Few first-time meetings are more important than a job interview. When you first meet your potential employer, it’s essential not only to exhibit your positive attributes through your outfit choices, but also to avoid showing negative ones.
By avoiding common interview fashion mishaps, you improve your chances of getting the call back and being selected for the job you want. So, if you want to make the best first impression, avoid wearing these six things to your next interview.
What not to wear:
There are many factors to take into consideration when planning an outfit for a job interview. Primarily, consider what you want to convey and what you want to avoid conveying to your potential new boss. Some hiring managers won’t give what an applicant has on a second thought while others scrutinize every last detail.
While your experience, skill and attitude should ultimately determine whether or not you’re offered a position, unfortunately people are judged on what they wear both subconsciously and consciously. Use this knowledge to your advantage by making sure that your interview wear works for you. Avoid showing up to a job interview wearing:
1. Wrinkled/tattered clothing
Distressed clothing remains trendy because it evokes a sense of being relaxed and not caring about how you look. Even if this is your everyday style, projecting that you’re "too cool to care" is unlikely to do yourself any favors.
2. Visible undergarments
Make sure your undergarments stay under your clothes. A bra strap peeking out or a skirt that’s unintentionally sheer can spell disaster. Check that you can move in your outfit without exposing anything and that all pieces are definitively opaque under any type of lighting to avoid the dreaded VPL.
3. Heavy perfume or cologne
Of course, you want to smell nice, but you don’t want to be distractingly fragrant. Wearing a scent that’s too strong can leave interviewers rushing to get you out of the door.
4. Distracting prints or accessories
Make sure your accomplishments make you a standout—not your wardrobe choice. It’s best to go for more neutral, solid look that allows interviews to focus on what you’re saying instead of what you’re wearing.
5. Uncomfortable clothing
Being in a stress-provoking situation such as a job interview can make even the most confident person uneasy. Do everything in your power to be as comfortable as possible. Make sure your outfit is something that isn’t too constricting, itchy, tight or loose. Your shoes should fit correctly and be easy to walk in so you aren’t preoccupied with how you look or feel.
6. Something brand new
While it may be tempting to splurge on something brand new before an important job interview, resist the temptation. Wearing an outfit in public can feel drastically different than trying it on in a fitting room or in the privacy of your bedroom. Go for something that you know is comfortable and looks great on you. If you must wear something new, take it out for a few test drives before your big day.
4 things to consider when planning your interview outfit
- Company culture: Understand the vibe of the company by doing as much preliminary research as possible. What you should wear to interview for a position of attorney at a law firm should vary from interviewing to work as an event coordinator at a tech start up. Let cues of formality guide you in your planning. You should aim to look slightly more professional than the everyday look of those in your position.
- Piercings and tattoos: Unfortunately, studies have shown that many hiring managers still hold a negative bias towards those who have tattoos. While this doesn’t mean you have to cover up all tattoos together, it does indicate that if you’re on the job hunt, you may benefit from seeing what the company culture is like before you arrive. It may be advantageous to cover them in your initial interview until you see if those interviewing you or other employees are showing off their ink.
- Accessories: Scarves, handbags, jewelry and other accessories should be considered before sitting in the hot seat. The accessories you choose should complement the rest of your outfit and should add to it instead of taking away from it. It’s typically best to go for accessories that are classic rather than trendy and understated rather than loud.
- Season and temperature: Make sure that what you wear makes sense for the season. In summer or spring, opt for fabrics that are lighter, like cotton or linen. In cooler months, wear fabrics that are thicker like wool or cashmere. In warmer months, wearing skirts and dresses may be a better option than pants, but the hemline should fall below the knee.
What is the best color to wear to an interview?
Favor neutrals over bright colors and busy patterns. Black can come across as dominant, so blues and grays are better neutral options. Solids are typically favored over patterns. Overall, blue is considered to be the most ‘trustworthy’ color, and for many it has a calming effect, so incorporating the hue into your interview outfit can help put both yourself any your interviewer at ease.
Can I wear a dress to an interview?
In general, dresses and skirts are completely acceptable to wear to interviews. However, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Hemlines should hit below the knee, and as with all forms of professional wear, the garment itself shouldn’t be overly form-fitting. The dress itself should be a professional style—for example a sheath dress or something else that is more structured. Flowing garments like sundresses or casual maxi-dresses should typically be avoided unless the company is hyper laid-back.
Can I wear leggings to an interview?
Conventional guidelines once said that women should always cover their legs with pantyhose while in professional settings such as job interviews, but contemporary standards have slightly shifted. In warm weather, pantyhose isn’t often expected or required unless the occasion is extremely formal. In winter or fall, tights or leggings are also generally alright to wear beneath dresses or skirts.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.