The Three Tiers Of Interview Attire
Now you know you need to be dressed at least one notch above the people you’re interviewing with, but where does that fall on the scale of flip flops to fancy formal?
In my experience, company/interview attire can be broken down into three buckets .
Smart Casual: This dress style is fun and light while still being professional. Choices should be neutral and fit well, but don’t need to be overly formal.
While people at the company maybe dressed more casually, this is the bare minimum for any interview.
Business Casual: We’re not breaking out the full suit here, but we are definitely on the more formal side compared to Smart Casual.
For guys this usually means a sport coat, slacks, and leather shoes. For women, this is a neutral blouse , tailored dress pants, and fancy flats or pumps.
This is the most common style for interview attire.
Business Formal: This is your traditional, conservative business look. Think bankers, lawyers, consultants, etc. We’re talking full suit and dress shoes for both genders. That said, just because it’s formal doesn’t mean it can’t show a bit of your personality!
Again, these examples are just high level overviews to help you quantify the different levels of interview dress code. We’ll dive deeper into specific examples/do’s and don’t for men and women in just a bit.
Combine A Simple Blouse And A V
Another way to achieve a versatile interview look is to combine a V-neck sweater with a simple blouse or a button down top. You can then complete the look with a formal skirt or black dress pants.
If you are attending a casual interview, or interviewing with a startup, you can pair the V-neck sweater and blouse with dark wash jeans or khaki pants.
The best thing about combining a simple blouse with a V-neck sweater is that you can achieve a limitless variety of looks. If you have about three V-neck sweaters and three button-downs or blouses, you can mix and match them to achieve 9 different interview-friendly looks.
Whats even better is that the V-neck sweater and blouse combination can be appropriately dressed down with a wide variety of pants or skirts.
Things To Consider From Linkedin Members:
Think about the signals youre sending
Kiran Bhatia Tandon: “Choose the proper fit: Avoid baggy or tight fits. While one makes you appear sluggish, the other may come off as offensive.”
Understand the team fit
Candice Lam: “It completely depends on your place of work. Totally OK to wear your swimmers if you’re a swimming instructor. Totally OK to wear pajamas if you’re working in Peter Alexander or equivalent.”
Dont be unforgettable for the wrong reason
Natalie Campbell: “I have seen some big mistakes over the years with work wear some funny, others just disrespectful to the employer. I once had a guy turning up for an interview, he had stubbies and thongs on. He had been mowing and was covered in grass.”
Well share a free LinkedIn Learning course each week. Be sure to sign up.
Read Also: Best System Design Interview Prep
Get A Khaki Blazer For A Menswear Inspired Look
Just because you are a woman doesnt mean that you cannot borrow inspiration from the other gender, and a good way to do that is to get a khaki blazer.
Just like the navy blue blazer I talked about earlier, the khaki blazer is quite a versatile clothing accessory to have in your interview wardrobe.
You can wear the khaki blazer with a simple blouse or a button-down shirt, and then pair it up with navy blue bottoms or a matching skirt. If you are going for a casual interview, pair the khaki blazer with dark wash jeans.
When wearing the khaki blazer with a button-down shirt, you can go for the basic button-down shirt, or find one with some interesting detail on the collar. With such a shirt, you can even nail an elegant look without having to wear a necklace.
Aside from the navy blue skirt, you can also pair your menswear inspired khaki blazer with a black pencil skirt. Pairing the very formal black pencil skirt with a khaki blazer gives you a professional yet relaxed look to keep your confidence high during the interview.
Strategy #: Ask Your Recruiter Or Someone Who Works At The Company
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you’re probably in touch with someone at the company who is handling logistics. That could be an external recruiter, in-house HR, or a hiring manager. Regardless, definitely feel free to ask them what you should wear to your interview it’s a totally normal question that they should be happy to answer.
Here’s a quick email template you can use:
Email Template: How To Ask About Interview Attire
I am very excited to come in and meet the team on . I did have one quick question for you what should I plan to wear to the interview? I want to make sure I’m showing up the right way and I always feel like it’s better to ask than assume.
Thank you so much for the help.
If they give you a vague answer like, oh whatever you wear to work is fine, you can always follow up and ask them to be more specific or you can reach out to another person who works at the company and see what they think.
If hoodies and sneakers are cool at your office but their dress code is a bit more formal, things can get awkward. Making sure the expectations are set early is the best way to go here!
Don’t Miss: Interview Questions For A Cfo
How To Dress For A More Casual Interview
When the workplace or the job is less formal, the dress code may be more relaxed. If you’re not sure what to wear, it’s fine to check with the person scheduling the interview. However, it’s still important not to dress sloppily. Learn more about some casual options:
- Business Casual: You can leave the suit at home, but dont get out those jeans just yet. Business casual means no jeans, no sneakers, and no apparel that would be more appropriate for the gym or the club.
