Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
INTERVIEWS / JAN. 22, 2017
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Dress to Impress: What to Wear for a Job Interview

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Whether we like it or not, what we choose to wear has a huge impact on the outcome of job interviews. Because of this, we often panic and have a hard time deciding what to wear. But in reality, the choice is easier than we think. It only becomes complicated when we worry about it too much.

But in job interviews, success is found in the details. Paying attention to what you are going to wear makes a good impression because it demonstrates your interest in the job, and this is greatly appreciated by employers. Coming to the interview unprepared has the opposite effect, and you don’t want that.

Why is this important?

Preparing an outfit for interviews is crucial because the first thing employers are going to see is how you are dressed and how you carry yourself. If they don’t like what they see, they are more likely to make a negative decision on the spot. A study from Workopolis, revealed that roughly five percent of decisions are made within the first minute of the interview and nearly 30 percent within five minutes. This confirms that first impressions count and presenting yourself in formal attire increases your chances of success.

Now, if you are unsure about what to wear for your next interview, you should know that the choice of what to wear is dependent on three things:

1. Who is the Employer?

How progressive a company is, depends on the people who manage it as well as the rules they have introduced to the staff and entire organisation. These rules determine how strict an employer is and shows whether he/she tolerates certain behaviours - for example a more casual dress code. This means that the next employer you are interviewing with may be stricter or more flexible than the last. Being flexible and prepared to adjust to anything is essential to succeed in the job hunt.

2. What’s the Culture/Work Environment Like?

Before you go to the interview make sure to find out what to expect to see on the day as well as who you are going to meet. Doing so will help you avoid wearing jeans and a simple t-shirt when everyone at the office will be wearing suits and ties. This is one of the main reasons why researching the company is important in the first place. If you manage to look like you are already part of the company and everything you say and do provides a reference to the organisation, then you are more likely to get the job.

To prepare yourself, it’s always a good idea to ask other people for advice. These could be current employees or friends, who have already been through an interview with the same company. Alternatively, there are many sites online where you can read about company reviews like Glassdoor and WorkAdvisor and get more information about their dress code. 

3. What Industry Are You In?

Each industry has different characteristics where people need to be dressed or behave in a certain way to follow specific business etiquettes. In traditional industries such as finance, legal services, accounting and business, a conservative suit is the most appropriate attire for both men and women. If you are applying for a job in the creative industry such as advertising, media, design and the arts, you are more flexible regarding what you can wear, but it’s always a good idea to ask the employer what the dress code is. Don’t feel bad for doing so; if it’s going to help you understand the company culture, employers will appreciate the fact that you asked, especially if other applicants didn’t.

Dress Code: Getting it Right

What you choose to wear has an immediate effect on your mood, confidence and overall performance during the interview. So the idea is that you dress ‘how you want to make yourself feel’. Do you want to feel more confident and powerful? Then you have to wear clothes that allow you to feel like you have got that sense of control.

While that’s the general idea, men and women have very different stylistic choices, and it’s important to point this out. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

For Men

The conventional suit isn’t always needed for men as long as what they are choosing to wear can be considered smart or smart-casual. For certain industries, you might be required to wear a suit but as recent research points out, this isn’t as popular as it once was and has been replaced with smart-casual.

Men can wear:

  • A conventional dark-coloured suit, a white or light-coloured shirt (e.g. navy, grey) with a discrete tie to go with it.
  • Polished black shoes and dark-coloured socks.
  • A belt.

But need to avoid:

  • Too much aftershave.
  • Jeans or informal trousers.
  • Sports clothes and athletic shoes.
  • Messy hair.

For Women

Women naturally have more clothing options, and this gives them the freedom to experiment with a few outfits.

Women can wear:

  • A conventional dark-colored suit with a white or light-coloured shirt (e.g. navy, grey), or
  • A coordinating jacket and knee-length skirt, with a white or light-coloured shirt
  • A dark-coloured knee-length dress.
  • Tights with low or mid heel shoes.
  • A discrete accessory either on the hair or the suit or jacket.

But need to avoid:

  • Too much make-up.
  • Too much perfume.
  • Too much jewellery.
  • Short skirts and high heels.
  • Jeans and trousers.
  • Messy hair.

General Tips

Choosing an outfit doesn’t have to take much time if you have an idea of what you need to wear. What you need to remember is that the colours of the clothes you choose play a significant role in making a good impression. The colour red for example, can boost your self-worth and make you feel like you are the ‘definition of confidence’. However, you have to be careful with this, because this choice of colour can make you appear aggressive.

If you have tattoos and piercings, it’s best to hide these when going for an interview. Studies have shown that this can significantly influence the employer’s decision and can result in a negative outcome. Most employers are conservative about this, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and put on that long-sleeved shirt.

As a final piece of advice, it’s important to wear something that makes you comfortable. Tight suits, trousers and skirts, won’t make you feel or look relaxed and can only add to the stress you are experiencing.


Most career experts would agree that if you want to get that job, you need to spend some time coming up with the perfect professional attire. An excellent idea that always works is to dress one or two levels higher than the job you are applying for. This way you can never go wrong!

Hopefully, this article has given you some advice on how to dress for your next interview. All you need to do now is show the interviewers what you can do! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

See Also: What You Should Not Do at Your Next Job Interview

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