What to Wear for a Job Interview

What is it about job interviews? They always seem to give us that deer in the headlights feeling, no matter how many we’ve had and how prepared we are. Sometimes the most stressful part is knowing what to wear! With many companies requiring business casual wear and others promoting “fashion” casual, it’s hard to know how to dress for the interview!

Sometimes, you won’t know the dress code until you show up, so how do we navigate this tricky corporate gray area? We brought in an expert! Olivia of Corporate Catwalk (her blog is full of office worthy ensembles) gave us the dish on her tips to nailing any interview outfit, regardless of your industry. Our ultimate tip? Dress for success!

BUSINESS CASUAL

Great for: Advertising, PR, Logistics, Editorial, Real estate

If you’re interviewing for a casual work environment, keep in mind that an interview setting still requires a professional, conservative wardrobe! (Tricky, right?) If you’re working in an industry that is known for being casual (like the ones listed above) definitely err on the side of dressing down, yet still polished.

If your potential job is low-key, choose a classic sweater over button down combo with a pair of pixie pants or skinny slacks. We love Olivia’s monochromatic use of blues for both her button down and crewneck. (Tip: You can also ask your recruiter or HR contact about the dress code so you can better judge what to wear for the interview.)

Get Olivia’s look: Pants // Button down // Crewneck sweater // Satchel // Bracelet // Watch

FASHION FORWARD CASUAL

Great for: Fashion, Beauty, Retail, Advertising, PR, Design, Startup

Fashion forward is similar to casual, but for a companies that are a bit more creative or trendy. Try a bit more pizzazz, which might work to your advantage and let your personality shine through. Here, Olivia went with a chic two-piece ensemble—classic black and white, but with an interesting pattern. (Tip: Layer a white button down for a crisp, professional look).

She finished her look with bright red pumps to make the whole look pop. But keep in mind, the conservative rule still applies here. Sleeves and knee-length skirts are encouraged, but feel free to add statement pieces like a sparkly necklace or bright shoes!

Get Olivia’s look: Black and white co-ords (also love this version for plus size!) // Pumps // Bag (Budget version here!) // Watch

Other on-trend, interview-appropriate items we love: Textured ankle pants // Striped midi // White blazer

BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL

Great for: Finance, Accounting, Law firm, Consulting, Marketing, Business

If you’re interviewing for a more formal field opt for a classic black or navy suit with a crisp button down. It’s a tried and true combination for just about any job environment. Look for pants that are fitted and have a bit of a taper. Avoid boot cut slacks, which can look sloppy. If your suit has a skirt, it should be knee length or below and tailored appropriately. A pencil skirt should taper inward toward the knee; if it hangs straight, it’s too loose and will look disheveled. (Tip: Try to purchase a suit a few weeks ahead of your interview so you have enough time to have it professionally tailored.) Footwear should be a classic pair of pumps, strictly closed-toe, and either nude or black.

Avoid colors or loud items that draw attention. In this setting, your interviewer is not interested in your fashion sense in the slightest—so make sure your outfit doesn’t detract from your personality or professionalism. Pantyhose (nude or black) are also a must. If this sounds like a bore, we feel you—you can still wear a classic, red lip (no pink!) to spice things up.

Get Olivia’s look: Black suit (also love the separates from J.Crew Factory// Classic white button down // Tote // Black Pumps // Watch

Other rules of thumb for any industry:

  • When in doubt, dress up! Bring a blazer: It can make any outfit more professional and formal. Remember, it is OK to be more formal than your interviewer, but not the other way around.
  • Keep makeup and hair to a minimum. Don’t go overboard with the curling iron or dramatic makeup. The exception? A great red lip (fashionable, yet classic).
  • Nails should be minimal—nude, soft pink, or red are professional polish colors. Avoid sparkles, designs, hot pink, neon, or any other bold colors.
  • Leave the perfume at home. No matter how good you think it smells it could be offensive to the person interviewing you especially in a small, confined conference room.
  • Don’t skimp on your purse—make sure you have a nice bag, with no scuffs, pen marks, or scratches. Ideally a classic leather satchel or tote. If you’re going to invest in any work wardrobe pieces, this is one of the first big buys you should make—it will last a lifetime!
  • Notebooks should be professional. Keep the polka dot Kate Spade notebook at home (we know it’s adorable, but really—trust us!). You can use it at work after you land the job but for the interview, a simple notebook is best.
  • If you’re wearing heels, make sure they’re not too high. Trust us.
  • Bring your glasses; they could work to your advantage by making you seem older and more mature, especially if you’re up against other candidates that are more senior than you are.
  • On that note, if you’re wearing sunglasses before you walk into the office, remember to take them off! No sunglasses on your head during the interview! (We’re definitely guilty of this one—oops!)
  • Above all, make sure whatever you’re wearing is something you feel confident and beautiful in! If you believe in yourself, others will too.

