What to wear for a job interview

First impressions are crucial in job interviews—you need to show your potential employer that you’re trustworthy, smart, and professional enough to be awarded the role. Although your credentials and preparation will go a long way to achieving this, looking the part is also critical. After all, presentation matters in every job, and looking your best will get you in the mindset to do your best.

How smart should I dress?

Before you start putting your outfit together, you need to decide how formal to dress. No longer is wearing a suit the only option. While the old adage of dressing for the job you want and not the one you have still rings true, wearing a three-piece suit for a company with a more relaxed working style may not go down as well as you anticipated. It’s all about demonstrating you are a good cultural fit for the business while dressing smartly to show an air of professionalism.

Dressing for formal interviews

For interviews where you think you are best-served wearing a suit and tie, you ideally want a stylish outfit that’s flattering while still being comfortable

The Suit

For the blazer and trousers, a matching two-piece suit is just the ticket. It should have a simple design with neutral, dark colours like navy, brown, or charcoal grey, giving you a clean and polished look. Avoid distracting patterns and bright, garish hues like red. While you can’t go wrong with a classic black, this may look more like wedding or funeral attire if you don’t dress it down. We recommend having your outfit tailored to you, or at least ensuring the fit is excellent, as an ill-fitting suit isn’t flattering and can appear sloppy.

The Shirt

Lighter coloured shirts are ideal when dressing formally, so we suggest sticking to classic white or pastel shades. Avoid button-down collars and instead opt for a straight collared shirt, as the former will be too casual. Again, tailoring is essential—an ill-fitting shirt can look lacklustre and make you appear much younger and inexperienced in the business world. There’s no excuse for a creased shirt, either.

The Tie

When it comes to choosing the right style of tie, we suggest one with a standard width. Anything skinny is too informal while a wide set style can look clunky if not styled correctly. Just like with your suit and shirt, keep your tie style and colour simple and classic. Navies, burgundies, dark greens, and other traditional hues are ideal, though do be sure to avoid colour clashes and loud patterns. Solid-colour ties or those with conventional patterns like simple stripes are well-suited to formal interviews, while a tie bar can add an extra touch of class to your look.

The Shoes

They say that you can judge a gentleman by his style of shoes, and this certainly applies in a job interview scenario. A pair of formal dress shoes can help complete your look, especially for a corporate position, so avoid matching your suit with a pair of trainers. A pair of leather round-toe Oxfords are a classic choice that never goes out of style. Just ensure you give them a fresh polish before you head out.

The Accessories

A few accessories can round off your look. One particularly sophisticated accessory choice is a pocket square, though make sure it matches with your tie and that you fold it properly. Avoid choosing a rucksack for a plain leather portfolio or nylon document bag, and consider accessories like cufflinks, a leather belt, and a nice watch for a few final touches.

Dressing for casual interviews

While you shouldn’t wear a suit to a more casual interview, you still want to maintain a professional presentation.

The Shirt

Your button-down shirt can either be plain or have simple patterns like check or gingham. Although you can move away from muted, business-like colours, such as navy and white, don’t pick anything too bright. Fitting is, again, essential, so avoid a baggy look and go for a slim-fit shirt that isn’t too tight.

The Trousers

Slim fitting chinos or trousers are the best options but opt for plain colours like grey, black, or navy to maintain a professional image. Ensure your legwear isn’t too long or short and wear a good quality belt to complete the look. Avoid denim for now as this is too casual for the interview stage.

The Jacket and Sweater

A stylish cardigan or sweater will layer your outfit, adding more intricacy to your look while also keeping you warm during the colder months. Go for materials like cotton or wool in understated colours and avoid anything synthetic. A blazer can also augment a shirt and chino combination and helps to dress up your outfit. We suggest opting for lightweight materials like linen, making sure it fits well.

The Footwear

While you can ditch the leather shoes, you should still go for footwear on the smart side. We recommend either loafers or suede desert boots that are polished and free of scratches. Black or brown colours are your safest bet. Avoid trainers, even for business casual interviews, and never wear any type of open-toe shoes.

The Accessories

Avoid wearing too much jewellery, keeping it to a minimum such as a nice watch and a wedding ring if you have one. Even if the company you’re interviewing with seems casual, avoid accessorising with a hat as this can give the impression that you’re not taking the interview seriously. You can get away with carrying a backpack, although it’s preferable if it’s in muted colours and a smart style.