Nowhere is changing more pervasive than in the world of work. How you present yourself in a job interview, including the all-important aspect of job interview outfits, is a unique challenge. It’s pretty safe to say what you’d wear to an interview with a bank may not be the same attire you’d select when interviewing at the foosball table at a new startup where everyone’s under 30.

That said, regardless of where you’re interviewing or working, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

opinions are being made of you within the first few seconds of the interview before you’ve even uttered a word. That’s why choosing the right job interview outfits is important.

two people dressed professionally and talking
two people dressed professionally and talking

Suppose you’ve been invited to interview in person due to a successful phone interview. In that case, you may have taken advantage of the opportunity to ask about the company culture, the dress code, how formal or informal the atmosphere is, etc. Or you may have been so focused on answering the questions and remembering exactly what you said in your cover letter over the pounding of your heart that you forgot to ask or feel the phone call didn’t lend itself to asking.

So, what to wear for a job interview? When in doubt, business professional attire is always a safe choice, but here are some other guidelines to follow if you’re unsure. 

stick with the classics

Fashions, fads and trends come and go, but style remains. Find something that works for you and that you feel comfortable and confident in; make it your template for what to wear for your job interview. You can style it up or make it more casual, but it remains consistent.

Besides empowering you, it takes the worry out of a critical element of interview preparation, so you can focus on other essential things.

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neutrals are your friend

A classic suit in a neutral colour such as black, grey or navy never goes out of style. Of course, it's probably time for new job interview outfits if you’re still sporting large shoulder pads or a wide lapel.

  • Avoid loud or flashy patterns or checks.
  • Buy the best outfit you can afford in the most neutral and classic fabric. The better the material, the longer it’ll hold up.
  • Avoid linen, no matter how much you love it and how warm the weather is.
  • Opt for a light wool in summer; linen wrinkles like crazy – it’s part of its charm in the tropics, but probably not the right clothes for a job interview.

accent your neutrals

If you’re feeling a little forgettable in your neutrals, adding a little splash of colour and showcasing your personality with a light pattern on your shirt, tie or scarf is safe. Speaking of ties, keep them somewhat consistent with your shirt.

  • Avoid crazy motifs that feature Darth Vader or your favourite cartoon characters. You can break out your funky wardrobe once you’ve got the job.
  • For men, ideally, you’d match your socks to your tie; however, in a Justin Trudeau world, pretty much anything goes.

Let’s face it, it’s pretty unlikely the pattern on your socks will make or break a job interview.

A woman getting interviewed by another while seated
A woman getting interviewed by another while seated

avoid being too informal

No one ever got kicked out of an interview for being too formal (don’t quote me, I’m assuming.) Even if you know the dress code allows jeans, it’s usually best to avoid them when it comes to job interview outfits. The same goes for running shoes, t-shirts, yoga pants – anything that’s a little too casual.

Even though it may be usual attire for the office, remember that you’re putting your best foot forward and showing that you take this workplace and opportunity seriously. Unless your interviewer tells you to wear jeans for the interview, stick to a business professional look.

to pants or a skirt?

The days when women are expected to wear a dress or skirt in the workplace are long gone. When selecting clothes for interviews, women should feel free to select suit pants or a skirt, depending on their most comfortable.

If you opt for a skirt, keep it around knee-length or longer to be safe.

  • Avoid anything shorter, or you’ll be focused on hoping nothing – or no one – is peeking.
  • Play it safe, and your attention will be free to answer interview questions like a pro rather than focused on constantly tugging down your hemline.
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