What to Wear to a Job Interview

Think polished and professional, and check out these outfit suggestions from the pros.
Lisa Bertagnoli
August 26, 2021
Updated: August 30, 2021
Lisa Bertagnoli
August 26, 2021
Updated: August 30, 2021

Congrats on landing an interview at the company of your dreams. Your skills and experience got you to this point, and what you wear to the interview does matter. 

“We encourage candidates to bring their best, authentic selves to the interview — and to work,” said Ani Khachatoorian, vice president of people operations at Thrive Market, a Marina Del Rey, California-based e-commerce platform that offers home delivery of organic food and products. That applies to all candidates, be they marketing professionals, HR execs or software developers, she said. 

Her best advice: “A safe bet for anyone is well-fitting pants, dark in color, and a smart collared shirt or blouse that’s pressed and ironed,” Khachatoorian said. For video interviews, wearing the same thing you’d be comfortable wearing to an in-person interview, “including pants and a thoughtful top,” she said. 

Here’s more interview outfit advice from tech pros and wardrobe experts.

6 Top Tips for an Interview Outfit

  1. Research the company’s dress code before the interview.
  2. Decide on your outfit well in advance of the interview.
  3. Be polished, but show off your style.
  4. Remember your mask.
  5. Be comfortable by avoiding clothes that pinch or pull.
  6. Good grooming is a must.

 

Do Your Research

Different companies have different dress codes and different styles of dressing. To figure out your prospective employers’ style, look at the team photo on the company’s website as well as photos that accompany bios. If you’re really lost, ask your point person at the company about its dress code.

Also consider the role at the company. A manager-level job in IT at a consulting firm and a marketing job at a startup will probably call for two different interview outfits — one more conservative, the other perhaps more creative.

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Interview Outfits for Women

A jacket or cardigan can pull together a look for anyone, said Annie Barlow, a Chicago-based wardrobe consultant. “It shows that you’re polished, and that you’ve pulled yourself together” without being super formal, Barlow said.

Zuajeiliy Romero, style director at online styling service Wishi, offered some specific combinations. Her ideas are below, and check out this inspiration board for visual cues.

Pair a tailored and crisp white blouse with black or navy pants. Depending on the pant color, you can match your shoe to the pant or keep it minimal with a nude sandal or shoe. 

Top a slip or pencil skirt with a fitted crew-neck sweater. The sweater should hit the top of the skirt for a put together look. Simple accessories, for instance a dainty necklace and watch, give this outfit a chic finish. 

For a more conservative company, wear a crew-neck bodysuit under a matching skirt or pantsuit. For shoes, “I love a suit with a pair of sneakers,” Romero said. Fit wise, make sure the suit isn’t too fitted or too baggy.

Shoe and bag combinations: Pair a low slingback (ultra-safe for interviews, Romero said) with a simple top-handle bag. Prefer to wear a pump? Keep it mid-heeled and carry a structured tote. More casual? Minimal white sneakers and a leather backpack do the job. Dressier? Flats with a chain-strap bag do the trick. Boots? Pair them with an oversized soft pouch bag.

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Interview Outfits for Men

A black, gray or navy suit, with shoes matched to your belt or the base color of the suit (if it’s a plaid or stripe) is appropriate. A white button-down or tailored t-shirt underneath is appropriate for a casual atmosphere, and a tie might be called for if the company is more conservative.

Not big on suits? Team tailored trousers with a fitted crew neck or v-neck sweater, or khaki pants with a structured white t-shirt and blazer. Dark denim trousers with a white shirt and black or navy blazer creates a casual and professional work. Confine prints to a pocket square, if that’s your jam.  

For shoes and bag: Pair leather loafers with a matching leather ledger, or minimal white sneakers with a canvas tote. Low-heeled Chelsea boots with a streamlined backpack also work.

Want more ideas? Here’s some visual guidance.

 

Interview Outfits for Gender-Nonconforming Candidates

“Monochromatic is best, as is keeping everything well fitted and tailored,” said Romero of Wishi. “I think that a navy or an all-black outfit reads very elegant and the idea is to let the person do the talking and not necessarily the outfit,” she said. “You should be able to focus on your strengths during an interview and if you are fidgeting with clothes, that's not the game plan.”

Other suggestions from Romero: Dark denim with a white slim-cut t-shirt or button-up shirt, finished off with a cardigan or blazer.  And if you’re not keen on monochrome tones, “you can always choose a colorful bottom and keep the top minimal and tailored,” she said. Check out this style board for more outfit ideas.

Tips for Video Interviews

  • Wear pants, even if the interviewer won’t see them. You’ll feel more polished, said Karen Tsuo, a Seattle-based image consultant. Plus, if for some reason you have to rise from your chair during the interview, it’s better to be appropriately clad than flash a view of your PJs or worse.
  • For background, a wall with neutral photos or artwork, or maybe a few plants for color and warmth, work well. The camera should be level with your eyes and allow a full view of your face. A light source on the side or in front of you will make that possible, while a light source behind you will make that difficult.
  • Eyeglasses can reflect light and prevent interviewers from making eye contact, so should not be worn during video interviews unless you can’t function without them, Tsuo said.
  • Be aware of background noise, too. If your normal workday environment is noisy, head to a relative’s house or even a library for a quieter backdrop (avoid coffee shops; they’re noisy). Checking Wi-Fi strength before an interview so it goes smoothly; stuttering or failing video during an interview for a tech job doesn’t create the greatest first impression

 

Choose Color Wisely

A good rule of thumb is to select a neutral color palette, but it really depends on your personal style and the company’s dress code. “Red is a power color,” said Rob Smith, founder and CEO of The Phluid Project, a New York-based gender-free clothing line. A well-chosen brightly colored piece color helps interviewees stand out in a pack “with something that’s professional and unique,” Smith said. He also advised choosing go-to clothes for interviews — a good-luck shirt or something you always feel great in.

High-contrast colors (black and white, navy and white) project authority, charisma and professionalism, while lower-contrast combinations (for instance, heather gray and light blue) project calm and balance, said Karen Tsuo, CEO of Seattle-based Karen Tsuo International Image Institute, who works with tech clients. A bright color will help you stand out during panel interviews.

 

Be Comfortable

Choose clothes that don’t pinch, pull, rise to uncomfortable heights when you’re seated, or show perspiration (cotton absorbs sweat better than silk or polyester).  “You want to avoid as much anxiety as possible,” Smith said. 

He suggested stress-testing the outfit before the interview. Move around, walk, stand and sit in it to make sure that you can do all of the above comfortably and nothing gaps or shows or pulls. Strategize the mechanics of the interview beforehand too. Arrive at the video meeting early; drive or take the train to the interview site ahead of time. “You don’t want to walk in late, sweaty or flustered,” Smith said. 

Understood — it’s a job interview, not a modeling audition, and what’s on your resume matters more than the shirt on your back. Still, carefully considering and choosing your clothes will make you more comfortable and confident during the job interview. That, along with your qualifications, will help you land your dream job.

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