The Right and Wrong Way to Dress For a Job Interview

man in a navy suit for an interview

Make sure a suit is your best interview choice before wearing one | Source: iStock

Once you get an interview for a job you want, it is very important to be sure you are dressed for success. As important as what you say in the interview is, it’s absolutely necessary to make a good impression by the way you are dressed. If you don’t care about how you’re dressed for an interview, the interviewer may infer that you don’t care that much about the job. However, it’s also important to consider where you are in the interview process when you choose your clothes.

You may dress differently for a first interview than you should for a final interview. Dressing appropriately will help you appear serious about the position, and can also give you confidence (however, it’s important to avoid being too overconfident when you go into an interview). Here’s how to dress appropriately for the different stages of the interview process.

1. A phone or video interview

If you’re participating in a video interview, it’s important to dress the part. Don’t assume that just because you are not meeting the interviewer in person that you don’t need to dress up; they can still see you, and in some ways you might need to work even harder to impress since you can’t shake their hand. According to U.S. News & World Report, busy patterns or bright white clothes can be distracting on camera; also be aware that you should have a complete look in case you move around in your seat and the camera angle changes. Yes, that means wearing pants as well.

Obviously, if you’re participating in a phone interview, your interviewer probably won’t be able to see what you are wearing. However, it might be worth dressing up just to boost your own interview skills and focus. If you stay in your pajamas or your regular clothes, you may risk inadvertently approaching the interview with an attitude that is far too relaxed.

2. Your first in-person interview

While it’s important to be clean cut and groomed, you can’t just assume that you should wear a suit to an interview. You need to think about the culture at the company you are interviewing at; you don’t want to be overdressed or underdressed. Try to determine what the appropriate dress code is at the company, and then perhaps go a little dressier. If you know people who work at the company, ask them for advice. Particularly if you know that the company culture is very dressy, then you should also dress up. According to Monster, a solid-colored suit is a good idea, and a single breasted suit is best (try to avoid black or tan suits).

3. Your second interview

If you’re invited back for a second interview, you should be feeling confident that you did a good job during your first interview. You may be interviewing with the same person, or perhaps you will be interviewing with a bigger audience or more senior-level employees. Be sure to look your best. According to Monster, you can try wearing the same suit with a different shirt or tie if you wore a suit to the first interview and you can’t afford a new suit. However, again, remember to be aware of the company you are interviewing for; you don’t want to overdress or underdress.

4. Subsequent interviews

If you make it to a third interview, or a final interview, then you are in the home stretch. You have already proven that you are a good fit for the position, and ideally, you have dressed appropriately as well. It’s best if you can avoid wearing a suit that you already wore. Also, consider where your final interview is taking place. If you are meeting at the company, then you will want to continue to dress up. However, if you are meeting at a restaurant, you should probably consider the atmosphere. Still, be sure that you remember this is an interview; you don’t want to look lazy or unprepared. It’s important to leave the interviewer with a positive impression.

Determining how to dress for an interview will depend on what stage of the interview process you are in, and also, the culture of the company you are hoping to work for. While it’s usually better to overdress than underdress, you’re best bet is still to try to dress for the job and company.

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