What to Wear on a Job Interview: Do You Really Know What’s Right?

A Guide to Appropriate Interview Attire

What to Wear on a Job Interview

A friend of mine is a manager at a Silicon Valley firm who recently added a new member to his team. During the hiring process, he was shocked to see one job seeker show up for the interview in jeans and a T-shirt. My friend’s workplace is pretty informal, but, for him, this crossed the line. The candidate did not get a call back.

What to wear on a job interview is one of those questions that everyone seems just a little unsure about. Part of the reason is that more employers have a casual office culture nowadays, and applicants wonder if the literal loosening of the tie extends to the interview.

Following are some tips to keep in mind the next time you meet with a hiring manager. Also included are real-life wardrobe malfunctions, collected from a survey of executives polled by OfficeTeam to show you exactly what not to do.

Look in your closet, not your laundry pile.

According to hiring managers OfficeTeam interviewed, job candidates have walked into the interview wearing baseball caps, tennis shoes, basketball jerseys and even jogging suits. You simply won’t be taken seriously if you show up in this type of clothing. You want to show prospective employers that you are polished and professional.

Err on the conservative side.

Short of wearing a tuxedo and top hat, it’s hard to overdress for an interview. Yes, many workplaces have gone business casual in recent years, and some — tech firms and startups, in particular — have gone completely casual. But even IT executives expect job candidates to dress up for an interview. In a Robert Half Technology poll of CIOs, nearly half said a business suit is the most appropriate attire for applicants. A suit, sport coat or blazer gives you instant credibility.

Be comfortable.

Keep in mind that you could end up wearing your interview attire for several stress-filled hours. You don’t want to come dressed in a plastic skirt, as did one job seeker cited by executives in the survey — you’ll already be sweating enough, right?

You want to be comfortable so you can project a relaxed and confident attitude. To that end, make sure whatever you wear fits well; allows you to move freely; and doesn’t itch, pinch or constrict. That said, wearing yoga gear, sweatpants or pajamas, like some applicants have (believe it or not), is taking it too far.

Dress in layers.

Summer means the sun may be blazing outside … and the air-conditioner blasting inside. You don’t want to show up in Bermuda shorts or a swimsuit, like a couple of actual candidates did, and shiver through the entire meeting. Wear layers so you can adjust your temperature as necessary.

Don’t show too much skin.

One job candidate OfficeTeam heard about arrived at the interview in a micro-mini and fishnet stockings. And one guy wore a leather vest without a shirt. Sure, you want to look good. But keep it classy.

That means no midriff-baring T-shirts, low-rise pants or mini-anything. As Katherine Goldstein of Slate wrote in a recent article on office attire, “When in doubt, if the article of clothing has a hyphen in it, it is probably off-limits.”

Take a test-drive.

Don’t wait until the night before to select your outfit, especially if it’s been a while since you last wore your lucky suit. You want to make sure your clothes still fit and are in good condition — and that you have enough time to run to the department store or dry cleaner if necessary.

The day of the interview, show up a few minutes early so you can give yourself a final once-over in the car or restroom. I like to bring a lint brush and stain wipes with me in case of any last-minute emergencies.

Remember, when it comes to attire, simple and classic are often best. What you wear won’t get you the job, but it may take you out of the running.

What’s your favorite interview style? 

Robert McCauley

Robert McCauley is a career expert with Robert Half, a leading specialized staffing firm that helps skilled professionals find rewarding temporary and full-time jobs in a variety of fields. Robert has been writing about the job search and careers for more than 10 years. Connect with him and Robert Half on Twitter and YouTube.

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