Your attire for an interview can have a powerful first impression on employers. Companies often have different dress codes, depending on the organisational structure, culture and management style. Understanding what to wear to an interview not only makes you an ideal fit for the job to the interviewer, it can also boost your confidence when meeting with them. In this article, we discuss what to wear for an interview, what is relevant attire in 2021 and what to avoid wearing to an interview.
What is appropriate to wear to an interview?
Clothing that appears professional and maintained is important for attending your interview. When selecting the appropriate clothing, you may choose to find items with a business casual appearance. Many organisations that require business casual attire often have relaxed dress codes. In these atmospheres, apparel like cotton or khaki slacks, casual knee-length skirts and simple tops can fit the business casual requirement and still offer you comfort. In a formal office setting, the dress code may vary. For instance, dress slacks in darker hues, button-up blouses or even ties may be more appropriate than business casual.
Your interview attire can help you make a positive and professional impression on staff members, hiring managers and other interviewing parties you meet. The way you dress can also impact how employers perceive you as a potential candidate for their organisation. Your choice of attire for your interview can also help you feel more comfortable and confident when you answer questions and discuss your skills and qualifications.
What should I wear to an interview in 2021?
Most employers nowadays prefer to keep their office dress codes comfortable yet professional with business casual dress codes. Business casual attire is clothing that keeps a professional appearance but provides comfort in more casual fabrics, prints and styles. As you think about what to wear for your interview, consider several common business casual items for 2021:
In business casual attire, simple, professional tops offer a comfortable and professional appearance. Pair blouses and tops with button-down closures, plain tops and collared shirts with simple cardigans, casual jackets or simple knit sweater or blazer. It is important to choose neutral colours, simple patterns and modest lengths. Be sure to choose apparel that fits you well and that you are comfortable in rather than oversized clothing, tops with low necklines and apparel with fabric that wrinkles easily. Another appropriate option is a casual dress with a cardigan, light sweater or simple belt.
Dress pants or skirts
Pair simple tops with neutral-coloured dress slacks or skirts. For instance, navy or black dress pants with a casual, button-down top make appropriate attire for a business casual appearance. When choosing skirts, opt for knee-length or longer, and make sure you press your pants or skirt prior to your interview to get rid of any wrinkles. You may even opt for khaki or cotton slacks, so long as they have a professional appearance.
In a business casual setting, it's important to choose shoes and footwear that are comfortable and professional. Closed-toed shoes like loafers, flats and dress shoes with laces are several examples of appropriate footwear in an office setting. If your shoes require socks or hose, ensure the apparel is comfortable and well-fit. For shoes with darker colours, it's important to select socks that are also darker in colours, such as dark grey, black, navy or dark brown. Additionally, ensure the shoes you wear are clean and free of any scratches.
Simple accessories and accents
If you choose to wear jewellery, make sure it is simple and professional-looking. Stick to simple gold or silver colours, thin chains, minimal rings and stud earrings. If you pair a bracelet with your outfit, don a simple hoop or delicate chain bracelet. Wristwatches are also appropriate, so long as you keep it simple with a plain metal or leather band. If your outfit requires a belt, choose muted colours and simple materials, such as black or brown leather belts.
Formal interview attire
If you are interviewing with a company that requires more of a formal business dress code, you may consider several options. For tops, choose button-down shirts that you can pair with a formal blazer. You may also opt for long-sleeved collared shirts that also pair with a blazer or formal sweater. Choose neutral and plain colours, and if you are pairing your shirt or blouse with a jacket, ensure the items fit well together. When choosing formal pants or skirts, look for softer fabrics that you can press to get rid of wrinkles.
Similar to casual wear, neutral and dark colours are more appropriate for formal slacks or skirts. The footwear you choose for formal attire is also important. Opt for closed-toe shoes like flats or loafers. If you pair your shoes with socks or stockings, match your socks with the hue of your slacks and shoes. For instance, when wearing slacks and shoes in dark colours, choose socks that are also dark in colour and avoid bright hues and complicated patterns or prints.
What you should avoid wearing to an interview
When preparing your attire for your interview, there are several things to consider. For instance, it's important to avoid certain items in both business casual and formal environments. The following considerations include several things to avoid when dressing for your interview:
Avoid footwear that is too casual, such as sandals or flip-flops. Many employers also prefer more formal shoes over footwear like athletic shoes, extremely high heels and slip-on footwear. It's also important to ensure your shoes are clean and free of any dirt and scuff marks. If you choose to purchase new shoes for your interview, try on your footwear and get familiar with how it feels to wear your new shoes. This way you are comfortable and know what to wear during your interview.
Loose or tight-fitting tops
Choose blouses and shirts that fit you well and give you a professional appearance. Avoid tank tops and thin straps, as well as tops that are too tight or loose. Choose an undershirt if you are wearing lighter colours to maintain modesty and remain comfortable during your interview. Additionally, it's also important to choose cardigans, light sweaters, jackets and blazers that are well-fit.
Baggy or oversized pants
Choose bottoms that fit your shape and dress code of the company you are interviewing with. For instance, slacks that give you a professional appearance over pants that are baggy or oversized are more appropriate for the office. Additionally, ensure any undergarments you wear with your attire remain unseen so you look professional.
Skirts and dresses that are too short
Choose the appropriate length when wearing a skirt or dress to your interview. For instance, knee-length and longer are common lengths that are appropriate for both business casual and formal dress code requirements. You can test the length of your attire easily by standing up in your apparel and placing your arms straight down at your sides. If the hem of your dress or skirt reaches your fingers or is longer, it is usually appropriate to wear for your interview.
Bright colours and prints
Brightly coloured and neon attire is typically inappropriate for an interview. Choose natural colours and neutral tones that can pair with one another. It is also essential to choose clothing items that are more simple or plain without patterns and prints that are busy, distracting or overly colourful. Additionally, opt for plain tops and blouses without words, phrasing or symbols. However, there are several prints and patterns that are appropriate for an interview, including stripes, plaid and argyle patterns.
Cologne or perfume
While it is important to smell clean and demonstrate your good hygiene, choose soft scents that are subtle rather than overpowering. Be aware that some scents may be irritating to others, so it is best to avoid wearing an overpowering scent. Instead, make sure your clothes are clean and smell fresh and that you are clean and ready for your interview. This way you avoid distracting others with the scent of perfume or cologne.
Tips for dressing for an interview
Before choosing your interview attire, consider the following tips to help you determine what to select to make the best impression:
- Research the company and its dress code. Prior to your interview, research the organisation and the dress code requirements. Then, you can choose items that fit the company's style and criteria.
- Try your selections prior to your interview. Try on each item that you consider wearing to your interview. This can help you choose comfortable and professional-looking attire.
- Ask for input from other professionals. Show others in your network or ask a friend to give input on what you plan to wear to your interview. Note the feedback and substitute items with more appropriate attire if you need to.
- Opt for business casual attire. If you are uncertain whether the company you're applying to requires formal attire or only requires business casual attire, opt for business casual apparel. Remember to choose darker colours for slacks and skirts and comfortable and professional tops.