Dress for Success: A Quick Guide on What to Wear on Your Interview

Choosing what to wear on an interview might be trivial for some. But in an increasingly competitive job market, you’ve got to pull all the stops in order for you to get the job. That means putting as much thought into your wardrobe as you do with your resume or online profile.

The most common misconception candidates have is that the more formal your attire is, the better. While it always helps to be your most presentable self when going for a job interview, presentable doesn’t always mean a three-piece suit for men and tailored dresses or pantsuit for women.

If there is one rule that you need to know about dressing up for an interview, is this: consider what the existing employees of the company wear and dress one or two levels up.

More than anything else, you need to take into account what the culture of the company is. You need to get an idea of how the people normally dress in the company you are interviewing with, so that you can match it or better, go one step above it.


The ‘Small Business’ Casual Look

If you are applying for a small company or organization with a laid back culture, then chances are, they only require a casual dress code. Example of these type of businesses are hair salons, bakeshops, small stores and retail outlets.

People who are employed by small business either require some sort of a uniform to be worn on a daily basis or allow their employees to wear casual shirt and sneakers. But then, casual doesn’t necessarily mean sloppy.


What to wear:

For men: Wear a button down shirt (with or without a tie) under a crew-neck sweater or cardigan and pair it dark-wash jeans, casual pants or slacks. For shoes, use loafers or brogues but if you don’t have one, you can use your clean and presentable sneakers.


For women: Wear a nicely fitted top or blouse and pair it with a slack or a skirt made of more casual fabrics. Women’s skirts should remain knee length and open toes shoes and flats are allowed in this instance.

Quick Tip: As a general rule, avoid wrinkled or stained clothing. Also, do not wear revealing and inappropriate clothing pieces like statement shirts. Also, avoid loud accessories as well as wearing flip-flops, slippers, sandals and high-tops for shoes.



The Business Casual Look

This dress code is the most common one implemented in both small and big offices. Business casual requires employees to wear the usual office attire while allowing them a certain amount of freedom to infuse their personality into their outfits. Now, if you are interviewing with a company that implements a business casual dress code, here are some of the basics that you need to know.


What to wear:

For men: The basics include collared button-ups (in any color and pattern) worn under a jacket or cardigan and paired with dressy slacks or black dress pants. A tie is not a must, but if you are going to wear one, make sure that it’s a plain one. Finish the whole ensemble with leather shoes that are either oxford or loafers (brown or black) and accessorize with a pretty casual leather-brand watch.


For women: The best tip for women is to wear separates when attending interviews on a business casual environment. You can wear collared shirt or sweater with dress pants and top it off with heeled shoes or boots (preferably a stiletto or a pump). You can also accessorize bold statement pieces as long as they are not a distraction.

Quick Tip: Men should avoid wearing sneakers or novelty ties when attending interviews on a business casual environment. Women on the other hand should not wear flats, platform heels or open toe shoes. Also, a nice little coat or jacket is always a great way to top off your business casual attire.



The Business Professional Look

This type of look is often found in corporate environments and mainly in offices that require employees to interact face-to-face with their clients. This may include finance, accounting and banking companies as well as more conservative businesses like law firms.

The business professional look is a just a small step below the business formal look which is used during fancy evening events like parties and award ceremonies.


What to wear:

For men: When attending an interview in a company that enforces the business professional dress code, you wouldn’t go wrong with the classic suit and tie. Business professional, in contrast to business formal, still leaves a little room for improvisation, albeit a very little one. Men can choose to go modern by sporting a button-down shirt on a subtle color like light blue or blush. If you dare to push your choice of fashion a little further, opt for a grey two-button suit paired with a dark-colored tie and black leather shoes.


For women: Interviewing with a company that has a strict business professional dress code may leave some women with little options except for the usual skirt or pant suit. However, you can opt for certain unexpected pieces to break the monotony of your wardrobe. For example, instead of wearing a plain collared dress shirt, you can choose something more colorful or something with a pattern under your suit jacket. You can also experiment with different types of blouses and jackets. Wear formal leather pumps to finish the look.

Quick Tip: Against popular advice, don’t be afraid to experiment with your wardrobe by wearing certain unexpected pieces to top off your business professional attire. Doing so will allow you to infuse your personality in the way you look. However, you need to take extra caution when including certain pieces to your attire. At the end of the day, your outfit needs to exude the confidence and formality that is required in a corporate environment.

Dressing for success is all about wearing the right attire at the right opportunity for the right company.

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