview attire, you can often find the addition or subtraction of certain accessories is enough to perfectly craft the look you seek.

Business Formal Interview Attire

Business formal attire is a strict dress code in a very professional setting. Also known as business professional, business formal generally consists of a dark suit and dress shoes. Men typically wear a tie with a button-up shirt. Women usually wear a pantsuit or a skirt suit with dress shoes.

Business formal attire is appropriate for many job interviews. It is a must for a job interview that takes place in a professional business setting. Business professional clothing is also wise for interviews in more casual office environments. This style of dress works for any job interview for a position in a professional atmosphere that is also customer-facing (banking, customer service, sales, etc.).

detail man suit coffee
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Business Formal Do’s
  • Do invest in one high-quality suit that will last. It is far less expensive than repeatedly buying low-quality suits year after year.
  • Do wear dark suits with a lighter shirt or blouse.
  • Do match your shoes to the suit.
  • Do make sure the suit is freshly pressed and free from stains. Carry a stain stick and a lint roller in case of emergency.
  • Do let your personality shine! A blouse or tie in your favorite color can make your business professional look more interesting. Stay away from busy patterns and neons.
Business Formal Don’ts
  • Don’t over-accessorize. Minimal jewelry and understated bags are best.
  • Don’t allow shirt or blouse hems to fall beneath the hem of the jacket. Tuck the shirt into your pants or skirt, if possible.
  • Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes. Break-in dress shoes so they will be comfortable when the time comes to go to the interview. Likewise, high heels and stilettos are unnecessary if you prefer flats.
  • Don’t choose fabrics that are sequined, satin, or velvet. Linen, cotton, and silk are better options for business professional.
  • Don’t wear brown shoes with black suits.

Business Casual Interview Attire

Business casual does not mean showing up to work in jeans and a t-shirt. Instead, think of it as a step back from business professional or business formal. Business casual offers comfort while still creating a professional environment. It usually consists of pants or a skirt, a dress shirt or sweater, and dress shoes. Men usually wear ties in business casual offices.

Business casual wear is a fine choice for many job interviews. Business casual is arguably the most common type of clothing worn in offices due to the comfort and relative affordability. 

Business casual is a good choice for job interviews in foodservice, industrial environments, retail, and many others. Do not wear business casual to an interview in a business that has a strict business formal dress code.

Business Casual Do’s
  • Do choose dresses or skirts of a professional length. Think knee-length or longer.
  • Do wear khaki pants with a sweater set or a button-down shirt.
  • Do opt for closed-toe shoes. Open-toe shoes and sandals are still too casual for a business casual environment. Dress shoes and boots are good options.
  • Do make sure you look clean and tidy. Just because the dress code is casual doesn’t mean you can be sloppy.
  • Do reuse your business formal attire. Business formal becomes business casual by simply removing the suit jacket.
Business Casual Don’ts
  • Don’t wear clothing that is too tight. A good fit is important, even if that means buying a size up. You will have the added benefit of being more comfortable as well.
  • Don’t choose clothing with obnoxious patterns, eye-straining colors, or in-your-face logos. While colorful clothing is fine, make sure you are wearing something that won’t offend the interviewer.
  • Don’t mistake clubwear for business casual. A party dress is not suited to a business environment.
  • Do keep hair and makeup (if worn) neat and tidy. You don’t need to get a haircut or hide beautiful, natural hair. You do need to make sure it is well kept and, if possible, secured away from the face.
  • Don’t worry about over-dressing. It is always better to be more professional than too casual.

Smart Casual Interview Attire

Smart casual is the area where dressy casual and business casual meet. Smart casual combines elements of business casual wear with fun or comfortable pieces. It is becoming a trend in today’s offices to offer smart casual environments daily or, at minimum, on Casual Friday.

Smart casual might be the right choice for a job interview if you are certain that the job environment is one that embraces casual or smart casual clothing. It could be a good option for a very informal work environment. 

However, you should ensure it is an accepted and expected dress code before showing up to a job interview in clothing that embraces comfort and personality over professionalism.

Smart Casual Do’s
  • Do have fun with your look. Go for a bold blouse or a shirt with a unique collar to add interest to your look.
  • Do wear dark jeans that are clean and pressed. Jeans should never be frayed, have holes in them, or be lighter colors.
  • Do include a blazer to add some “smart” to smart casual.
  • Do wear a polo tie with khakis or dress pants.
  • Do consider a one-piece jumper or dress. The dress should neither be too short nor too long in order to avoid looking overly casual.
Smart Casual Don’ts
  • Don’t choose a t-shirt with a logo or funny phrase, no matter how clever it might seem to you.
  • Don’t wear tennis shoes or open-toe sandals. Reserve those shoes for ultra-casual environments.
  • Don’t accessorize with a tie, as this is too professional for a smart casual look.
  • Don’t get too funky with your clothing and accessory choices. One fun piece added to a business casual outfit is all you need.
  • Don’t forget about hygiene. No matter how you dress, you should always be clean.