- Startup Casual: Jeans may be OK for an interview at a startup, but make sure theyre clean and free from holes or ragged seams. Youre going for stylish, not sloppy and its still a good idea to dress up a bit more than the folks who are already working there.
- What to Wear When There’s No Dress Code: Not sure what to wear? When theres no real dress code, keep it professional and err toward business casual.
Tip #: Make Sure You’ve Prepared For The Other Aspects Of Your Interview
Your interview outfit should be one of the last things on your prep list.
I’ve seen people with bad outfits but great presentation and presence land offers. I’ve also seen people with great outfits but poor presentation and presence lose out on offers.
I always say that 80% of interview success comes from preparation. Most people know they need to prepare for interviews, but most people also don’t prepare well.
You want to make sure that you’ve:
- Thoroughly researched the company you’re interviewing with
- Drafted, refined, rehearsed, and fully memorized your interview answers
- Looked up your interviews online and on social media
- Have a concrete game plan for how you’re going to approach the conversation
If you need some help with that, check out my super comprehensive guide on interview preparation.
Recommended Reading: Top 10 Behavioral Questions
Show Your Fun Side With A Print Cardigan
Just because you are going to job interview doesnt mean that you should be plain and boring. You can still show your fun side while maintaining a professional look, and one way to do that is to wear a print cardigan.
Provided you dont overdo it by going for prints that are too flashy or too bright, a print cardigan is perfect for spicing up your interview outfit. Print cardigans work especially well if you are interviewing for a position that doesnt require you to work in a formal office environment.
If you decide to go for this look, however, it is advisable to keep the rest of your outfit simple. Wearing a print cardigan while the rest of your outfit looks flashy can result in a chaotic look that might not be very appropriate for a job interview.
Be Authentic In Your Appearance
Look the part.
So you’ve nailed it as far as your wardrobe goes, but is it you?
From your well-penned resume, your interviewers now have an idea of the person they’re eager to meet and interview. Don’t disappoint them.
Let how you dress portray that the person you projected in your resume and the person they meet in person, is the same. There should be no disconnect.
Consistency should run from your resume copy to your clothes and conversation.
Whatever you choose to wear, make sure you feel comfortable. This always helps in the confidence department!
Recommended Reading: Cfo Interview
Think Menswear With A Khaki Mix
A menswear-inspired khaki blazer is an extremely versatile piece to have in your wardrobe. Wear it with a button-down shirt or blouse. It looks great with a matching skirt, dark-wash jeans for a startup casual interview, or navy blue bottoms for a dressier look.
The button-down here might be a basic top, but the pink makes the look pop. With a shirt that has an interesting collar detail, you could choose to button it up to the top, eliminating the need for a necklace. Another option for a unique collar detail is a rounded Peter Pan collar.
Finally, a navy blue skirt is a stylish alternative to the traditional black pencil skirt. It’s a bit more easygoing than the typical black skirt, but it’s still professional, creating a look that is relaxed and also refined.
Then Think About The Company
After you’ve thought about how you want to feel in your interview clothing, now you can think about what the company might be expecting. When it comes to the company, mirror the tone that they set but leave room for interpretation . To understand the tone, pay attention to the cues they’ve set. Some initial clues could be in the interview process: Was the telephone interview very casual? Do they have office dogs? What can you find on social media and the web about the company culture? Many organizations have Instagram and Facebook pages that showcase their culture and here is where you’ll find pictures of their employees. Check it out! What are they wearing? You can also take a shortcut and directly ask the person who is arranging your interview: What is the office dress code?
Read Also: Preparing For System Design Interview
Executive Casual For Women
There are some job interviews where youll want to dress to impress. Executive casual can be the solution to help you execute the dress code. Generally, this is a good option for higher-level positions, in fields such as marketing, media, or technology .
Some choices for executive casual attire include:
A tailored blazer with a dress shirt or blouse
Slacks or skirt with a dress shirt or blouse
Dress pants with a sweater or blazer
A sheath dress
Closed-toe dress shoes or heels
Clothes: What Do You Wear To An Interview
First impressions matter. How you dress in an interview can be seen as a reflection of your knowledge of the career field and your employer, as well as your level of seriousness in the interview. Ultimately, you want a potential employer to focus as much as possible on your skills and abilities during the interview. By dressing professionally, you can help eliminate distractions.
