How to dress for a formal or casual job interview
The first impression you will make is your appearance. This means that before you have even said a single word you made an impression based on how you are dressed. Sounds like an important factor in a job interview, right? The answer to the question ‘how to dress for an interview?’ is incredibly important.
Therefore, next to preparing the interview, thinking about the questions that you could possibly be asked, and how to present yourself, you also have to add your interview attire to your checklist. Showing up dressed for the part is just as important as nailing your interview itself.
You have to realize that this is (probably) the first time the interviewers meet you, and they do not know you outside of the company or interview center. It is what you present to them that they will take as your personality and you being ‘you’.
Companies differ, and so do their dress codes and workplace attire. Therefore, it’s important to understand the company culture and what is expected of employees in terms of office attire.
In this blog, we will give you some tips on how to prepare to dress for a formal or casual job interview.
Research the company, thoroughly
Understanding what the company is about, what it’s culture is like, what their goals are; you should have some knowledge about all of it. It’s relatively easy to find such information, for instance on the company website. Furthermore, always Google a company to get as much information as you can.
Based on this information you can take an educated guess of what the company’s dress code is. Dress in a such a way that it is professionally appropriate to the job opening which you applied for.
Tip: Different companies and industries have different expectations of employee work attire. If you’re in doubt about the dress code, go conservative.
Wear clothes that are professional but also make you feel good
How you feel inside affects how you feel or appear outside. In likewise manner, if you feel good and great outside it would affect your inner feeling. It would have positive effects on your demeanor. It gives you that feeling of confidence and takes away the feeling of insecurity and inferiority.
Go corporate for the formal interviews
If you going for a corporate interview, definitely judgment will first be passed on the outfit you are putting on. Whether you are a female or male, first think of the color or the color combination you would be wearing and then work it down to the style of the dress itself. This is a formal interview; therefore, you have to appear professional.
Difference between Corporate and Casual Job Interview Attire
There is a difference between dressing for a corporate job interview and an interview for a more informal or creative position. It’s important that you learn about the work setting and office style to make sure that you come dressed appropriately for the position and dress code of the company.
The interview in general, the type of interview and how you should dress differs per company and industry. You can imagine that your interview attire will look different if you apply for a job at Google or a job at Goldman Sachs.
A general guideline that you can use to make an educated guess on what you should wear is set out below.
Corporate / Conservative / Professional
- Large corporations
- Consultancy firms
- Law firms
- Accounting firms
- High-level government positions
- Small businesses
- Educational industry
- Tech industry
- Real Estate industry
- Retail industry
- Sales positions
- Entertainment industry
- Fashion industry
- Design industry
- Travel industry
- Music industry
In this blog, we will discuss appropriate interview clothing for men and women for both corporate and casual job interviews.
Interview attire for men – Corporate and Casual
Corporate job interview attire for men
To make sure you come across as someone who fits in the office environment also show this to employers, maintain professional attire and behavior. In a corporate job interview, you can never go wrong with a suit, which in this case means a matching colored jacket and pants, and a dress shirt with a tie.
Not sure about what color suit you should wear? Go safe and go with a solid colored suit, such as black, dark/charcoal grey or navy. Make sure that your suit is comfortable and that it fits you well. Always avoid wearing bright colors or ties that are too flashy.
For button-down shirts, lighter colored shirts usually work better in a professional setting. Therefore, just stick to the basics and classics to do the trick.
For instance, wear a white or blue long-sleeved shirt underneath or another safe color that is coordinated with your suit. Make sure your shirt is wrinkle free (iron it) and always avoid wearing an oversized shirt; this does not look good nor professional.
The tie you wear can say a lot and should not be played down. Again, if you’re not sure, always go for the most conservative option; clean and classic. This means that you should not go for fashionable options such as a slim tie or an extra wide variant.
Classic colors such as navy blue or green will work. Don’t go overboard and flashy. A patterned tie could be a possibility but go for a ‘simple’ repeating pattern.
Tip: Make sure you know how to tie a tie in advance. There al multiple ways to tie your tie and you should find out which one you go for before your interview. Do a dress rehearsal and try on your complete outfit.
Shoes and socks
Your shoes will finish your look and therefore are another important part of looking professional on your job interview. You can never go wrong with a round toe leather dress shoe. Your goal is to go clean and classic.
Tip: Coordinate your socks with your dress shoes and make sure your socks are not too short. Dark socks and dark leather shoes always work. Ensure you shine your shoes before the interview. This is a sign that you pay attention to detail.