How to dress for a job interview

Start choosing your job interview clothing by observing the work environment. Are most people wearing suits and ties? Business formal is the right choice for the interview. Do you see plenty of people in sweaters or button-up shirts without jackets? Business casual is a good option. Are jeans and t-shirts or even sweatshirts the norm? Try for business casual or smart casual.

What happens if you can’t peer into the work environment? It is okay to ask. Call the company’s human resources department and ask about the dress code. Explain that you are interviewing for a position and want to know how employees in the environment typically dress. A good HR representative is happy to tell you the office’s dress code.

Interview attire for men

Interview attire for men almost always consists of dress pants and a dress shirt. Men’s interview attire always includes dress shoes that are freshly shined and show no scuffs.

Business formal clothes for men means wearing a suit. The suit jacket and pants should be a matching set. Men can wear a vest if it is part of a three-piece suit. A tie is expected in for business professional environments.

Business casual might mean skipping the tie or skipping the jacket, but rarely both. Smart casual can mean wearing a polo shirt or dark jeans with a dress shirt.

The suit

Your suit needs to be a dark color. Preferably, choose a black and navy suit with or without a matching vest. Pinstripes are okay, but for the sake of longevity, you should avoid any colors or patterns that might be too trendy.

A high-quality suit is a must-have item for any man who wants to make a good impression in a job interview. The suit doesn’t need to cost thousands of dollars or be tailor-made. Go to a suit shop and ask about off-the-rack options that fit your budget. You can then have it customized for a perfect fit.

Believe it or not, you can find excellent suits at thrift shops and second-hand stores. It will probably need some tailoring and a good dry cleaning, but a second-hand suit is far less expensive than one that is brand new.

two men talking in office
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The shirt

The good news with shirts is that you have many options. With dress shirts, you can pick button-down collars, French cuffs, and as many colors as you can imagine. The best option for business formal wear is to buy a white shirt, which will go with everything.

Make sure you get the sizing right when looking for shirts. Collar and arm length are important in ensuring a professional fit. Skip any shirts that are only available in small, medium, and large as the arm length might be a real problem.

When looking for business casual shirts, pick a polo in a color that suits you. Neutral color polos are best, but if you look great in pink, go for it! Skip any neons or checkerboard patterns.

The shoes

Shoes are an area where it helps to spend more money. High-quality shoes will last you for years, which will be very important if you get a job offer. Look for Oxford shoes or high-quality loafers. 

Leather is the most professional, but vegans can still find good-quality shoes that use synthetic materials. Suede is lovely and professional, but it may not last long if you have wet weather or step in a puddle.

Keep shoes clean and shined for every job interview. Once you are used to shining your shoes, you should be able to rub out any scuffs with relative ease. Always wear dark shoes with your interview suit. Never wear brown shoes with black slacks.

The jacket/coat

A suit jacket should be bought as part of a set, which makes choosing the right suit jacket easier. What about those jackets that are separates? Dark colors are always suitable for job interviews. 

A dark brown, black, or navy suit jacket is a good choice. Make sure you get the right size by measuring your chest and arm length before making a purchase. 

Single-breasted (meaning one column of buttons) jackets are the most common and are more casual than double-breasted jackets.

Those who live in colder environments might need to wear a coat over a suit to a job interview. A wool peacoat, a trench coat, or a topcoat is fine for wearing to the interview. A black or dark grey coat will go with almost everything.

The hairstyle

Hairstyle shouldn’t be forgotten when interviewing. You don’t need to change who you are for a job interview, but you do need to have a professional appearance. Most professional work environments will request that you have natural color hair, so if you love your blue mohawk, you might have to choose between that and the job.

Men with long hair should brush it neatly and secure it in a low ponytail, though it is viewed as more professional to have a shorter haircut. At a minimum, hair should always be clean and nicely combed.

Facial hair may or may not be frowned upon at a given workplace. Those men who do not wish to shave their facial hair should make sure their facial hair is neatly trimmed.

man suit standing wall
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What not to wear to an interview

There are plenty of tips about what to wear to a job interview. What about those pieces that are off-limits? Take some time to familiarize yourself with items that should never be worn to an interview regardless of the position. Likewise, if you do have a piece of clothing you want to wear, but you think might not be appropriate, it probably isn’t.

