First impressions matter, so the beginning of any job hunt often includes a trip to the men's clothing department. The clothes you wear to an interview can help you prove that you are professional and serious but also sharp enough to keep up with fashion. Once you know how to dress for an interview, you can focus on showing your new bosses what a great employee you'll be.
Assemble an interview wardrobe. You'll need at least one good men's suit -- new if possible, but certainly less than two years old -- in a neutral color, such as grey, charcoal, black, or navy blue. Purchase two long-sleeve dress shirts and two neckties to wear with your suit; you might want to change shirts if you have more than one interview in a day. Choose men's dress shoes with thin soles -- thick soles are too casual -- and wear them with dark, thin socks. If you'll need to wear a coat to travel to the interview, choose one that matches the formality of your suit. Complete your outfit with a dress watch.
Prepare a casual outfit, too. This clothing actually is a little dressier than the general business-casual look -- no khakis or sweaters -- but still more relaxed than a suit. Purchase a men's blazer and wear it with a button-down shirt and tailored slacks. You have some flexibility with this outfit, such as wearing stylish boots instead dress shoes or a dark shirt instead of a white or light-colored one. However, you'll look more professional if everything fits well, so avoid anything with a loose design, such as sweaters, baggy pants, and polo shirts.
Research the company's dress code. Even if you can't access the official dress code, your contact in the human resources department should be able to give you some pointers about the workplace atmosphere. If your industry tends to have a conservative atmosphere as a whole, then wear your suit to all your interviews. Otherwise, dress a little better than your potential colleagues would on an average day. And no matter how relaxed the office is, don't wear jeans, at least for your first interview.
Avoid flashy clothes and accessories. Bright colors and busy patterns can overwhelm your accomplishments if your interviewer remembers your look instead of your personality. Choose neutral colors for your shirts, suits, and separates, and then add color with a patterned necktie. Limit jewelry to one or two rings and a watch.
Prepare your outfit the night before the interview. Touch up your clothes with an iron or steamer, especially if you've been traveling. Check your shirt and jacket for missing or loose buttons, and trim any loose threads. Then look at your shoes and your accessories, such as a briefcase or tablet case, and make sure they are free of scuff marks; shoelaces should be new or nearly new. As you prepare for your interview the next day, you'll check your reflection in the mirror and head out knowing you look your best.
Looking for women's job interview outfit tips? Read our guide on how women can dress for success.
Published April 28, 2010
Updated April 1, 2015