For accessories goes; it’s not really necessary to a corporate job interview. You can choose to wear a pocket square that corresponds with your tie but as stated earlier; go conservative. Bright colors or patterns are not what you need in a job interview. Always keep the formality and professionality of an interview in the back of your head when making decisions about your interview attire.
Wear little or no jewelry and just a little aftershave. Bring your briefcase or portfolio with you with your documents such as resume, cover letter, and references in it.
Tip: Don’t forget to trim your nails and make sure you have clean hands. Furthermore, your hair should be neat and clean. Facial hair should be freshly trimmed or shaved the day of the interview.
Business casual job interview attire for men
If you applied for a more casual job position, you should still figure out what appropriate is for the level of formality within the company. You can always check the social media accounts of the company to get a feeling of what people wear to the office.
The term business casual in general means wearing professional attire without being overly formal. To give you an indication; it’s right in between wearing jeans and a t-shirt and wearing a business suit and a tie.
Even though it may not be necessary to wear a suit if you go for a more casual look, it’s still important that you show up to interview dressed appropriately for the job. However, it’s true that you do have a bit more freedom to express your personal style than during a corporate job interview.
There are different levels of ‘casual’ attire. Below we set out some options for you.
A safe option to go for is to wear a blazer or jacket. Even though it’s not mandatory to wear a jacket or blazer to look ‘business’ casual, it will still look good. For colors, go for navy blue, black or grey – these colors are easy to match with the rest of your outfit.
Tip: You can always bring a jacket or blazer with you. You can wear it if you want to look a bit more formal and leave it off if you want to go for more casual.
Wearing a light-colored, pressed button-down shirt that’s neatly tucked in your pants will give you that casual, but formal look. Always go for a shirt with long sleeves and a collar. You can wear such a shirt underneath your blazer as well.
A tie is not necessary to wear but is optional in this case.
Another safe option is to go for a sweater with a button-down shirt underneath. This is a classic casual business look. If you’re not sure what color sweater to wear just go safe with black, brown, navy etcetera. For your button-down shirt go for white or light blue.
The safe side of business casual is wearing dress slacks or chinos. Again, neutral colors are the way to go. Think of colors like black, brown, navy blue or grey. These colors are very easy to match with a lot of different shirt or sweater colors.
If the job interview is at a casual office, say for instance a start-up or a position in the hospitality sector, you might want to go for khaki pants and a belt. Dark colored jeans are a possibility to wear the office, but skip them for the job interview, just to be on the safe side.
Shoes are your finishing touch. However, you need to pick the right shoes to go with the right outfit. If you’re wearing a pair of slacks go for a nice pair of polished dress shoes. If you decide to wear khaki pants, a clean loafer could also work.
Shoes to avoid are the ones that will make you look too casual. These are for instance sport/tennis shoes, sandals or flip flops.
Tip: Avoid wearing athletic or sports socks. Go for a nice pair of socks that match the color of your pants.
Needless to say, grooming is an important part of looking and smelling well. Take a shower, shave or trim your beard so that you look sharp and have clean fingernails/hands.
Wearing cologne is a possibility but never overdo it – one spray is enough.
Just to be sure, try on your interview attire a couple of days ahead of your job interview. This is to make sure that you will look clean and professional.
Interview attire for women – Corporate and Casual
Corporate job interview attire for women
When you’re going to a corporate job interview, for instance, if you applied for a position at an investment bank, consultancy firm or law firm, you want to make the best impression possible. Needless to say, the focus of the interview should be on your brain and not your sense of fashion.
For women goes the same as for men when it comes to business dress codes; keep it basic and conservative. A two-piece suit is a safe option to go with. For women, it can either be a full suit or as a separate a pants or jacket. Neutral colors are safe options, such as navy blue, grey, or black.
A suit should fit you well and feel comfortable. If this is not the case, you might want to consider getting some alterations done at a tailor. Wear a light-colored shirt or blouse underneath. You can always soften the look by wearing a blouse.
Blouse or button-down shirt
The blouse or button-down shirt you decide to go with is preferably light in color. Avoid wearing bright colors, low-cuts or anything else that might distract the interviewers from the most important factor: you and your suitability for the job you applied for.
Another option for a business outfit is a blazer in combination with a button-down shirt or a blouse. In addition, you could also wear a blazer in combination with a dress.
