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How to wear a suit for a job interview

Updated on March 22, 2011
This suit is too black for a job interview
This suit is too black for a job interview

What kind of suit should I wear?

Alright, so you've landed a job interview. That's great. Now, what to wear? The choice is obvious for most jobs: a suit and tie. For certain manual labor jobs this might be a little much, but for most jobs you're going to want to look your best at a job interview. Even if office attire at the particular company isn't formal, it's better to overdress than to dress down only to find out the office dresses a lot better than you realized.

What color suit is best?

There are many different color suits available, but most aren't appropriate for a job interview. The best color is either charcoal or navy. These are colors that are pretty much appropriate any time you wear a suit. A lot of people choose black for their first suit. I would advise against this. Black is really a color for funerals and members of the Italian mob. In daylight, black suits make you look like a member of a secretive satanic cult.

There are also a lot of white and khaki colored suits out there. These are great for summer weddings or dinner parties, but they just don't fit in well in an office setting. The colors denote casualness, which is not the impression you want to make at a job interview.

I should note here that you want to avoid pinstripes for an interview suit. Pinstripes are great, and I love suits with them, but they also give a very strong impression of power, and that will just come across as arrogance at a job interview. Wear pinstripes after you land the job and you're bossing 30 people around.

What type of suit should I wear?

First, we'll cover material. Wear a wool suit. I like wool suits in general, but they are especially good for a job interview. Cotton suits are more of a casual summer thing, and they show more wrinkles than wool. Ask about the materials when you buy a suit, as not all wools are the same.

Do not wear a three piece suit. A vest is both too formal and also arrogant. Once again, it's something to wear after you land the job.

The standard business suit these days is the single-breasted 3-button wool suit. Remember the rules on buttons (from top to bottom button): sometimes, always (except when seated), never. When standing, you can sometimes have the top button buttoned, particularly if you're outside and it's windy. You should always have the middle button buttoned when standing. You should never have the bottom button fasted. Never. Also unbutton all three buttons when you're sitting down.

How should my suit fit?

This is something you should discuss with a tailor. Your suit should absolutely be tailored. An untailored suit will look sloppy unless you happen to have the exact dimensions of the model used to make the original. There's about a 1% chance that you do, so go to the tailor. Your sleeves should come down to the joint where your thumb meets your hand or slightly higher. Your shoulders are the most important part of the suit. The shoulder seam should be right at where your shoulder joint meets your torso. Make sure you get that right when you buy a suit, because a tailor can't do much to fix the shoulder.

Your tailor will know how to fit your pants just right. They should cover your socks while standing and not touch the floor.

Shoes and belt

I suggest black or brown shoes and belt, and they should match. I really like the look of brown shoes and a brown belt on a charcoal or navy suit because it gives a sort of smart, vintage look, but some conservatives will say that black and black are the only appropriate shoes and belt for a job interview. I think they're just a little too boring.


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