What to Wear to an Interview (and Mistakes to Avoid)

How To Dress for a Job Interview

First impressions are everything, and interviewers will often form an opinion based on your appearance before you even speak. Therefore, it is essential that your outfit is well thought out, making sure to find the right balance between formality and self-expression. Choosing suitable clothing not only reflects your awareness of the company’s culture but also signifies your attention to detail and preparedness for the role. This article will explore some key points on choosing appropriate attire and avoiding common mistakes.

Understanding Interview Attire Basics

Business Formal

Business formal is the most professional and conservative dress code. This attire is typically required for interviews in industries such as law, finance, and corporate environments. For men, this includes a tailored suit (solid or subtle pattern) with a crisp dress shirt, tie, and polished dress shoes. Women should wear a tailored suit (pantsuit or skirt suit) with a blouse, closed-toe shoes, and minimal accessories.


  • A navy blue suit with a white dress shirt, conservative tie, and black dress shoes for men
  • A black pantsuit with a cream blouse, black heels, and simple earrings for women

Business Casual

Business casual is a step down from business formal, but still maintains a professional appearance. It’s common in industries such as education, healthcare, and tech. For men, this could mean dress slacks or chinos, a collared shirt (button-up or polo), and dress shoes or loafers. Women can wear dress slacks or skirts with a blouse or sweater, and closed-toe shoes like flats or low heels. Learn more: What is Business Casual? Examples


  • Men: Khaki chinos, a light blue button-up shirt, and brown loafers
  • Women: Black pencil skirt, a white blouse, and black flats

Startup Casual

Startup casual is the most relaxed dress code, often found in creative and tech industries. While maintaining a clean and presentable appearance, both men and women have more flexibility in their clothing choices. Men can opt for jeans or chinos, a collared or crewneck shirt, and clean sneakers or loafers. Women can wear jeans, leggings, or skirts with a blouse, sweater, or casual dress, and comfortable shoes like flats or ankle boots.


  • Men: Dark jeans, a gray crewneck sweater, and clean white sneakers
  • Women: Black leggings, a tunic-length blouse, and ankle boots

Learn more: A Comprehensive Guide to Business Attire (with Examples)

What to Wear to an Interview for Men

Suits and Blazers

When dressing for an interview, men should opt for a well-fitting suit in a conservative color such as navy blue, black, or gray. For a more casual environment, a blazer with matching trousers can be appropriate. Avoid bold patterns or bright colors, and make sure the suit is clean and wrinkle-free.

  1. Example: A solid navy blue suit with a subtle patterned white shirt.
  2. Example: A gray blazer with charcoal trousers and a white button-up shirt.
  3. Example: A classic black suit with a light blue shirt and a coordinated tie.
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Shirts and Ties

A white or light blue dress shirt is a safe choice for pairing with a suit or blazer. Ensure that the shirt is clean, pressed, and fits well, with the collar buttoned and sleeves at the correct length. When choosing a tie, avoid overly bright or distracting patterns. Instead, select a tie in a conservative color that complements the suit.

  1. Example: A white dress shirt with a navy blue tie featuring small polka dots.
  2. Example: A light blue button-up shirt with a solid burgundy tie.
  3. Example: A white shirt with a subtle striped tie in a coordinating color.

Pants and Shoes

For pants, choose a pair that matches or coordinates with the suit or blazer. Dark colors such as black, gray, or navy blue are safe choices. Make sure the pants fit well and are hemmed to the appropriate length. Shoes should be closed-toed and in a dark color like black or brown. Opt for dress shoes such as Oxfords, lace-ups, or loafers in leather or suede.

  1. Example: Charcoal trousers with black leather Oxford shoes.
  2. Example: Navy blue suit pants with brown suede loafers.
  3. Example: Black dress pants with black lace-up dress shoes.

Learn more: Interview Attire for Women: Best Impression Strategies

What to Wear to an Interview for Women

Suits and Blazers

Women should consider wearing a traditional suit or a blazer with coordinating pants or a skirt. The suit or blazer should be in a solid, neutral color such as black, navy, or gray. Pair the suit or blazer with a solid or simple-patterned button-up shirt or blouse.

  1. Example: Solid black suit paired with a white button-up shirt and black heels
  2. Example: Gray blazer, white blouse, and coordinating gray slacks

Dresses and Skirts

Dresses and skirts for interviews should typically be knee-length and in a solid or subtle pattern. Pair them with a simple blouse or shirt tucked into the waistband. Cardigans or blazers can be added for a more polished look.

