Dressing for a Job Interview

Public speaking, death, spiders….and interviewing for a job. Pretty much the top 4 fears for most people out there.

Aside from showing up on time and doing the basics to prepare including:

…you really need to think about what you are going to wear to the interview. It may sound trivial when considering the above but hear it from me:


Virginia Tech University has a webpage that gives helpful hints on how to dress for interviews and explains that  “appropriate attire supports your image as a person who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed.” So the way you look really does tell a story about you to the interviewer before you even open your mouth.

The way I see it, there are 3 levels of dressing for an interview.

1. Offending

If you wear anything that might reflect badly on you in terms of showing too much skin or dressing too casually then forget about it. You aren’t getting hired because you have offended the interviewer or they are afraid that you will embarrass the company if you work for them.

So… your first goal should be to make sure what ever you are wearing won’t offend.

2. Professional

Aside from just not being offensive (ie. mini skirts, boobage or message Ts), you want to make sure you look ‘professional’. What does that mean? It means that you look put together: clean/pressed and that you are dressing with the level of formality associated with the workplace to which you are applying (we’ll talk more about this later).

3. Memorable  – If you manage to do the top 2 things then congratulations, you’ve at least given yourself a chance at landing the job. Now, considering that at least 95% of the interviewees or more will pass the first 2 tests and may have similar experience or credentials to you, you’ll want to do the last thing which is Be Memorable. When I was in my early teens and trying out for the provincial girls soccer team, my dad told me to wear this pair of fluorescent orange soccer socks that I thought looked ridiculous. But then he explained to me that in a crowd of 250 girls all trying out for 18 spots, that aside from my skill, the coaches will always remember the girl with the fluorescent socks. It had nothing to do with my ability to play, but wouldn’t you know it – I made the team 3 years in a row with those socks.

Long story short – wearing something professional is important but when you add a twist – something bold, bright or unexpected such as a chunky necklace in turquoise, an animal print scarf, a statement broach, bold earings or shoes (I love red shoes for interviews!) you make a real impression. Take it from my dad and stand out from the crowd – in a classy way of course.

So going back to “Dressing Professional”, here are 3 things you need to do to check this box:

Coverage – When it comes to dressing for the workplace (and especially interviews) there are parts of your body that you just don’t show. I don’t care how nice your pedicure or cleavage might be…it’s just plain common sense.

For women, unless you are applying for a super formal job (read “Lawyer, Accountant, etc.) then showing lower legs, knees and forearms are ok. Keep your feet, thighs, shoulders and cleavage under wraps. This image from “Get Hired” on Lifehacker really says it all:

Formality – you need to dress according to what the standard work wear would be in the workplace for this company. Are you looking for a corporate job as an accountant, lawyer, banker, etc.? Then definitely default to the black, grey or navy suit and wear stockings if you are planning to wear a skirt. If you are unsure or know that the expectation would not be that high, always default to one level above ‘business casual’ (see TLC’s article on “What does business casual mean for women?”).

Here are my quick guidelines for business interview ready clothese:


– closed toe shoes

– pants (not kakhis or jeans – real dress pants)

– skirts/dresses to the knee

– flats, heels or dressy boots (no buckles, tassles or unneccessary platforming please)

– blouses that cover the shoulder

– blazers

– cropped pants (not cargo)

Job Interview Outfits, How to dress for a job interview


–  Jean anything (pants, skirts or jackets) or even pants that look like jeans (jean pockets on rear, rivets, embroidery, fading, etc.)

–  T-shirts

–  tank tops/shoulder baring blouses

– cleavage

–  open toed shoes like sandals or even peep toes

– casual/clunky/or cowboy boots

– any type of headwear

– shorts (even tailored ones)

– khaki pants (if it is a formal environment)


And lastly…Look Sharp – When it comes to dressing for the workplace (and especially interviews) you want to look put together.

That means removing anything on you that might give the impression that you don’t care about how you look (and therefore that you don’t care about the work you do or the details).

This would include :

  • eliminating such things as wrinkles, stains, loose strings/tags
  • doing a quick once over to make sure your make up, hair and breath are in check (there’s nothing like interviewing for a job and then heading to the bathroom afterwards because you have to pee like a racehorse only to find out that you have mascara leaking down  your face or lipstick on your teeth).

Do yourself a huge favor and arrive early at least 30 minutes early to your interview so that you have time enough for a bathroom break and a quick once over in the mirror.

For more great information on how to “Get Hired”, check out this article by Life Hacker.

Good luck and feel free to post any other questions on your mind.




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