What You Should Wear To An Internship Interview

By Chris Kolmar - Oct. 30, 2020

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Securing an internship in your field is a huge milestone for your career growth. It’s an introduction to becoming a valuable employee with real-world work experience. None of this is possible without excelling in an interview beforehand.

The first step to impressing an interviewer and being offered an internship position is dressing for the part of a reliable professional. Dressing well for an interview demonstrates your knowledge of workplace standards, despite your entry-level status.

The initial impression you give in your interview can make you appear as a prepared candidate with potential, or a sloppy one who doesn’t care about the position.

How would you rather be seen in an interview that your internship depends on?

What Should Internship Applicants Wear to An Interview?

Internship interviews can vary in how casual or formal their structure is. Many organizations will offer a company dress code policy to give you an idea of what you should wear to an interview. You should do some research into the expectations for your field and the company you’re interviewing with to prepare your attire accordingly.

General Rules for an Internship Interview Outfit

  1. Simple Is Best. The outfit you wear for an interview should be a background element to the rest of your great performance. An interviewer will notice that you’re dressed professionally and move on to the more important stuff.

    The best way to do this is to keep your outfit simple. Less is more when it comes to extreme colors, accessories, and business-casual attire. Your outfit should be as simple as possible without being dreadfully boring.

  2. Don’t Wear Anything Too Revealing. Showing up to an internship interview in an outfit that’s too tight, low-cut, or generally unprofessional will automatically give the impression that you don’t adhere to appropriate work attire. Similarly to flashy accessories or complicated clothing.

    Wearing an outfit that could be interpreted as unprofessional distracts an interviewer from your great qualities, and can negatively impact their impression of you as a potential employee off the bat.

  3. Remember that Even in the Most Casual Interview, You Should Be Professional. Some applicants may be inclined to dress too casually because the interviewer made the meeting sound easygoing. Avoid this response to a casual potential employer. Even a flexible company has some guidelines for appropriate workplace attire.

How Can You Make the Best Outfit

  1. Pick A Solid Color Scheme. Color is a focal point of any candidate’s interview attire. It’s usually an area to incorporate personal taste. While you can play around with the colors of your outfit, you should try to keep it to the least eccentric of your style preferences for an internship interview. Solid colors and matching schemes give an impression of neatness and cohesion. These are soft skills that an internship interviewer will be looking for in candidates.

  2. Wear the Right Shoes. An interviewer will be checking out every detail of your attire, and that includes your footwear. Think about what kind of shoes will compliment your outfit.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary

    For Women Appropriate Interview Shoes Include:

    • Neutral Colored

    • Close-toed

    • Professional Flats

    • Small heels of no higher than 3”

    For Men Appropriate Interview Shoes Include:

    • Usually Brown or Black

    • Lace-up or Slip-On

    • Leather Dress Shoes

    • Oxfords

    Any internship applicant should avoid wearing the following shoes to an interview:

    • Sneakers

    • Sandals

    • Flip-Flops

    • Hiking Boots

    • Stilettos

  3. Consider Investing in an Interview Outfit. Many college students hoping to get chosen for an internship position will need to go shopping for an office-appropriate outfit. A lot of people groan at the possibility of spending money on an interview outfit before even landing a job.

    It can be especially difficult for college students, whose interview may be for an unpaid internship position. While investing money in an interview outfit may seem like an unneeded extra expense, it can take your interviewer’s perception of you to the next level. There are also many options for affordable business-casual outfits.

  4. Think About Accessories. The proper accessories can improve upon a strong interview look. However, they can easily become distracting or unprofessional-looking if you’re choosing to wear the wrong pieces. Avoid large, chunky, or brightly colored accessories, as well as things that can be considered unprofessional like a hat or sunglasses.