  1. Example: Black knee-length dress with a short blazer, neutral tights, and closed-toe heels
  2. Example: Navy knee-length skirt and blouse with a coordinating blazer and neutral flats
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Pants and Shoes

Pants for interviews should be tailored, well-fitting, and in a neutral color. Dark jeans can be appropriate in more casual workplaces. Shoes should be closed-toe, neat and clean. Flats or heels can be worn, as long as they coordinate with your outfit and are comfortable to walk in.

  1. Example: Black tailored pants, patterned blouse, cardigan, and closed-toe flats
  2. Example: Dark jeans, a button-down shirt, and clean closed-toe heels

Mistakes to Avoid

Overdressing or Underdressing

One common mistake when attending an interview is either overdressing or underdressing. This can leave a negative impression on the interviewer. It’s essential to research the company’s culture and dress code beforehand. A safe approach is to dress one step up from what the employees usually wear. For example, if they wear jeans and T-shirts, opt for non-denim pants and a tucked-in shirt.

Mistake Example 1: Wearing a suit and tie when the company’s dress code is informal.

Mistake Example 2: Wearing ripped jeans and a casual T-shirt for a formal business setting.

Mistake Example 3: Dressing too casually for a video interview, forgetting that the appearance still matters.

Inappropriate Details

Another mistake is having inappropriate details in the attire, such as flashy or distracting jewelry, controversial or unprofessional prints, or excessive makeup. Ensure that any accessories, patterns, or makeup used complement the outfit and maintain professional appearance.

Mistake Example 1: Wearing a shirt with a provocative or offensive slogan.

Mistake Example 2: Choosing bold and large jewelry pieces that become the center of attention.

Mistake Example 3: Applying heavy makeup that might come across as unprofessional in a workplace setting.

Untidy Appearance

An untidy or unkempt appearance can signal a lack of attention to detail or professionalism. It’s crucial to take care of grooming before the interview, ensuring clothes are clean, pressed, and well-fitting, and that personal hygiene is up to par. Avoid any clothing with stains, tears, or visible signs of wear, and ensure hair is neat and clean.

Mistake Example 1: Attending an interview with wrinkled or stained clothing.

Mistake Example 2: Showing up with messy, uncombed hair.

Mistake Example 3: Neglecting personal hygiene, such as having bad breath or body odor, during the interview.

Making a Great First Impression

Accessories and Hairstyles

When dressing for an interview, it’s essential to consider the accessories and hairstyle. Accessories should be kept minimal and not distracting. Avoid wearing large statement items, such as oversized jewelry. Instead, opt for smaller, more subtle pieces. Hairstyles should be neat and professional. Make sure your hair is clean and well-groomed, and if necessary, pull it back or up to keep it out of your face.

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Example 1: Wearing a simple watch or a pair of small stud earrings.

Example 2: A neatly groomed ponytail or bun for long hair.

Example 3: For short hair, ensuring it is combed and styled neatly.

Hygiene and Grooming

Maintaining good hygiene and grooming habits is critical for making a positive first impression at an interview. Wear clean and neatly pressed clothing, ensuring there are no stains or wrinkles. Shoes should be polished and in good condition. Make sure you have fresh breath and clean nails. Avoid using heavy perfumes or colognes, as strong scents can be off-putting or distracting to the interviewer.

Example 1: Brushing teeth and using mouthwash before the interview.

Example 2: Trimming and cleaning nails, ensuring they are not too long or brightly painted.

Example 3: Choosing a light, subtle scent instead of a strong cologne or perfume.

Confidence and Body Language

Confidence and body language are essential aspects of making a great first impression during an interview. Make eye contact with the interviewer and smile genuinely. Stand and sit up straight, avoiding slouching or hunching over. This conveys a sense of self-assurance and professionalism. During the interview, try to avoid fidgeting or looking down, as these actions could be interpreted as signs of discomfort or dishonesty. Instead, remain engaged and maintain eye contact while speaking or listening to the interviewer. Be responsive to their questions and convey confidence in your abilities.

Example 1: Entering the interview room with a firm handshake and warm smile.

Example 2: Keeping your hands visible, such as resting them on your lap, to show honesty.

Example 3: Nodding and maintaining eye contact while the interviewer speaks, showing engagement and active listening. Learn more: Active Listening (Techniques, Examples, Tips)

Related: A Comprehensive Guide to Business Attire (with Examples)

Posted in: Attire, Job Interview