  • Anything with tears, rips, stains, or holes. If your best suit has a hole that can’t be patched, it’s time to go shopping. It will be worth the money you spend on a new suit if you get the job of your dreams.
  • Jeans, shorts, t-shirts and tennis shoes. Unless you are interviewing for a job as a lifeguard, you should steer clear of clothing that you would wear to the beach. It’s always best to dress professionally for job interviews, even for that lifeguarding gig.
  • Formal wear. A job interview is no place for a tuxedo.
  • Too much cologne. Dousing yourself in cologne or body spray can set off an allergic reaction if your interviewer has a sensitive nose. Go light on the cologne.
  • Offensive tattoos. You might not be able to do remove that ink you got on a drunken dare, but you do need to cover it up when interviewing. Any tattoos that display coarse language or nudity should be covered with clothing or tattoo makeup.
man seatting thinking
Source: Bani Abdelhakim on Unsplash

Interview attire for women

Interview attire for women is much more versatile than what men are expected to wear. Women can choose from pantsuits or skirt suits for business formal interviews. Business casual might mean dressy slacks and a blouse, a skirt/blouse/blazer combo, or even a dressy jumpsuit.

Women’s interview attire includes dress shoes that are closed toes, but even those are somewhat varied. Women can wear high heels, short heels, loafers, or ballet flats. The most important thing is that the shoes be clean and clear from scuffs.

Women’s interview clothing takes accessories into consideration as well. The purse should match her shoes. Jewelry should be kept minimal, and perfume should be worn lightly or not at all.

The suit 

Your suit will either consist of a suit jacket and dress slacks or a jacket and skirt. Many suit sets come with all three. Choose slacks or a skirt based on what makes you feel the most comfortable, as both are considered professional clothing items. Business formal means a suit in dark brown, dark blue, or black.

Business casual clothing might mean a suit in a different color. They are available in all shades, which allows you to show off some fun and style during your interview. However, to save money, purchase a darker color suit and pair it with a different top for business casual or smart casual environments.

The shirt

The shirt you wear with your suit is based on the type of interview. A business professional environment usually means wearing a white or otherwise neutral, subdued tone with your suit. A crew-neck blouse or button-up dress shirt is a fine choice.

You do have the option of showing some personality by enlivening the outfit through your shirt. Because it will only be peeking out of the suit jacket, wearing a dynamic red or a soft lilac could be a fun change of pace. This is particularly so for a business casual atmosphere.

Business casual attire means you can skip the suit jacket and showcase a favorite blouse. Just make sure it is not overly bright or overly patterned. Likewise, try to avoid shirts that are too revealing. 

The shoes

The biggest mistake women make with their interview shoes is wearing shoes with open-toes. This is seen as a big no-no in professional work environments. Sandals or tennis shoes are also out of the question.

Wear shoes that you find the most comfortable. For some, that is ballet flats. For others, it’s chunky heels. Even boots are okay with certain outfits.

Black shoes are fine with most outfits. Neutral tans will almost always work as well. Do avoid wearing brown shoes with black clothing. Otherwise, you can mix and match. It is a good idea to own both tan and black shoes so you will always have something to wear without having to buy a new pair of shoes to go with every outfit.

The skirt

Skirt length might be an issue when choosing to go this route during a job interview. Skirts should be knee-length or longer, but they shouldn’t be as long as ankle-length. Both minis and maxis are viewed as too casual, even for a smart casual environment.

Styles of skirts are a matter of personal taste. Pencil skirts are the most favored by women in the workplace as they remain professional while also being flattering to most figures. Avoid circle or swing skirts. You have too much risk of showing accidental skin, which might cause you to feel even more nervous during your job interview.

If you are wearing a shorter skirt to an interview, plan to wear hosiery or tights. 

The hairstyle

Your hair shouldn’t be a distraction. Keep hair pulled back, if possible. A headband or a low ponytail is fine for a business interview. You could also put your hair in a bun if it is long enough.

Do you prefer to leave your hair down? Make sure it is combed and all fly-aways glossed. It’s not a bad idea to do a deep-conditioning treatment the day before an interview.

Lastly, the color of your hair might make a difference. Though pink hair is pretty, a professional environment might frown on it. Think twice before showing up with a hair color that doesn’t appear in nature.

The jewelry and accessories

Jewelry needs to be understated. Stud earrings or small hoops are good choices for ears. Pierced cartilage, including noses, should be adorned with jewelry that is as small as possible. It’s not a bad idea to remove it completely for the interview. Avoid statement necklaces and chunky bracelets in exchange for simple chains.

