How to Dress for Interview Success

woman getting dressed for a job interview

You want to dazzle the interview panel with your wit, intelligence, and smile, but, before you get the chance to sit down you are already being judged on your appearance. 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.

Formal suits were once the pinnacle of an interview dress-code, but they are so last year! It’s no longer essential to dress outside your comfort zone to make a lasting impression. Dressing for different industries varies which can often be confusing for many job seekers, especially if this is your first interview in that field. Push your panic aside as we have formed the ultimate go-to list in getting you ready for the interview:

Formal / Business Wear:

You’ve finally nailed the application process and have your upcoming interview at the law firm of your dreams, but you’re unsure of how to present yourself. For industries that still require formal wear like finance, law, and hospitality you should opt for something that is subtle but professional.

For Men:

You’re Always Safe With a Good Suit

Here are the fundamental items a gentleman wears during a professional interview:

  • Suit (no bold colours – pick something in navy or grey)
  • Long sleeved shirt (make sure it’s colour coordinated)
  • Belt
  • Tie
  • Black or brown oxfords or brogues (wear matching socks)
  • Cufflinks and watch - only
  • Portfolio or briefcase (leave the backpack at home)

When in doubt, go for a tailored suit. Not the type that’s been sitting around in your wardrobe since your last family wedding. Think of this as an investment in your future. Opt for something Navy or Grey – a standard black suit can come off as boring, or like you take yourself too seriously. If you don’t have many pennies in the bank, stores like H&M or Zara sell more affordable and fashionable options.

It doesn’t matter how much you’re willing to spend, the key to looking good is a tailored fit. Do the shoulders lie flat? Are your sleeve cuffs exposed a bit? Does the hem of your pants lightly graze the top of your shoe? These are rules you should follow. When it comes to your shoes, make sure you wear polished brown or black brogues or oxfords.

For Women:

You’re Only Option Isn’t a Pencil Skirt – Anymore!

Here are the fundamental items a lady wears during a professional interview:

  • Trouser suit ( navy, black, grey or beige)
  • Pencil skirt
  • Culottes
  • A-line knee length dress
  • Coordinated blouse (beige, white or a matching colour that isn’t too bright)
  • Kitten heels or smart pumps (nothing too high)
  • Limited jewelry
  • Neat hair
  • Light make up
  • Neatly manicured nails
  • Professional bag that isn’t overly colourful

Gone are the days when you’re forced to squeeze into a tight pencil skirt, uncomfortable tights and ill-fitted blazers. Now you have the option to dress more in line within your personality; if you’re a person that never wears skirts or dresses, you can pick a smart trouser suit, or a pair of culottes and a plain shirt. “Always be yourself. Don’t ever go out and buy some version of who you think said job wants you to be” said, Jorden Bickham, Executive Fashion Editor at Vogue. If you are comfortable in showing your legs, make sure that your skirt is not shorter than two to four fingers above your knee. You want to show your employers that you take yourself seriously - do not dress as if you’re going to a nightclub. A trendy, block dress in an A-line cut is always a safe bet; you can opt for a navy, grey, maroon or beige colour.

interview dress code infographic

Smart Casual Attire:

Some companies like to test your ability to interpret fashion etiquette by setting a business casual dress code. For, men and women, casual trousers and blazers can be mixed and matched, if it seems confusing, just follow these guidelines:

For Men:

Not Quite the Suit-Type? You Can Break It Down Instead

Here are the necessary items a man wears during a less- professional interview:

  • Chino’s, dark jeans or smart trousers
  • Long sleeved shirt (make sure it’s colour coordinated)
  • Blazer (if your overall look is leaning on the casual side)
  • Leather belt
  • Shoe boot, brogues or Chelsea boots

If you know that the company you are applying to lean more on the casual side then you don’t have to dig for your suit that has been sat at the back of your wardrobe for half a century. Select one formal piece to wear with something casual; like chinos or dark jeans with a blazer and a shirt, or, smart trousers with a shirt (you can even roll your sleeves up and leave your cufflinks at home). Whatever you choose, make sure your shirt is tucked into your trousers and you are wearing a leather belt – no sloppiness! Your footwear choice can also be more casual, opting for a shoe boot, brogues or a Chelsea boot.

