Friday, June 1, 2012

What Do You Wear For A Job Interview?

When I first entered this profession after ten years working for an insurance carrier, I went through a very detailed & thorough training period. My employer was interested in me being successful in my position. To be successful in my role I had to learn how to help people. How to be their resource, their consultant, their counselor and their advocate. I had to learn about details. Things that many people take for granted. I had to guide executive candidates with many years of industry experience. What I found was an appreciation from my audience. The professionals I coached and counseled found what I had to say very useful. Often it seemed overkill, but I figured if I can provide just an ounce of useful information it was well worth it.

In those days business casual was not quite generally accepted business attire as it is today. In those days there was never a question of what you wear to an interview. Well, in most cases. Though believe me, I have lots of very interesting stories on what not to wear. Even then baby blue suits were not okay. Today the question of what to wear to an interview has a whole new meaning.

These times of business casual leave much open to interpretation. What is acceptable to one company may not be to another company. Therefore dressing in business casual to an interview leaves too much to chance. Why take chances? As is said you only get one chance to make a first impression. Competition is tough. Jobs are scarce. Why take chances on your first chance at your first impression?

I am often asked the question, "If the employer is business casual shouldn’t I dress in business casual to the interview?" As outlined above, short answer is no. But what if the employer tells you it’s okay to come in business casual? My answer is the same. Even if they tell you it is okay what if you interpret business casual differently than they do? An acceptable option would only be if you wore nice slacks, nice dress shirt and a blazer/jacket. Anything less, is just leaving too much to chance.

However, in the majority of situations I would recommend dressing the part. But it is about details. The suit should be up to date. It should be pressed. No buttons missing. No stains. No frays. The socks should not be stretched out. They should match the suit. They should match each other. Shoes should be clean and free of major scuffs. Soles should not have significant wear. Shirt should not be frayed on the collar. No stains. Solid colors are okay, but nothing too loud. White is always the best bet. Wear a tie that is up to date and matches. No character ties. Leave your Bullwinkle tie at home.

If your interviews span a couple days be sure to bring two sets of clothing. I had a candidate that had an evening dinner interview. They spilled sauce on their shirt. Couldn’t get it out and wore it the next day through all their other interviews. What do you think the feedback was?

Get a fresh haircut. Trim and neaten any facial hair. Trim finger nails. Details, details, details. Remove earrings. Cover tattoos.

Okay women, business suit. Which kinds of business suits are acceptable? No shorts suits, no skirts above the knee, but skirts below the knee are okay with no tattoos showing, etc. As far as shoes... professional flats, pumps and heels, peep toe, and boots are acceptable. Acceptable shirts would include high neck blouses and shirts. It is also important to point out that fingernails should either have no polish or be completely polished with no chipping in a conservative color (i.e. no blue, green, purple, etc.). Keep jewelry classic, but not over the top. Earrings okay for women. A watch always adds a nice touch.

Check out Capstone's "Interview Attire" boards on Pinterest. We have pinned multiple pictures of acceptable interview attire for both men and women. Let me know if you have any questions and/or thoughts.

Here are a couple examples of what we have pinned on Pinterest:


  1. I recently attended a local career center workshop and the advice was very similar. It was advised not to wear something that would draw attention to oneself. It was suggested to dress one level up from what was normal for the position being applied for. The photographs provided speak volumes of what would be appropriate attire. Some of us have not had to go on a job interview in a while and all this advice is very, very helpful.

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