Choose a purse in a shade that matches your shoes. A small purse is a good idea unless you prefer to skip the purse altogether.

detail woman earring
Source: Kate Hliznitsova on Unsplash
The makeup

Don’t feel as though you have to use makeup. A fresh face is always fine in a professional environment. If you do choose to wear makeup, less is better than more. Use mascara and light eyeliner. Avoid the smokey eye look and skip the fake lashes. Use a lip gloss with a tint rather than a bright red lip. Subtle blush, highlights, and natural eye shadow are fine.

What not to wear to an interview

The items you shouldn’t wear to an interview have mostly been covered. Still, it is a good idea to remind yourself of all of those things you should never wear.

Revealing clothes

This includes tank tops, shirts that show too much cleavage, and very short skirts. While the female body is nothing to be ashamed of, it is considered inappropriate for women and men alike to wear clothing that displays significant skin.

Sweatpants, yoga pants, and leggings

These comfy items may be your go-to for every day, but the job interview is no place for stretchy pants.

Fur or faux fur

People have very strong feelings about fur and faux fur. You do not want to go to an interview wearing fur only to find out the interviewer is an animal rights activist. Likewise, many people are strongly anti-faux fur because of its use of non-biodegradable plastic. Even if it’s only attached to the hood of your coat, leave that fur at home.

Political statements

The workplace is not the place for politics. That is even more true during job interviews. Avoid any political gear, even if it’s simply a pen you pull out of your purse. The exception to this is if you want to ensure you only work in an environment that aligns with your political beliefs.

Too much makeup or perfume

Overuse of makeup and perfumes can be very distracting to the interviewer. Be known for your resume, not your Chanel No. 5.

Now you know exactly what to wear and what not to wear to your next job interview. You have learned about the different types of corporate environments and how different pieces fit in with these atmospheres. What’s next? Keep reading to find some fun outfit ideas!

Interview Outfit Ideas

When attending an interview, it’s of vital importance you dress properly. Your clothes won’t only help you to give a great impression, they’ll also help you to be confident and demonstrate to the interviewers you know what you’re doing.

In this chapter, I’ll share some interview outfit ideas for men and women. If you’re still doubting what’s the right outfit for an interview, carry on reading. Let’s have a look at some examples!

Interview outfit ideas for men

Here are some interview outfit ideas for men:

Wear a suit

It’s a great idea you wear a suit when attending an interview, provided that the dress code is business formal. It would be wise to invest in a high-quality suit that will serve you for attending future interviews or for going to work.

As important as wearing a nice suit, it is to choose the right shirt. Not any shirt you have in your wardrobe is suitable for interviews. It’s advisable you err on the classic side. 

Besides, the shoes and belt you wear are extremely important. Yes, you have to wear a belt. As to the shoes, leather dress shoes are essential. Make sure they’re polished before leaving home. 

man dark suit sitting
Source: Harsh Gupta on Unsplash

Wear a blazer

There are times when it’s not necessary to wear a suit. Still, business casual attire is more than advisable. Therefore, you may want to wear a blazer or even a suit jacket with nice dress pants and a dress shirt like in the picture below.

Besides, I’d like to highlight the fact that he’s got a groomed beard and his hair looks nice and clean. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that you don’t want to appear completely shaved. Still, your appearance does matter. So, if you are among those who love to wear a beard, make sure it’s groomed. 

Wear a classic suit

The man in this photo is also wearing a suit. However, this outfit is more conservative than the one of the man in the first outfit idea I’ve shared. 

This time, he’s wearing a dark-colored suit with a white button-down dress shirt. Not surprisingly, he’s wearing dress shoes too. He looks professional and sophisticated. He’s dressed to impress!

Wear a modern suit

Another great example is the one you can see in this image. This man is wearing a dark blue suit, a white button-up dress shirt, an elegant tie and dark brown dress shoes.

On top of that, he’s also wearing a watch and dark-colored socks. Obviously, his hair is groomed. Not to mention that he’s wearing a pocket-handkerchief to elevate the look. He looks just amazing and ready to impress his interviewers. 

Wear a dress shirt and a tie

The man in the photo below isn’t wearing a suit jacket nor a blazer. However, he still looks elegant since he’s wearing a dark-colored tie that matches his dress pants. He’s wearing a belt, of course. And the shirt is a button-up white dress shirt. This is a classic example of how to dress to impress. 