Want more office inspired fashion? Follow Olivia on social media:

Blog // Instagram // Twitter // Facebook

 

What other questions do you have about interview attire? Post them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer!

  • Great post! I love seeing really useful fashion related content. My only concern is that these outfits are great for everyday wear for the different corporate cultures but I don’t deem them all interview worthy. Why? A well heeled professional with savvy fashion sense knows that the key to a great interview outfit is simplicity so that YOU and not just your clothes are remembered. I think a POWER DRESSING approach of the CLASSIC BLACK SHEATH DRESS could be a singular replacement for any of these corporate cultures and would probably fare much better that the suggested outfits provided. Still love these looks but I think they are better as day to day wear than they are as get the job wear.

    • Jenna

      On the contrary actually, my roommate works for a consulting/accounting firm, and a black sheath dress would not be considered appropriate for that type of interview at all. The only acceptable attire is, as they mentioned, a black suit and button down shirt. Additionally, a black sheath dress would of course be fine for the other two, but be considered very boring for a fashion forward startup, where clothes are an extension of personality.

      • Jenna, you make a really good point about the sheath not being appropriate for a consulting/accounting firm. Pantsuit all the way there!

        I still beg to differ on the sheath dress for a fashion forward start up. When I met with the buyers at Saks to sell them a collection of luxury mens dress shirts, I wore a black sheath dress that was perfectly accessorized to show my taste and self expression. I was literally a fashion forward start up selling a very avante garde collection of luxury goods. Now that doesn’t mean I’ll wear a basic sheath dress to the office, that’s why I really get to play around with being fashion forward and extending my personality through my wardrobe.

  • Lauren H

    As a female engineer, I struggled with this issue while I was trying to find a job. I find it sad that this article excluded the entire STEM field. Apparently, we are not The Everygirl.

    • ECP

      It’s certainly not something to get offended about.. There are many other professions that are not included. This does not mean we are not “The Everygirl” (I am a science professional). It is meant to be general and intuitive. From my experience, a STEM professional can fit into business casual and business depending on the company you are applying with. When in doubt, dress up.

      • Emily

        I am also a female engineer (aerospace), and I would agree with your advice for my field in general and the company I work at. However, the women I know in computer science try to dress down for interviews to fit in with hoodie and jeans attire of startups. It would be interesting to see an article like this for different pockets of STEM.

  • msenesac

    Great article! I’ve been following your interview related posts because I’m in that mode right now- so I really appreciate it!

  • Leah

    I’d really love to see this as a more frequent series! There are so many other professions where it’s tough to figure out what to wear for an interview. I had a job interview at a non-profit earlier this week and I had no clue what to wear. I knew they would probably be wearing business casual and when I walked into the interview they were both wearing jeans and sweaters. Still not sure if I dressed appropriately in a printed sheath dress, black cardigan, and black flats.

  • Bree

    Typo… ‘For a companies’

  • Quaymberley Bianca

    What a wonderful article, please make more. I really appreciate this advice because I have an interview this week!

    • kathy

      I went to three interviews with the same co.,but different jobs.The staff all had on black slacks and co.shirt or sweatshirt.or simple colored blouse.I worn a navy blue suit ea h time.I was thinking maybe I was overdressed.Should I wear black dress slacks with a simple dress top and jacket.I have to wear special shoes with a brace.So no choice in shoes.I did wear a simple gold necklace,ring,ear rings.Polish nails in a light beige.

  • Evan

    The link to the striped separates takes you to the LOFT triangular separates. I really love this … wish I knew where to get it.

  • Tom Brown

    Great post! I’ve been following your interview related posts because I’m in that mode right now- so I really appreciate it! All your collection of <a href ="women corporate uniforms for job interviews.