The way we dress is often a key part of our identity and an outward reflection of our culture and values. For some, a more prescribed style of dress may seem challenging, uncomfortable, and even offensive. Consequently, workplace dress requirements may be something to reflect on as you explore jobs, industries, and employers. If you are interested, for example, in a career in Finance but are averse to a business suit, this decision may indicate a need to think more critically about this field or to explore different options. Remember, its often the case that you will dress far more conservatively in an interview than you would day-to-day on the job.
Important General Tips
Business Professional: Business professional means that you should wear a suit.
Business Casual: Business casual is slightly less formal than business professional.
If you have questions, concerns, or are unsure about interview attire, please contact or visit us in the Piper Center. We are happy to help discuss specific cases with you to determine what is most appropriate and comfortable.
Read Also: Questions To Ask A Cfo
Strategies For Choosing The Best Outfit
No employer or job is the same, which means the way you should dress for an interview will vary based on who youre interviewing with. Youll want to take into account various factors, such as the company itself, the company dress code, the nature of the work, what role youre applying for, and much more.
The following are a few tips on how to identify the appropriate way to dress for your interview:
A Simple Rule Of Thumb For Deciding What To Wear To An Interview
I worked at Microsoft on the advertising side of things. Every year we hosted an annual Awards event in Seattle to recognize our best clients.
A few years ago our marketing team sent out an email stating that the dress code for the event was cocktail casual.
Nobody had any idea what that meant .
I mean, cocktail attire alone is confusing enough on both sides of the gender spectrum.
Do men need to wear a jacket and tie? Or jacket but no tie? If you’re a woman wearing a dress, what length is right? Etc.
Then you add in the word casual on top of that and everyone’s head explodes!
The whole office spent the next month debating the rules of cocktail casual attire and, when the big event rolled around, people were wearing all different sorts of outfits.
My point? When it comes to picking the right attire for a big event, it can be easy to overanalyze.
The good news is that, when it comes to job interview attire, we can follow one simple rule to make sure we never show up out of place:
The Golden Rule of Interview Attire
When in doubt, err on the side of formal. You always want to be one notch above the people you’re interviewing with.
You’d much rather be wearing a suit into an office full of hoodies and jean shorts than show up wearing a t-shirt in an office full of buffed leather shoes and pant suits.
You May Like: Questions To Ask A Cfo In An Interview
Business Casual Interview Outfit Examples For Men
Business Casual has some more structure for us guys. The rules are a bit more defined and easy to follow we’re taking the same principles from our Smart Casual look and dressing them up a bit.
For example, instead of a free form button down you’re going to want a shirt with a bit more structure. Instead of distressed chinos you may want to opt for clean, tailored chinos or slacks.
While you don’t need to break out the suit jacket just yet, Business Casual typically calls for some sort of sport coat or blazer . Let’s check out some examples:
Men’s Outfit Example #1
Top: Ironed white button down
Jacket: Gray unstructured sport coat
Belt: Always, and make sure it matches the tone of your shoes
Bottom: Navy slacks
Shoes: Polished leather loafers or oxfords
Accessories: Watches are great, you can also add a pocket square to your sport coat if you want to spice things up. No tie needed at this point.
Awesome, see? Pretty straightforward. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with things like the jacket and shirt style. You want to be professional but you can still show a little bit of personality:
Men’s Outfit Example #2
Belt: Always, make sure the belt matches the tone of your shoes
Bottom: Ironed Navy dress chinos
Shoes: Polished, dark leather dress shoes
Accessories: Watches are great, you can also add a pocket square to your sport coat if you want to spice things up. No tie needed at this point.
Light Colored Jacket And Pants
Not sure if the company you’re interviewing at requires a business casual, or business formal type of dress? Find the middle ground with a light-colored or khaki blazer and coordinating pants.
A khaki blazer is less harsh than a black or grey suit coat. It’s a great piece because it straddles the boundary between business casual and business formal. It’s adaptable, too: Worn with a tie, it skews business formal, but when it’s worn without a tie, it’s a solid option for when you aren’t quite sure of the dress code.
You May Like: What Should Females Wear To A Job Interview
Best Job Interview Hairstyles
There are lots of ways to style your hair for a job interview. While some options are trendy and others are more traditional, remember that your hairstyle should not distract the employer. You will want your hair to be professional and polished, like your entire outfit.
Here are the best job interview hairstyles for short, medium-length, and long hair.
Simple And Professional Tops
Choose a top that is comfortable while also being conservative and professional. A button-down shirt or blouse paired with a cardigan or a simple jacket is ideal. It is best to go for more neutral colors or simple colors. The top you choose should be appropriately fitted rather than being too loose and baggy, which can appear sloppy.
Recommended Reading: Best Interview Clothes For A Woman