Dress for interview success on your next job interview

Published 1:30 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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In his masterpiece “Crime and Punishment,” author Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, “We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.” The great Russian novelist refers to the fact that impressions can be made before conversations begin. This is an important notion to grasp and can do a job seeker a world of good in every interaction during the hiring process, including the interview.

Recruiters may have an understanding of you as an applicant from your résumé and other correspondences. Still, it is during the interview — whether in person or remotely — that a hiring manager can get a sense of your energy and professionalism. While no one wants to be judged on appearance alone, what you look like and how you dress affect others’ first impressions of you. Doing all you can to tip the scales in your favor may lead to favorable job outcomes. According to the Balance: Money, the best outfit to wear on an interview varies depending on the company and the job. However, there are some guidelines for dressing to make the best impression.

  • Follow the employer’s dress code. If you can gauge the dress code in advance, dress to mirror what others are wearing and then take it up a slight notch. For example, while you wouldn’t wear a suit when interviewing as a park ranger, you may avoid wearing work boots and faded jeans for a collared polo shirt and khaki pants. For a tech start-up or creative company that favors casual wear, something more business casual may be appropriate for the interview.
  • Err on the side of caution. If you do not know the company dress code, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. A sports jacket, a button-down shirt for gentlemen, and tailored pants and a blouse for women may fit the bill. 
  • Less is more. Distractions can derail an interview, and wearing too many accessories can distract the interviewer and even candidates during the interview. Keep jewelry to a minimum and mute all alerts on a smartwatch and smartphone. If you have piercings, you may want to remove them until you learn more about which types of body art are acceptable at the company, which you should be able to discern when visiting the office. Distractions also can include heavy or drastic makeup and hairstyles. Tone things down until you have a firm understanding of dress policies.
  • Choose neutral colors. Wear neutral or classic colors over more flashy options. You want to be judged on your qualifications, and neon shirts or a busy print dress could cause an interviewer to lose focus. During a remote interview, choose a high-contrast interview outfit so you don’t blend in with your background.
  • Wear clean, tidy clothes. No matter how formal or informal the attire, it should be freshly laundered, free from wrinkles or damage, and fit properly.