When choosing interview attire, there are some important considerations:
Making a good impression on a potential employer
Feeling comfortable and confident during the interview experience
Dressing appropriately for the job you’re applying for: Is the employer’s dress code casual or formal, especially as office norms shift in the wake of COVID-19?
Dressing for the location: onsite at the company’s headquarters or via Zoom
Keep in mind that your priorities are to present your qualifications and make empowered career decisions. That means your attire should complement rather than distract from the real focus of your interview. Using our simple process below, you’ll choose your outfit confidently, without having to spend a lot of time and energy on this aspect of interviewing.
Follow these steps to select your interview attire, while freeing up mental energy to conduct the rest of your interview preparation.
Dress one step up from what those in the workplace environment wear. For example, if a company’s leaders and employees typically dress in jeans and T-shirts, your one step up might include a pair of non-denim pants and a tucked-in shirt.
Prioritize feeling comfortable and confident. Even if you’ll be wearing a tie and button-down shirt, make sure your garments do not restrict movement or irritate your skin so that you can focus on the conversation with a potential employer. You may even choose to wear something you already know feels comfortable, rather than investing in a new set of garments.
Make sure every garment in your ensemble is clean, free of wrinkles or tears, and properly fitting. These details alone can polish your look.
In conjunction with dressing one step up, you’ll want to get a clear sense of the company’s environment, culture, dress code, or workplace attire expectations. You can find this out by:
Calling or emailing your interview point of contact and asking them about the company's dress code. Here are examples of questions you could ask: “How do people who work here usually dress?” or “How would you dress for an interview with this company?”
Perusing the company’s website and social media profiles for images that offer clues about the typical attire
Visiting the company’s location (if convenient) and observing firsthand how employees dress
Once you find out the company’s dress code, consider the examples in these four workplace attire categories:
In formal environments, appropriate attire might include a tailored suit, button-down shirt with tie, blouse, lace-up dress shoes or close-toed pumps, and stockings or dress socks.
In casual environments, such as a tech company or start-up, you might see staff members wearing a broad range of attire, from khaki pants and button-downs to jeans, T-shirts, and hoodies. For your interview, you might choose an outfit that is more on the business casual side, rather than something very casual. Business casual attire typically blends some elements of formal and casual attire and can include non-denim pants, blazers, button-downs, and dresses and skirts that aren’t part of a business suit.
In creative environments, such as a design company, art gallery, or a clothing boutique, you might find a more fashion-forward culture of dressing. In this case, you might choose garments and accessories that reflect the latest trends and resemble the styles worn by employees and clientele.
In industry-specific environments, dress codes can differ significantly between interviews and that which is worn on the job. For example, for a personal trainer interview at a fitness studio, you might wear business casual for the face-to-face part of the interview and athletic attire for a physical demonstration of your training approach. For an interview at a medical facility, you might opt for business casual or a step above, even if you’ll be wearing scrubs or a lab coat on the job.
Interviewing on Zoom or at a company’s headquarters may determine the garments you choose. For interviewing on Zoom, choose colors that contrast with your background, so that you stand out, but opt for colors that don’t clash too much. For interviewing onsite, keep your physical comfort in mind. For example, air-conditioned office spaces can feel frigid after a short period of time of being there, while fitness facilities may feel balmy. For an outdoor location, you may need a durable pair of shoes or a weather-proof coat.
While you have some leeway in choosing your interview attire, there are some things to avoid:
Heavy perfume or cologne
A lot of accessories
Wrinkled, torn, or ill-fitting garments
Garments that feel uncomfortable, restrictive, or completely at odds with who you are
An outfit that doesn’t match the brand or culture of the company you want to work for
A combination of radically different patterns, colors, textures
Flip flops or athletic shoes
Need more inspiration? Search image-based sites like Pinterest and Instagram for visual examples of appropriate interview attire.
Once you’ve settled on your interview attire, remember to reserve plenty of time to prepare thoroughly for the conversation you’ll have with the prospective employer. This can include researching the company, crafting STAR method stories about your professional experience, and preparing questions to ask the interviewer.
As you continue your job search, it’s a good idea to build strong interviewing skills to draw upon along your career path.
Set yourself up for success in your next interview with The Art of the Job Interview from Big Interview on Coursera. Learn more about non-verbal communication, mistakes to avoid, how to analyze job descriptions, and more.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.