What NOT To Wear To An Interview (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 3, 2020

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Job interviews are notoriously stressful. With a variety of things to prepare and different information to memorize, there are many components to give your attention to.

However, what you wear to a job interview can be the make or break component to whether or not you get a job offer.

For any job interview you attend, you’ll want to ensure you’re dressed properly so that your clothes give a great first impression. Believe it or not, your outfit has a massive impact on communicating who you are to your interviewer.

By dressing professionally, you’ll send the message that you are serious about the potential position the minute you walk through the door.

The first impression your potential colleagues get of you is important. You want to show that you’re put together and can correctly dress for the occasion. Be sure that you do your research and understand the work environment for which you are applying.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good. Just putting in some additional effort and thought into your outfit choice can do the trick.

What should you wear to an interview?

In order to show your hiring manager or recruiter that you’re serious about the potential position, you can choose from a variety of different clothing options. Of course, you’ll want to keep true to your own style and preferences, while adding a little extra polish to your usual clothing wear.

  • Blazers. Blazers are a perfect item of clothing to wear to a job interview. They can polish up a button-down shirt and pair well with the right kind of dress pants. It’s most common to choose a solid color for a blazer to maintain professionalism.

  • Suits. Suits are a common outfit for an interview. Both women and men can wear appropriate suits for interviews. Be sure to do your research before you put on your suit, however, If you’re entering a work environment that is more casual, a suit may not be the right type of attire for your interview.

  • Dresses. For women, a modest dress can be a great choice. Solid colors often work best. Be sure it’s not too low cut or too short to be appropriate for an interview. Paired with classic jewelry can help make this outfit shine.

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  • Button-down shirts. Button-down shirts are a great option for business casual environments, or, as mentioned above, a great article of clothing to pair with a blazer and tie for more formal types of work environments.

  • Dress blouses. For women, a dress blouse is also a great option, paired with an appropriate skirt or dress pants. There are a variety of dress blouses out there, but one with a simple pattern or solid color is best to choose for a job interview.

All of these items of clothing make for a clean and polished look that translates well once you get into an interview. Be sure that the clothes you choose are ironed and cleaned properly.

Additionally, make sure your personal hygiene and grooming is clean and professional prior to the day of your interview.

But what are some items to ensure you avoid when choosing an outfit for a job interview? Below we discuss certain items of clothing you should look to avoid to be prepared for your interview.

What Not to Wear to a Job Interview

Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, there may be a variety of options of outfits you can wear.

For example, if you’re entering a casual work environment, the majority of people may be wearing jeans and a nice pair of solid jeans can work for your interview. In other cases, you may be entering a more formal environment where it’s expected that you wear a suit. It’s important to understand this before you choose your outfit.

However, there are a few common things that you should look to avoid when you’re choosing your interview outfit, no matter what type of job it is.

  • Overly casual wear. Casual dress may mean something different to different people, but there are very common articles of clothing that are considered too casual and things you should avoid. These items include leggings or yoga pants, pajama-wear, ripped jeans, shorts, sweatshirts, casual t-shirts, flip-flops, exposed undergarments, or any overly revealing clothing.

  • Tight or ripped clothing. It’s important to check the fit of your clothing before you go on an interview. Anything too tight should be left at home and replaced with something more appropriate. Ripped clothing might be trendy on a day-to-day basis, but it’s not appropriate attire for a job interview. Anything that shows your underclothing, your chest, too much skin, or midriff is something that should stay in the closet for a job interview.

  • Anything too bright or flashy. You want to make a memorable impression in your interview, but wearing bright and flashy clothes is not the way. You’ll want your skills and qualifications to shine, rather than your wardrobe. Basic colors are the most reliable and safe options you can go with to show your professionalism.

    There are exceptions to this rule, however.

    For creative positions such as design, art, fashion, or jobs that require clothing statements, this rule will not apply.

  • Clothing that doesn’t fit the company culture. It’s important to do your research on the company before you even attempt to choose something from your wardrobe. Getting a sense of the company culture is incredibly important to get a good feel for what appropriate attire will be. Coming into a company either overdressed or underdressed can be a deterrent during an interview. For example, if you interview at a company where the staff is dressed casually with a no-suit rule, but you enter the room in a suit, it actually may work against you more than you think.

    Feeling inappropriately dressed can decrease your confidence during an interview and might make your recruiter or hiring manager second-guess if you’re the right fit for the company. If you do your research ahead of time, you can avoid this easily.

  • Too many accessories. While some light accessories such as a watch, bracelet, or necklace, might be a great addition to your outfit, too many might cause an unwanted distraction. This can include large jewelry, facial piercings, or any other things that could get in the way of making a good impression.

    This can even include perfume or colognes that are overbearing, or heavy makeup that takes away from your credibility. When in doubt, keep things simple! A job interview is not the time to try that new hair dyeing technique or makeup look. Be mindful of smartwatch and cell phone alarms or ringers.

  • Casual footwear. Interviewers aren’t just aware of the clothing you put on, but the shoes you put on your feet. Flip flops and casual sandals, in general, are not something to wear to a job interview unless you choose a conservative open-toed high heel or dress sandal. If possible, choose a sensible shoe that compliments your outfit. Keep it simple.

    Be sure your heels aren’t too high or that you’re not wearing an old, damaged shoe either. If you choose to purchase new shoes for your job interview, be sure to wear them in a little first. Not only will this avoid blisters, but it will help you walk more confidently and ensure the bottoms are not slippery.

  • Headwear. Hats are a definite no-go for a professional job interview. This means hats, beanies, and hoods. Additionally, earbuds or headphones should be kept in your purse or pocket, as they are distracting and can come off as rude. The last thing you want to do is give the job interviewer the impression that you aren’t interested in what they have to say. The only exception to headwear is for individuals who wear headwear for religious or cultural purposes.

Why is it so important to look good at a job interview?

When you show up to a job interview, your job is to make the best possible first impression that you can. Be aware of the balance you need to have. You want to be memorable, but not cause a distraction. Wearing things like risque clothing, body jewelry, clothing that shows too much skin, or overpowering scents will put you at risk for making a poor first impression.

You want to prepare for a professional presence so that your interviewer immediately views you as a potential employee and someone qualified to do the job advertised. But looking good isn’t just for the recruiter or hiring manager. Wearing a professional outfit will help you feel more confident and adequately prepared for your interview. Wearing clothes that make you feel good and polished will help your demeanor and belief in yourself.

Confidence will help you answer questions effectively, think of ways to sell yourself on the spot, and help you come off as not just genuine but professionally poised and, hopefully, an ideal candidate for the job. It’s important not to overlook your attire for a job interview. This is a significant component to ensuring you land the job of your dreams.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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