You only get one shot at a first impression. Make the right one in your next job interview (and guarantee that second interview) by dressing the part with these expert tips from seasoned business professionals and human resource pros. So make sure you practice that firm handshake, iron out that pantsuit and don’t forget to take notes, as we take you through 15 ways to ensure you dress for success at your next job interview.
A good rule of thumb…
The key takeaway here is to “know your audience” – every industry has its own particular work environment, and with that comes specific expectations for dressing the part. Familiarize yourself with the company and those who work within it. Often, emulating the style of your prospective colleagues will work to both secure a great first impression, and supply your interviewer with a helpful visual as far as envisioning how well you might fit in with the organization.
This isn’t to say you should mute your personality altogether, but letting your interviewer get a feel for who you are – without being distracted by your outfit – is a better approach to standing out from your competition (in the right way) and avoiding giving off any red flags to your interviewer.
Ditch the open-toed shoes
No argument here: open-toed shoes instantly look more casual than closed-toe shoes, so opt for the more professional style, just to be sure.
There’s casual, and then there’s business-casual…
So what exactly qualifies as business casual? For women, this typically means something along the lines of dress-pants and a button-down shirt or blouse. You really can’t go wrong interviewing for any position wearing tailored pants and a crisp white shirt.
Plus, brush up on your interview etiquette with our must-read list of what NOT to do on the day!
Keep it professional
Still not sure what to wear? @FrozenKlondyke suggests this guide to help you navigate, but adds, “It’s really going to depend on the environment – if you’ve researched it and it seems professional, dress well. If it’s a startup or a tech-based company, you can generally be a bit more lax.”
Be polished, but above all, be confidant
You only get one shot at a first impression, so make it a good one by showing up polished and neat. That being said, nothing looks better than confidence and a smile.
Wondering how you did? Here are some ways to tell if your interview went well…
When in doubt, overdress
Dressing up versus dressing down may not always translate to an appropriate style of dress for the role, but there’s no denying it reflects better on your sense of professionalism than to undershoot and show up looking like you couldn’t be bothered to try. Adds Hulshizer, “…you should not wear any type of fragrance (cologne or perfume). It’s always stronger than the wearer believes, and can actually cause interviewers to suffer allergic reactions.”
Don’t overthink it
Sometimes, it’s just that simple. Put your focus on being prepared for the questions you might be asked, and spend your time researching the company. Sure, it’s important to look the part, but that won’t take you much further than the handshake (and don’t forget to do these 10 things before the interview!). Dress neatly, professionally and in clothing that won’t leave you feeling restricted or awkward throughout the interview.
Sometimes jeans are okay…
Not every industry calls for formal-dress, but if you’re planning on showing up jeans-and-t-shirt-casual, make absolutely sure that this is acceptable to your audience. Reach out to an HR expert or someone with insight into the industry for the green light before blowing your interview over a lack of research.
Even if a suit is not the standard at the company you’re applying to, there’s no harm in dressing up for the initial interview. While you may decide to dial it back for any follow-ups, your interviewer is guaranteed to appreciate that you opted to put in more effort, versus less, on your first meeting.
RELATED: On the job hunt? Check out the jobs in Canada that pay over 300k!
Don’t stand out for the wrong reasons
While you absolutely want to stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression, it shouldn’t be for reasons that have to do with your flashy style of dressing.
Avoid “loud” colours
Remember: it’s your personality that should leave the lasting impression – so save those bold and flashy pieces for your off-duty wardrobe and dress for success on the big day.
Skirts and dresses work – just be mindful of hemlines
If coordinated suit styles are not your thing, but you’d still like to work the style, look for pieces in neutral hues or easy-to-match dark shades. Having skirts, blouses and blazers that are interchangeable with other pieces will add some versatility to your work wardrobe – not to mention getting you more use out of each piece!
Feeling clueless? Just ask!
Says Uber recruiter Scott Purcell, “My general advice is a nice pair of pants (jeans or slacks) and a nice button down and you're good to go.” As far as companies where the dress code may be a bit of mystery, Purcell says, “Again, if there's anybody you can ask from the company or an outside recruiter, definitely ask and then you'll have all your bases covered.”