What to Wear To an Interview

You can’t banish all the stress of an interview, but at least you don’t have to second guess what to wear. The night before your big interview you should fall asleep knowing that a professional, appropriate outfit is laid out waiting for you. Here’s what you need to know.

When in doubt, think formal, sober and professional

The formal interview – suits are a must

Most job interviews are considered to be formal, unless the dress code says otherwise – and that means wearing a suit. Women can also opt for a smart dress or (just possibly) an especially nice blouse and no jacket. The latter is a risk you don’t want to take unless you have to.

Try to be conventional

It’s important to be memorable at your interview, but you’d rather be remembered as ‘the one who goes skydiving at weekends’, than as ‘the one in the bright red shirt’. Give yourself the best chance by dressing in a way that’s simple, understated and traditional. Opt for dark grey or navy, and only play with things like pinstripes if you’re 100% sure you know what you’re doing.

With everything else, such as shoes, ties, bags, tights and scarves, play it safe. Keep the colours muted. Orange is a gigantic no-no (even though we love it here at Bright Network); yellow, red and pink are pushing it.

Yes, sorry, you’ll look a bit boring. That’s the point. Let your personality shine, not your clothes.

Tips for women:

  • Don’t overdo the jewellery – nothing too chunky or dangly. Also avoid anything that gives you the urge to fiddle with it.
  • Keep the heels moderate (3 inches max) but avoid completely flat shoes unless you really need them. Be sure to coordinate – navy with navy suits, black with grey.
  • No cleavage – it looks unprofessional.
  • Wear tights, even in summer.
  • If you opt for a dress instead of a suit, it needs to be sleek, sculpted and mostly a solid dark colour. 

Tips for men:

  • Ties should be low key. This is no place for comedy or cartoon characters.
  • Wear black leather shoes and a matching belt. Brown shoes are for light grey or linen suits, which aren’t really suitable.
  • Go for a plain shirt in a traditional colour – white or pale blue. Beware of pink!
  • Your suit needs to fit you well. Get yourself measured and fitted by a professional. If you’re on a budget, ask about sale items, and if that’s no good, take the useful info somewhere cheaper. Different high street shops suit different body shapes, so shop around.
  • Avoid ostentation. Don’t be the guy with the pocket square.

Tips for non-binary:

If you don’t feel comfortable in the traditional uniform of either gender, there are benefits to dressing your own way. Firstly, you’ll feel and look more confident. Secondly, if your potential employer can’t handle that much at interview, you’re unlikely to find a positive work environment at the company.

  • Waistcoats are your friend here – a three piece suit is formal but can have an androgynous vibe if you leave off the tie.
  • Non-traditional haircuts must be immaculately groomed. Natural colours are preferable.
  • No matter what you wear, it needs to be well-fitting, good quality, pressed and pristine.

What is business casual?

If your interviewer specifically states a business casual dress code, they may just be saving you the hassle of getting a suit – or they may be judging your ability to fit in. You need to hit the right mark for the company. Inside info is a help here. If possible, aim to dress slightly smarter than the person interviewing you.

The key rules:

  • No suits. It’s fine to wear a jacket, but it should be the light, stylish kind, paired with a non-matching skirt or trousers.
  • No jeans, trainers or t-shirts. If you’d wear it to lounge around at home, it’s not the right look.
  • For the guys, you absolutely must wear a collared shirt. Add a light wool sweater, jacket, tie, or all of the above as you like.
  • Women, pair a nice blouse with formal trousers or a skirt. If you go with a dress, you can get away with something more flowing than you’d wear to a formal interview, but avoid anything strappy.

And finally…

Remember, you’ll be judged on your demeanour more than your clothes. If you feel like a million pounds in your outfit, you’ll get a big confidence boost – and it’ll show.

Next: Common Interview Mistakes