What Should I Wear to a Job Interview? – Styleforum Guide

“What Should I Wear To A Job Interview?” is one of the most common questions we get here at Styleforum, and the answer is always rather blunt: you should wear a suit and tie. This is absolutely never wrong for an interview once you have graduated from high school. It may be that your interviewer is not expecting you to be so “dressed up,” but nevertheless it is not a mistake for you to look your best. That means wearing a conservative but sharp outfit that adds to your appearance without competing with you for attention.

A Basic Uncontroversial Outfit (though many would leave out the pocket square)

  • A single-breasted, two or three button, navy or dark gray/charcoal suit (i.e., jacket and pants made of the exact same fabric, not just same or similar color), tailored to fit you (especially make sure the sleeves are not down to your knuckles and the pants are not puddling around your ankles). If you don’t own a suit, read the Styleforum guide to buying your first suit.
  • A white, spread collar, long-sleeved dress shirt with single cuffs (i.e. not French cuffs/double cuffs)
  • A silk tie in a solid or simple pattern (pindots or stripes, for instance). Almost any color will do well with a white shirt and either of the aforementioned suits.
  • Black cap-toe shoes and black belt (or suspenders/braces instead if your suit pants take them – but this is rare on ready-to-wear suits today). Check out this thread on Styleforum for more information on black formal shoes.
  • Socks in the same color as the suit.

The above outfit is never wrong for a job interview. Nor is a job interview a time to get “creative” with your outfit, especially if you are not already well-versed in suit-and-tie-wearing, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this.

If you want to deviate from the above suggestions, you can wear a light blue shirt instead of a white one without much risk. In the United States, you can wear a button-down collar instead of a spread collar. Outside of England, in many industries, brown cap-toe shoes with a brown belt are acceptable substitutes for their black counterparts.

You can add a white pocket square in a “TV fold” without much risk, but if you’ve never worn such an item before, don’t make this the first time. It’s also fine to wear navy socks with a gray suit, gray socks with a navy suit, etc..

Avoid black socks or any kind of “fun” socks. Finally, an understated watch is acceptable jewelry, but do not wear a sports watch or a bulky and/or gaudy watch. Other than a wedding ring, this is the only kind of jewelry that is acceptable.

  • A black suit (navy or grey only).
  • An ill-fitting suit (get your suit tailored by someone experienced after purchasing). If you’re unsure about what could be tailored, read here first.
  • A wrinkled shirt (iron your shirt before wearing).
  • Shoes with square toes and/or rubber soles.
  • Scuffed or dirty shoes (make sure your shoes are well-polished – if you don’t know how to do this or don’t have the proper equipment, visit a cobbler or read this guide).
  • Bright colors or wild patterns (you do not want to be competing with your clothes for attention).
  • Buttoning the bottom button on your jacket (it’s not meant to be buttoned – never do this).
  • Removing your jacket (keep it on, with possible rare exceptions).

Here are a couple of examples of good outfits from Styleforum users. These men would be very well dressed for a job interview:

Somewhat riskier would be wearing French cuffs (double cuffs), as the cufflinks may be too flashy. Their appropriateness depends on your region and industry. Barrel cuffs (single cuffs) are always acceptable. More extravagant shoes such as wingtips fall into the same category. A suit in a subtle pinstripe or a striped shirt (with one color stripe on a white ground) can also work, but needlessly increase the difficulty of putting together a nice outfit. Any other kind of patterned suit should really not even be considered. Likewise, three-piece or double-breasted suits should be avoided.

Anything not mentioned to this point, such as wearing a sweater, a bowtie, a novelty tie, loafers, a cherry red dress shirt, etc. with your suit should be absolutely avoided. Remember, this is a job interview. You want to look professional, but with few exceptions, this is not a place to demonstrate your personal style.

If you are absolutely convinced that a suit and tie would be inappropriate, for instance, if you are told specifically not to wear a suit and tie, lose the tie before you lose the jacket. Wearing a tie without a jacket makes you look like a cell phone salesman at the mall. A professional might wear a sportcoat and trousers with no tie, but never a tie without a jacket. You will have more latitude in these less formal situations, but the same principles of keeping your clothing clean, simple, and well-fitting still apply.

