Tips for nailing the perfect interview outfit

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It’s super stressful when you’re an upcoming graduate or school leaver.  After all the pressure of exams and dissertations, trying to find a job to walk into afterwards can feel like too much.  And when you do get invited to an interview, they’re often at short notice and come around very quickly – leaving you with little time to decide what to wear!  For this post, I’ve teamed up with CT shirts *, retailers of menswear, to help you plan ahead and offer a few tips.

What is the perfect interview outfit?

Much depends on what sort of job you’re going for.  Unless you’re planning on working from home or going freelance, you’ll rarely go wrong with a well fitted suit, which is always going to make a good first impression.  But sometimes, a more relaxed outfit is called for and this can be a little more of a minefield.

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Casual

Casual dress is suitable when you’re interviewing for charity work or a casual unpaid internship. For these interviews, they probably won’t expect you to be dressed too formally, and will be more concerned with your personality, including your punctuality! Of course, it’s always good to make a positive first impression, so still important to think about what to wear.

Women

For women, skirts and cotton or linen trousers are appropriate in a casual interview — but wear what you feel comfortable in. You should avoid mini-skirts with bare legs and ripped jeans are a no-no. You could wear a smart dress with tights and a cardigan, or a shirt-jumper combo with a smart pair of trousers.  As regards footwear, opt for a smart ankle boot or flat pump rather than high heels. But please, no flip flops or trainers!

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Men

For men, it can be hard to dress casually without looking too underdressed. Casual sports trousers or chinos are definitely appropriate, but, again, no ripped jeans. And avoid wearing joggers or tracksuit tops, as these don’t give a good impression. A safe option would be a long-sleeved shirt, smart slacks, dress shoes such as Chelsea boots or brogues, and a smart jacket.

Business casual

Some interviews specify business-casual attire on the invitation. This may be because they have this dress code in the office, or it may be for an assessment day where you are expected to be there all day and recruiters want you to feel comfortable.  If you aren’t sure what to wear, it’s best to dress too formally rather than too casually, to avoid giving the wrong impression.

Women

With a business-casual dress code, you have more freedom than in a strictly professional interview. You could wear a pinstripe or patterned dress, or slacks with a smart shirt tucked in.  Or perhaps try a smart shirt with a wide collar underneath a long-sleeved sweater. This look still gives a formal impression, whilst not as professional as a shirt and suit jacket.

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Men

For men, a business-casual dress code means a smart shirt. Why not invest in a non-iron shirt? It stays free of creases and there’s no need to rush around with the iron the morning before the interview! Also, if you’re travelling by car or public transport to the interview, a normal shirt can become creased but this won’t happen with the non-iron garment.  You should avoid a polo shirt though, as this is too casual and still steer clear of jeans.

Professional

For formal interviews, you should adopt a professional look. These interviews could be in front of directors of the company for a graduate job or an internship. You want to look your best here; your appearance will count, and with the high level of competition at this stage, you don’t want to fall at any hurdles.

Women

In a professional situation, women should opt for a suit. When it comes to dressing the bottom half, go with what you feel comfortable in. If you decide to wear a skirt, choose a hemline just below the knee to avoid it rising and becoming too revealing when you sit down. A suit doesn’t have to be boring though – shop around and find one that’s tailored to suit your body shape. When it comes to footwear, heels are acceptable but make sure you can walk in them! If you don’t feel happy wearing heels, opt for pumps or shoes with a smaller kitten heel.

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Men

Men should wear a suit and a tie when it comes to a formal interview too. Wear dark socks to blend in with your outfit and you could even bring a briefcase to look professional. Brogues are a good choice of footwear – they’re stylish and smart without being mundane. Choose a tailored suit that you feel represents your style – navy suits always look good.  For example, a slim leg may be best suited for you and your shape. And single breasted suits tend to look better on younger men than double breasted ones.

What to avoid

The main thing is to make sure you feel comfortable in your outfit — otherwise it will show in the interview!  Although it’s good to personalise your interview outfit with a favourite watch or piece of jewellery, there are a few things you should steer clear of:

  • Too much perfume or aftershave
  • Too much jewellery or makeup
  • A flashy or gaudy tie
  • Chewing gum

And lastly…

Remember, an interview is a two way process.  Your prospective employer wants to find out all about you and why you want to work there.  But don’t forget, this is your opportunity to find out about them too – after all, if you’re going to commit the next few months or even years to them, they need to be worth your dedication.  So, now you have a few outfit ideas, all that’s left to do is remind you to double check how to get to your interview, and wish you lots of luck!

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* This is a sponsored post.

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Ruth
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I always struggle to know what to wear with interviews… I think men have it easier 😉 Some fab advice in here, and a fantastic post as always, Lisa!

Galit
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Such great advice 🙂 Wonderful post and thank you for the tips.

Cordelia Moor
Guest

I’m looking for a job at the moment, and currently have a couple of potential interviews lined up next week, and honestly I’m more worried about what to wear than the actual interview itself! This post is so useful, I’m definitely bookmarking it to come back to.

Cordelia || cordeliamoor.squarespace.com

Molly
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Oh my goodness I needed this post! I’m job searching at the moment and really struggled to know what to wear. This advice is so great!

Lots of love,
Molly xo
http://gracetoglowandgo.com

Dorota
Guest

I went to several job interviews now and I agree with every point you wrote. Once I had a situation when I dressed (I think) appropriately and the guy who was supposed to interview me was dressed in a sweatshirt. I felt weird, it was a very surprising situation. Your post is very useful.
Dorota
http://www.fetchcandle.wordpress.com