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What to Wear to an Interview: Tips to Dress for Success!

Updated on October 6, 2014

Got Yourself an Interview? Way to Go! Now it's Time to Dig Through your Wardrobe to Find the Perfect Outfit!

So now after sending out countless job applications, ruthlessly attempting to land a gig in this not-so-glorious economy, you've finally gotten the call you've been waiting for. A hiring manager has asked you to come in for an interview. Congratulations, that's the hardest part! You're now presented with the opportunity to showcase your skills and talents, hopefully ending up with you landing that job you've been dreaming of. Fantastic! You may now be asking yourself, what on earth should I wear that will help me get the job?

Of course, an outfit in and of itself will not land you a job, but it is an important aspect of self-presentation that employers take into account in the hiring process. Your skills and past experience are arguably the most important factors your prospective employer will take into consideration when deciding if you are right for the position, but how you present yourself can make or break a potential a job offer. Given that how you dress for an interview does have substantial bearing on hiring decisions, I have chosen to write a hub giving pointers on how to dress for an interview.

Looking Professional is the Key, But Don't Overdo It

Business Professional vs. Business Casual

So you know you need to look nice for an interview, but just how dressed up do you need to get? Is it really necessary to wear a suit and tie? That depends entirely on the type of job you are interviewing for.

When being interviewed for most positions, it will be necessary to determine whether it is more appropriate to dress "business professional" or "business casual." For example, if you are interviewing for a position as a lawyer or a tenure-track professor, you will be working in an environment whose dress code is best summed up as "business professional," meaning, you really will need that suit and tie! However, let's say you have applied for a position as a preschool teacher or to be a receptionist as your local hospital's information desk---that's more "business casual." For these kinds of positions, it is often more appropriate to wear a pair of dress pants (or skirt) paired with a nice blouse or button up shirt.

Determining whether the position you are interviewing for is best summed up as "business professional" or "business casual" is an extremely useful first step in determining what outfit that would be best to wear. Drawing the line can be difficult at times, and in the case of being unable to determine which category is more suitable, err on the side of caution and go for a more formal look.

How to Accessorize: Jewelry and Make-Up

It may be tempting to look through your jewelry box in search of that oh-so-perfect necklace or pair of earrings to complement your outfit. However, before you reach for those expensive gorgeous dangle earrings your boyfriend bought you for your anniversary, remember that it's important to keep in simple. While wearing jewelry is perfectly acceptable, opt for the less showy pair of studs and a neutral gold or silver necklace.

At all costs, stay away from distracting charm bracelets and cheap looking jewelry. No jewelry is better than inappropriate jewelry.

As fair as make-up goes, the same rules apply. Keep it simple. If you are fair-haired and fair-skinned, go with the brown eyeliner instead of the bold black (keep that aside for your date night). Avoid bright lipstick. The closer to natural you stay, the better!

As for purses, go for something functional and not too large. A nice black leather purse (or something like it) will do the trick!

Business Professional for Women

Alright professional women out there, here's the lowdown on what to wear for your interview! You're going to need a suit and tie. If you don't have one, you'll need to fork over the dough to buy one. If you're strapped for cash, try looking for secondhand business attire at your local thrift store. However, try your very best not to forgo the suit for financial reasons if you will be working in a professional environment.

As far as suits go, you have two main options---the skirt suit or the pant suit. Although the skirt suit is more traditionally feminine, it is now equally acceptable to wear a pant suit. Wear whichever you feel more comfortable in. Go for neutral colors---either a gray, black, or navy blue suit paired with a white dress shirt are virtually foolproof. Make sure to wear a nice pair of matching dress shoes. Heels are okay, but try to stay under three inches. Also, if you know you are clumsy in heels, opt for a flat pair of shoes instead.

Business Professional for Men

Attention gentlemen. So you're going for a position that is highly professional? You're going to need to put on that suit and tie! Neutral colors are best---black, gray, navy blue, and brown are acceptable. Make sure to pair your suit with a matching shirt and tie. Avoid ties with distracting patterns (unless you are aesthetically inclined and are looking to nab that position at the local art gallery). Oh yes---and make you wear a pair of matching dress shoes to pull the look together.

Business Casual for Women

When it comes to "business casual," you have a lot more freedom in terms of what it is appropriate to wear. However, having a broader range of options doesn't necessarily make it easier to choose the right outfit!

Generally speaking, it is appropriate to wear either a skirt or a pair of dress pants with a nice blouse. As with "business professional," it is generally best to stick with neutral colors. Pair your outfit with dress shoes or dress sandals (summer only).

Avoid skirts that are too short and tops that are too revealing. Keep jewelry and accessories simple, as well as your hairstyle.

Business Casual for Men

When it comes to business casual for men, the classic look would be a pair of dress pants with a button up shirt. Depending on how formal the position to which you are applying is, decide whether or not to wear a tie. Dress shoes are an absolute must to pull the look together---so avoid sneakers at all costs.

Even if it is acceptable to wear Polo shirts at work, it is typically advised to stick with the button up shirt---but of course, there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, if you are interviewing for a construction gig, it is best to steer clear of jeans and a t-shirt (even though that is likely what you will wear on a day-to-day basis. Let your employer know you are serious by wearing khakis and a black Polo shirt---or something else along those lines.

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