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What (not) to wear for an interview

So… you have thoroughly researched the organisation. You have performed some mock interviews, had a good night’s sleep and checked out where you’re going for the interview. You’re prepared, but are you looking the part?

Here is some guidance before you walk out the door.

When doing your research, you may well be able to work out the organisation’s dress code on the website and social media.

If not, call HR. They will appreciate your interest and diligence.

We have also put together the following dress code descriptions for smaller organisations or those that have not helped you in discerning the dress code.

The Ground Rules; there are a few dress code ground rules that you need to follow, whatever the industry or role.

They might seem obvious, but they really are worth remembering:

Support with interview attire

It’s worth checking with your local council or job centre as well, as they may be able to provide information on local organisations that offer interview clothing assistance.

Dress codes

Formal

Opportunities in finance, banking, legal, sales and HR require the strictest dress code, so when required it’s important to make sure you’re not wearing any casual elements:

  • Suit jacket and trousers/skirt – usually in dark or muted colours
  • Shirt/blouse – either white or pastel colours
  • Tie (for men) – this can be bolder in colour, but try to make sure it’s not too boldly branded or patterned so that it is too off-putting
  • Simple jewellery is acceptable
  • Smart shoes – dark in colour and polished
Smart Casual

Technology, education, marketing and hospitality are examples of the industries more commonly associated with smart casual wear.
The most common type of interview clothing:

  • Suit jacket (optional) and trousers or skirt – usually in dark or muted colours such as black, navy blue or grey
  • Shirt/blouse or smart top – typically plain and either white, or pastel colours are most suitable
  • Cardigan or jumper (round or V-neck) – it’s best if these are plain, but can be light or dark coloured
  • Smart shoes – usually darker in colour and polished
  • Jewellery is appropriate, though perhaps not too much
Casual

This is more laid back and typically includes:

  • Polo shirt or t-shirt – usually best if plain
  • Smart/casual trousers – but dark-coloured jeans are typically acceptable
  • Plain jacket or jumper
  • Casual shoes – in good condition

If you can’t get the information upfront, you can always revert to the golden rule: Be Formal!

What (not) to wear for an interview

  • Avoid anything that could be seen as shabby in the eyes of the employer, such as distressed or ripped jeans, and baggy or oversized clothing.
  • If you have tattoos, choose an outfit that covers them up. It may be perfectly acceptable to have them on show in the day-to-day working environment, but it’s best to be careful at the interview stage.
  • Avoid loud colours and patterns, as these can be a distraction. Stick to a simple style in dark or neutral colours.
  • Stand back from anything too casual, including sportswear, t-shirts, shorts, flip flops and trainers, even in hot weather.
  • Hold back from wearing anything that is visibly branded, so avoid logos and printed graphics.
  • Don’t wear heavy makeup or too much perfume or aftershave. Likewise, don’t over-accessorise and keep jewellery to a minimum. Keep it subtle and let the interviewer focus on you as a person.

Plan, choose and be comfortable

Choosing what to wear to an interview is an integral part of your preparation. If you are able, plan your outfit way ahead of time to prevent a last-minute emergency that may well impact your preparation and confidence, e.g. avoiding having to wash and iron clothing the same day as the interview.

Make sure that whatever you choose, makes you feel relaxed and confident. If you appear uncomfortable at an interview, the employer may view this negatively.

You could even consider a dress rehearsal – a practice interview with a friend or family member in which you wear your chosen outfit. This will help you to feel comfortable with the selected outfit and provide the opportunity for a second opinion.

Best of luck!