What to Wear to an Interview: 2024 Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Knowing what you wear during your interview is important to give your first impression to your potential employer. Learn our top tips on how to impress.

[Featured Image]:  Prospective job candidate, wearing an orange jacket and white top, sitting in front of two members of HR, being interviewed for a position.

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?

  • Keeping your outfit from being distracting: You want the attention to be on you and what you are saying during the interview, not on your outfit choice. 

  • 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.

3 steps for choosing your interview attire

Follow these steps to select your interview attire, while freeing up mental energy to conduct the rest of your interview preparation.  

1. Consider common rules of thumb.

  • 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 trousers and a tucked-in shirt.

  • Prioritise feeling comfortable and confident. Even if you’ll be wearing a tie and 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.  

  • Dress cohesively. For example, your tights and socks should go well with the rest of your outfit. 

2. Research the company’s dress code.

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, shirt with tie, blouse, blazer, midi-dresses, cigarette trousers, loafers, 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 trousers and shirts 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 trousers, blazers, shirts, and dresses and skirts that aren’t part of a business suit.

  • In creative environments, such as a design company, art gallery, or 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.   

3. Dress for the interview location.

Interviewing on Zoom or at a company’s headquarters may determine the garments you choose. For interviewing on Zoom, choose colours that contrast with your background, so that you stand out, but opt for colours 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 weatherproof coat. 

One tip is to layer your clothing to be prepared for multiple temperatures. For example, the outside temperature may be vastly different from the indoor temperature or very similar, depending on the internal ventilation and heating systems.

What not to wear to an interview 

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, colours, textures 

  • Flip flops or athletic shoes 

  • Jeans, in many cases

  • Garments that are too flashy, such as gold cufflinks or high-level luxury items

Next steps for getting more out of your interview experience

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. This can help set you apart from other candidates and take you one step closer to landing the job.

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