Another classic option is a pencil skirt with a blouse or a shift dress with a jacket on top. A skirt suit is also an option instead of a pantsuit. If you decide to go for a skirt suit make sure that it’s at least knee-length. Hosiery below your skirt should be at or near skin color.
Either way, always do a mirror check before you go to the interview to make sure you look dressed for the occasion.
When choosing your shoes for a corporate business job interview go conservative. Also, a (fairly) low to medium heel is good enough. Leather, closed toe shoes are perfectly suitable. Match the colors of your shoes to the outfit that you’re wearing.
If you’re in doubt about wearing heels with open toes or backs; don’t do it. Any pair of shoes that you would wear going out are probably inappropriate for a business job interview.
Make-up and nail polish
Your make-up should be conservative as well. Therefore, try to keep it to a minimum. In this case, less is more, and a natural look is always classy.
Business casual job interview attire for women
A simple (but professional) top
A conservative, neutral top is something that comes across as professional. For instance, you could try to wear a cardigan or blazer together with a button-down shirt. If you do this, you can always take the cardigan or blazer off if you decide that it does not really fit the interview environment. A blouse is also a good option to go with.
A dress is always a proper option to go with. However, make sure that it’s an appropriate dress with a proper length. Go for a tailored dress that finishes at the knees. Neutral colors are the way to go. If your dress has open arms, you can choose to wear a blazer on top of it.
Pants or skirt
A knee-length skirt in a navy blue or other neutral color will give you an appropriate professional look that you’re looking for. On top, you can wear a button-down shirt. Another option is to wear khaki or cotton pants – just make sure that they’re tailored and look professional.
In general, try to avoid wearing jeans to a job interview. Even though there are very nice pairs out there, it can still look ‘underdressed’ for the occasion. If you know the company culture is very casual, for instance in the entertainment or fashion industry, you could go for it. However, make sure that you wear a dark wash slim fit without any rips in it. You can pair such jeans very well with a more formal blouse or blazer.
To finish your business casual outfit, go with comfortable shoes with closed toes. Flats, pumps or low heels are all suitable options. Neutral colors such as black or brown colored variants are good options.
- Avoid skirts that are too short or too tight. The same goes for tops. Also, you don’t want to show too much cleavage.
- Even when wearing a bit more casual business clothes, you still don’t want to wear too much make-up or perfume. Keep it classy.
- Choose to go for a briefcase or purse, don’t carry both.
Additional interview attire tips
Strike a balance between going casual and going ‘too casual.’
Aside from interviews in the workplace, interviews could also be conducted in informal settings. For such interviews, you should wear a casual business outfit. Just remember the ‘business’ part as a reminder that it’s still a business meeting irrespective of the meeting venue. When wearing casual interview attire you are free to express your personality a bit more through your clothes, but don’t push it.
A business casual outfit would make you appear less formal but more professional than when you put on your T-shirt and shorts with flip-flops.
Going casual still calls for neatness
Whether you’re a man or a woman; your hair still needs to be cut or styled neatly. For women, ensure that your make up is on point and on a professional level. A natural look will work just fine. If you use make-up that’s fine too, but it should not be a form of distraction to the interviewer.
Focus on the fit of your clothes and wrinkles
You chose your interview attire for the big day; now try it on and see what it looks like on you. Focus on looking professional and make sure that your clothes are clean and stain and wrinkle-free.
Throughout this blog, we have mentioned the colors of your interview attire a couple of times, but we can’t stress it enough. A job interview, whether it’s corporate or business casual is not the moment to wear very trendy or very bright colors. Your outfit should not take the center stage but should be a discrete reflection of your personality and your understanding of the company culture.
Wear your smile!
Don’t make the interview awkward; smile! A smile will go a long way. This does not mean that you should put on a fake smile, but just be enthusiastic about the fact that you’re there. Aim for a relaxed, natural smile when you meet people and when you’re doing the interview.
Just to be clear what you should avoid at all costs:
- Flip flops
- Tennis or sport shoes
- Tank tops
- Any shirt that has a neckline that is too low or ones that expose your belly
- Too much cologne
- Too much jewelry
Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers
Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!
- Career Change
- Career Goals
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Cultural Fit
- Customer Service
- Growth Potential
- Honesty & Integrity
- Job Satisfaction
- Entry-Level & No experience
- Prioritization & Time Management
- Situational & Scenario-based
- Stress Management
- Telephone Interview
- Work Ethic