Whatever you wear, wear it confidently. If you arrive in a suit and your interviewer says something like, “you didn’t need to dress up for us!” don’t look sheepish, just smile and say, “I wanted to look my best.” Finally, and I hope obviously, but perhaps most importantly, nothing is less stylish than poor personal hygiene. Get a decent haircut, take a shower, and clip your fingernails!

If you’re still not sure about what to wear, visit the Styleforum Style Advice forum and ask for help here.

This is an edited version of an article published on Styleforum in 2012 by Styleforum member Shawea.

7 thoughts on “What Should I Wear to a Job Interview? – Styleforum Guide

  1. Excellent advice. Reminds me of the time I interviewed for a job in a glen plaid suit at a software company. They started me with the office boy and I worked my way up to the head of the division. He rushed into the room wearing shorts and flip flops, cursing and yelling at his assistant like a spoiled 14 year old. Two minutes latter he called me lackluster, so I paid him the courtesy he did not afford me, thanking him for his time and calmly left. He said “whatever” and waved me away. He failed the interview.

  2. > This is absolutely never wrong for an interview once you have graduated from high school. It may be that your interviewer is not expecting you to be so “dressed up,” but nevertheless it is not a mistake for you to look your best.

    This is absolutely not true; not only are there industries in which you would be the only one in the entire office wearing a suit and tie (not even the lawyers in my company wear suits, *even* when other lawyers from dressier offices are visiting!), in some businesses in such industries, wearing a suit and tie (or even a sport coat, no tie!) would be taken by interviewers to immediately signal that you don’t belong or are “a bad culture fit”, foredooming your interview or at least strongly prejudicing it. (To be clear, I think anyone making a judgment like that is behaving poorly, but one ought to be prudent regardless.) There are also jobs where a suit might make you appear overqualified or apt to leave sooner than the interviewers would like: should you really show up to your warehouse picker or grocery store checkout clerk job in a suit? (Yes, post–high school adults perform these jobs.)

    It might nevertheless be true that *if you’re asking* you should just wear a suit because if you’re interviewing in one of the industries or fields where it would not be advisable you’d know it.

  3. I was told at an early age that wearing a suit with the proper shirt and tie shows respect for the company and the position one is interviewing for. if the position allows for a less formal attire so be it. that will be conveyed during the interview. I have interviewed hundreds of young men and women for various positions and inevitably the ones who show respect for themselves, the company and the position they are applying for are the ones who get the most attention for the position. my company even had a space for the interviewer to comment on the applicants appearance.

  4. I agree with Ben W – the idea that wearing a suit is the right call 100% of the time is outdated, bad advice. While it is true that it may *often* be the right call, there are plenty of industries and offices where nobody has ever worn a suit. The idea behind interview attire is to show your professionalism without calling undue attention to yourself – if you’re wearing a suit to a casual office just because it’s “proper,” you’re going to stand out in a bad way. Culture fit is one of the top reasons that qualified candidates get rejected. Wearing something inappropriate to an interview – whether it’s too casual or too formal – can hurt you in this respect. As with most things in life, there is no prescriptive rule that will always work. Do your research and wear what makes the most sense. My take: https://fromsqualortoballer.com/how-to-dress-for-job-interview/

  5. Concise and well written piece! Topics like interview or wedding attire could never bore even the most adept menswear enthusiasts. I’ve written about both on my own blog and would be honored if any of the fine readers of the Styleforum would check it out and give me some feedback! TheEngineeredImage.com

  6. Our fashion closet is full with an array of outfits and accessories that are tailored and curated
    as per our taste and style choices. There are garments that are specifically designed for the special occasions of life such as red carpet events, high end social gatherings, and family functions such as weddings and receptions.
    The biggest benefit of bespoke is the fit. While there is enough detail on fit to write another
    whole guide, suffice to say that a good bespoke suit should fit like nothing else. It should hug our shoulders, create a clean back, and run in a sharp, flattering line from shoulder to waist. It will also often be more comfortable. Manning Company Bespoke Tailors are able to make adjustments on the spot and look out for inconsistencies. They adhere to the right number of stitches per inch, which keeps the fabric durable. You can select better fabrics like cotton, wool, artificial fibers, blended natural fibers, silk, etc. before the process even begins. This gives you a big advantage, getting you the perfect clothing that suits your environment.

Comments are closed.