For Women:

Mix It Up With a Hint of Casual 

Here are the necessary items a woman wears during a less- professional interview:

  • Jump-suit
  • Block dress
  • Smart jacket
  • Pencil skirt
  • Coordinated blouse (beige, white or a matching colour that isn’t too bright)
  • Pumps or ankle boots (with a little heel)
  • Limited jewelry
  • Neat hair
  • Light make up
  • Neatly manicured nails
  • Professional bag that isn’t overly colourful

Although the dress-code has casual in the title, it doesn’t mean turning up in your trainers- keeping your outfit professional is key here. "When in doubt, dress nicely," says Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director at Racked. What tends to work is to mix formality with a sense of creativity and personality. If you’re applying for a job in marketing or fashion you could wear a tailored jump-suit with pumps, or a colour-block dress with a nice jacket. You could also go down the route of a business dress with ankle-boots (comfortably-healed of course) or a pencil skirt with a casual blouse.

Super Casual Apparel:

You’re interviewing at a startup where employees turn up in tracksuits and a baseball hat, and you’re uncertain of how casual you should go? The answer is – keep your trackies for cleaning the house and go for something on the smarter side.

For Men:

Keep It Simple

Here are the essential items a man wears during a casual interview:

  • Khaki chino’s or dark denim jeans
  • Polo T-shirt
  • Relaxed shirt
  • Leather belt
  • Boat shoes or suede bucks
  • Trimmed facial hair

Maybe you’re interviewing for a start-up that Jake, a 20-something, who you’ve socially stalked online and know only wears trainers and a graphic tee has created. But, a bad idea would be to waltz in wearing blue jeans and your favourite t-shirt that’s been through the washing machine one too many times. You’re still trying to make a good impression; choose a sharp-looking polo or a more-relaxed shirt paired with dark denim or khaki trousers with boat shoes or suede bucks. No trainers, please!

For Women:

Don’t Unleash Your Inner Hipster

Here are the essential items a woman wears during a casual interview:

  • Dark Jeans
  • Smart t-shirt or chemise
  • Casual dress
  • Ballet pumps
  • Limited jewelry
  • Neat hair
  • Light make up
  • Neatly manicured nails
  • Casual structured bag

You’re interviewing at a company where everyone comes to work in jeans and sandals, you don’t want to turn up in a suit – it will show that you won’t fit in or don’t understand the company culture. Although, that doesn’t mean turning up in your fashion-frenzy weekend outfits either. Wear a nice pair of dark jeans, a simple but smart t-shirt or chemise with some ballet pumps and a casual structured bag. You could also pick out one of your casual dresses with a pair of ankle boots or flats.

Top Tips:

What you wear to an interview shouldn’t matter, your CV and personality should be the deal breaker. However, in today’s tough employment world “being perfectly qualified for the position you’re interviewing for isn’t always enough to land the job,” Rosette Pambakian, VP of global communications and branding at Tinder, says. By following our top tips you will surely be on the route to nailing the look.

  1. Check your nails, teeth, and makeup (ladies) before your interview; you don’t want the embarrassing moment when your interviewer is focused on the lipstick or residue of your breakfast on your teeth instead of what you are actually saying.
  2. Don’t turn up with unkempt hair– for the ladies keeping it down means you need to have a blow-dry or, create a stylish updo that oozes elegance. For the gents – make sure you’ve had a fresh trim a few days before.
  3. Your clothes need to be clean, free of any animal hair and stains. If you do not have an iron, take a trip to the dry cleaners to get your outfit ready.
  4. Keep your jewellery to a minimum. Do not wear distracting pieces that will take the attention from your personality and drive it to your bling watch!
  5. Avoid bold prints or clothing with large logo’s on them – simplicity is everything.
  6. Do try on your outfit beforehand to make sure it's right. You don’t want to find yourself panicking about what to wear on the morning of the interview; you want to be focused on the job and your experience.
  7. Don't wear anything uncomfortable that will make you feel self-conscious or distracted. Make sure you have worn your shoes before- the last thing you want is for you to feel nervous about the pain in your feet too.


Preparing your outfit for an interview is just as important as memorizing your CV, making sure you have smart questions to ask at the end of your interview and rehearsing your strengths and weaknesses. Whether you live by Vogue, or, have no interest in fashion, having a killer look might not get you the job, but it’ll sure keep you in the running!

Have you had any interview fashion faux-pas? If so, leave a comment in the box below of what we should avoid…