    Ideal Accessories for an Internship Interview Include:

    • Small gold or silver necklace

    • A functional handbag

    • A nice watch

    • Natural Make-up

    • A tie

  5. Better to Overdress than Underdress. While you want to aim for hitting exactly what an interviewer expects of your attire if you’re not exactly sure what they’re looking for it’s good to air on the side of caution. Lean closer to the professional end of the spectrum than the casual one when uncertain about a company’s dress code policies.

Which Type of Company is Connected with Which Type of Outfit

Each industry and position usually adhere to one of three dress codes for their employees.

These Dress Codes Are:

  • Business Professional

  • Business Casual

  • Casual

Certain fields may dominantly use one style of dress code. For example, a law office will often incorporate a business professional dress code into their expectations. On the other hand, social media marketers may only be required to dress in casual attire.

Consider what an applicant in your position would usually be expected to wear in your field when thinking about what to wear for an internship interview.

Examples of Business Professional Attire

Formal business professional attire probably won’t be required for a lot of daily jobs, but it may make a good impression for a lot of internship candidates in specific fields. Wearing a business professional outfit to your interview shows that you’re serious about your work and want to make a good impression.

Fields that are known for commonly implementing a business professional dress code include financing industries and other office positions.

For Men:

Business professional attire usually entails a dark-colored suit, button-down shirt, and a nice tie. The style of shoe should be equally as formal, or it can undermine your otherwise strong outfit.

Consider the example below of a business professional men’s interview outfit:

For Women:

A business professional outfit for women can either be a conservative dress, skirt, or pant and blouse ensemble. As with the men, the kind of shoe you choose and accessories are important to the success of your outfit. Go for a classic closed-toe short heel in a neutral color.

Consider the example below of a business professional interview woman’s outfit:

Business Casual

A company with a standard business casual dress code is asking for you to dress professionally without requiring a suit to be worn. Business casual is what will most often be expected of you for a professional internship interview.

Even though there’s “casual” in the title, don’t break out the sneakers and hoodie just yet. You’re still expected to dress neatly and professionally, even if the requirements aren’t as strict.

For Men:

Business casual attire lends itself to more style choices than business professional might. Options for shirts can range between button-downs, collared shirts, and sweaters, depending on the season. For pants, dress or khakis can work in a neutral color with professional shoes. A tie is not required for this look but can be incorporated.

Consider the example below of a business casual men’s interview outfit:

For Women:

Women have similar choices for attire under a business casual dress code as they do with a professional. Women have options between skirts, dresses, and pantsuits, and the professional standards are mostly the same. Modest and simple.

One of the biggest differences is the shoes expected. In business casual, shoes can be professional-looking, neutral-colored flats, or dress shoes. In a business with a professional atmosphere, short heels are usually the norm.

Consider the example below of a business casual interview women’s outfit:

Casual

A company with a casual dress code means they usually leave attire up to their employee and candidate’s discretion. It’s not an invitation to show up messily or wear anything you want. Your clothes should be clean, appropriate, and still maintain a professional standard.

This dress code can be used for an internship position. However, you should be sure that this is the company’s policy before you show up to an interview wearing something too casual.

For Men:

In a casual job atmosphere, jeans can be acceptable if they’re well-made and free of holes or distortions. For an internship interview, you’ll probably still want to opt-out for chinos or more casual dress pants, and confirm company attire preferences at the interview.

Shirts worn for a business-casual dress code are probably still the best option for a casual internship interview. No matter how easygoing a company is, showing up for an interview in a t-shirt just isn’t going to make a good impression.

Consider the example below of a casual men’s interview outfit:

For Women:

A casual office environment gives women a little more room to show their personality in their daily outfit choices. That’s true of a casual interview, as well. You’re more open to playing with colors, patterns, and shoes.

A clean white button-down or sweater in colder months and places can be a great casual top for an internship interview. Pairing this with a neutral tone of pants and a pair of flats can be an easy and comfortable internship interview outfit with a casual tone.

Consider the example below of a casual women’s interview outfit:

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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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