How to dress for a job interview

Published by Nitin Kumar on October 1st, 2011

Are you trying to figure out how to dress for a job interview? An interview can be one of the most stressful things you’ll go through this week, and the fact that you may be lost on how to dress only adds to the frustration. Never fear, though, because there are a few principles that will help you breeze through any interview…at least when it comes to how you look. Here are a few tips for what to wear when you go to an interview.

The best rule of thumb is to see how everyone else there is dressing, and go a step above that. (You did pay attention when you walked in the first time, right? If not, just casually go back, look like an average customer for a few minutes while observing the dress standard, and then leave.) For example, if it’s a pretty casual place where everyone is wearing jeans and a t-shirt, show up to the interview in a pair of khakis and a nice polo shirt, guys, or you ladies can come in a slightly dressy skirt and top.

If people are dressing a step up from jeans and a t-shirt, it’s a safe bet to come in a shirt and tie with dress pants. If you see shirts and ties when you go in, then throw on a suit coat. If you’re shooting really high and everyone is wearing full suits, then find your best full suit to match. You’ll have to rent a suit if you don’t have one, or if yours isn’t very presentable. If the business is far away and you couldn’t justify driving the distance, or if the place is such that you couldn’t enter inconspicuously to observe dress code, then you’ll usually be safe in a shirt and tie for most positions. Ladies can wear a dressy skirt and top.

If you’re still uncertain about how to look, or if you aren’t able to go back and see how everyone is dressing, there is no shame in calling the business and just asking them how you should dress. Some people may think that this would reflect badly on them, or make them look foolish, but the opposite is true: Your interviewer will take note of your desire to look presentable, and you’ll already be ahead in the interview. After all, calling and asking shows more initiative than someone who doesn’t care and just shows up in whatever they feel like wearing!