Besides, this man pays attention to small details. He’s wearing a nice watch, he’s shaved, and his hair is groomed. We cannot see the shoes, but I’m sure these are leather dress shoes. 

Wear a short-sleeved shirt 

It’s not necessary to wear a tie and blazer to go to an interview. You can still look professional without them. The guy in this picture is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and dress pants.

This can be a great idea for summer interviews. Check whether short-sleeved shirts are allowed before attending the interview, though. The shirt is tucked in, and he’s wearing a belt. He’s probably wearing dress shoes too, although we can’t see them in the photograph. 

smiling man shirt
Source: Ben Parker on Unsplash

Wear a polo shirt

The last example is a bit more casual. This man is wearing a polo shirt which is also appropriate business casual wear for many enterprises. The man is wearing dark-colored dress pants, a dark-colored tucked in polo, and a belt. He’s wearing a watch in one hand and a bracelet in the other. He’s shaved, and his hair is groomed.

guy walking black outfit
Source: Dave Goudreau on Unsplash

Interview outfit ideas for women

Once you’ve learned about outfit ideas for men, it’s time I share some interview outfit ideas for women. Have a look at the examples below!

Wear a nice dress

The woman in the picture below is wearing a colorful dress with a dark-colored blazer. We cannot see it, but she must be wearing a pair of dress shoes too. She’s wearing a bit of make-up in natural colors, and her hair is free.

She’s also wearing some simple jewelry, such as a couple of rings and simple earrings. She’s definitely dressed to impress!

Wear dress pants

It’s not necessary that you wear a dress to an interview. You can perfectly wear a pair of dress pants and a nice top like the women in the image below. It’s fine to wear dress pants or khakis with heeled shoes or even flats and an elegant top. 

Just make sure necklines are appropriate. And, if you wear a handbag, it would be nice it matches your shoes. It’s a great idea to wear a bag to keep all your stuff tidy. You’ll be prepared for whatever it is to come. 

Wear a skirt

You might also want to wear a skirt. Women’s possibilities are quite a lot varied. The woman in the photo below is wearing a long dark-colored skirt with a white dress shirt.

She looks fabulous. She’s not wearing revealing clothes. She looks trendy but sophisticated. On top of that, she’s wearing open-toed shoes or sandals. Her hair is left free, but it’s removed from the face.

Wear a blazer 

Another great idea is a blazer in neutral colors. You can combine it both with a skirt or dress pants. Honestly, it’s up to you. The woman in the picture below is wearing a cool top under the blazer. 

She’s got short hair and doesn’t seem to be wearing any make-up. It’s not necessary to wear make-up at all. She’s wearing minimalist jewelry, a ring on her hand. Overall, she looks professional.

Wear a skirt suit

Not surprisingly, you can wear a skirt suit and a nice top or sweater, such as the girl in the image below. She’s also wearing dress shoes, and her hair is being tied in a ponytail.

Wear a knee-length skirt

If you don’t want to wear a skirt suit, you can just wear a knee-length skirt with a blazer. They don’t need to be the same color. On top of that, wearing a light-colored dress and a colorful blazer is always flattering.

Make sure you add a pair of nice dress shoes, and you’ll look amazing. The lady in the picture above has the hair free but removed from the face. And she’s wearing natural minimalist makeup.

woman posing otdoors
Source: Geoffrey Moffett on Unsplash

Wear a skirt and a blazer

Likewise, the woman in this photo is wearing a knee-length skirt and a blazer. However, this woman is wearing dark clothes but for a white shirt. The shoes are nude high-heeled shoes. She looks really nice too. 

Conclusion

Now that you have read through this entire post, you should have all of the knowledge you need for an expert job interview. This will help to relieve stress and anxiety that can be caused by not having a full understanding of what to expect. With a relaxed and confident attitude, your next interview will be the best one yet.

You now know the basic format of every type of job interview. You should have a full list of possible questions and different ways you can answer them. You even know that you should do your own research on the company, so you have some questions to ask your interviewer!

You know how to prepare for interviews in all of their multiple formats. This includes Zoom interviews where you are at home but still need to be at your best. You are aware of the different items you should carry with you, such as extra resumes and portfolios, if needed.

You know exactly what to wear regardless of the interview environment. You now know the difference between business professional, business casual, and smart casual. You even have some tips on how to save money on your interview clothing.

Thank you for taking the time to read through each of these chapters. We believe every bit of information in these chapters takes you one step closer to achieving your career goals. If you liked what you read and want to keep getting great content like this, subscribe to our newsletter.

Do you have any questions about interviewing that weren’t answered here? Do you have some hot tips of your own? Please leave a comment for us!

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