What To Wear To An Interview For Women

By Chris Kolmar - Oct. 27, 2020

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Of course, you want to know what to wear to your interview!

It’s not a silly question at all. In fact, wearing the wrong (and we mean really wrong) thing could mean you don’t get the job. Your appearance is a big part of the impression you’re creating when you interview for a job, so what you wear is important.

That said, most jobs aren’t going to require you to wear something super high-end or incredibly expensive. There’s no need to max out your credit card or worry you can’t afford it.

A few nice-looking, professional pieces should be all you need. But if you really want to buy a new suit or an outfit for interviews, go right ahead. The odds are good that you’ll need it more than once.

Types of Interviews and Appropriate Outfits

Obviously, not all interviews are the same. A college student applying for their first internship, a factory worker looking for a line job, and an accountant are all going to wear different outfits to their job interviews.

What you wear will depend on the job you’re applying for, your level of experience or the level of the position, and the company you’re interviewing with. Let’s look at some examples.

Internship Interview Outfits

College students should think of their internships as a step on the career ladder. It’s definitely not a time to be sloppy or dress like you normally do for class.

Take it up a notch and wear something that looks professional.

If you don’t have anything that’s good enough for the interview, it’s time to go shopping. You will need nice business clothes for your interview and the internship.

First Job Interview Clothes

It’s your first job and you’re nervous.

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Everyone is in this situation and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. One thing that can make you feel better is to know that you look amazing. You know how a great outfit can make you feel. Transfer that confidence to your job interview with smart style.

Try to select something neutral in color and with a comfortable but good fit. Nothing too blousy and nothing too tight. You also want to make sure it’s not too revealing, i.e. never show any cleavage or too much leg.

Mid-Management Level Interview Wardrobe Ideas

You’ve had a job before and you’re ready to try a new one, but what to wear. Have you ever heard that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have?

It’s great wisdom and can help you get far.

If you’re looking for a job that’s an advancement, then dress better than you would have at your last job. You know that management likes to see you respect them enough to up your attire game.

Interview for Upper Management Outfits

This should be an old hat for you, but maybe it’s your first time applying for an upper level position.

Suits are the standard, both for men and women applying for upper management jobs.

Some businesses are a little more relaxed than they were in the past and a well-tailored blouse with dress pants or a skirt can work. Or a crisp dress that looks like you’d see it on Wall Street can be a winner.

Fast Food or Retail Interview Outfits

Entry level jobs, like fast food or retail, usually have pretty relaxed attitudes about their dress codes and they don’t expect you to show up in a business suit. But if you really want to impress them and get the job, then plan on dressing up a bit.

Consider dress pants or a skirt and a blouse. If you don’t have nice pants or a skirt, opt for dark jeans that don’t have holes.

As an extra tip, if you’re applying to a clothing store, it doesn’t hurt to wear some of their clothing and be familiar with what they carry.

Outfits for Interviews for Outdoor Jobs

Did you think you’d be able to get away with some coveralls at this interview? Odds are that’s not going to fly.

Your interview will likely be indoors and might be formal or informal, it depends on the job and the company. If it’s a larger company then it’s more likely to be formal. But if you’re interviewing with a sole-proprietor or small company, your interview might be informal.

In the event that the interview is formal, you’ll want to wear dress pants, at least, with a nice blouse or blazer. If you’re comfortable in a dress, that would add a little something to your look.

An informal interview for a job where you’ll be wearing jeans most of the time is one of the rare times where a pair of jeans is appropriate. Just make sure they’re not full of holes and stains. Also, pair them with a nice blouse for a dressy-casual look.

General Rules for How to Dress for an Interview

All right, so you’ve got a handle on the vibe you want to put out there. But now it’s time to get specific, what should you wear to your job interview. Keep in mind, these are tips and a little style advice to help, nothing is guaranteed.

  • Dress pants. A great fitting pair of dress pants in a neutral color goes a long way. Dark pants tend to look dressier than light ones, so lean in that direction. Keep the trends to a minimum, if wide legs are in go for a modest-wide version, not bell bottoms. Similarly, don’t wear pants that are skin-tight. This never goes over well.

  • A skirt. A pencil skirt or an A-line skirt looks great on just about everybody’s figure and they’re both nice for the office. The pencil skirt is a little more polished, but the A-line skirt tends to be more forgiving. Stick with very subtle prints or solids, and darker is still better. The shortest you want to go with your skirt is one that lands right at the top of the knee. You can go longer, but never shorter.

  • A blouse. A pretty, feminine blouse in a soft pastel color looks lovely and totally business appropriate. Skip any tops with cutouts, it doesn’t matter where they are, just skip it. Both solids and prints are nice, just as long as they’re not too busy. We recommend pastels because they’re flattering and not distracting.

  • A button-front top. This business classic is just that – a classic you should have in your business wardrobe. A nice button front shirt always looks good and it’s a must for the office.

  • A blazer. The work blazer is a staple and can instantly pull together your look. Even if your other pieces aren’t the best, the blazer makes up for it.

  • A dress. A business dress can be tricky, but they’re out there. Just make sure they’re not something you’d wear the following weekend at a wedding or club. A great piece to keep in your business wardrobe is a tailored shirtdress.

  • Sweater. Sure, if it’s cold out, a sweater is a great choice. Your ugly Christmas sweater certainly isn’t appropriate, but we’ll bet you have a few others that would work well. Just remember, if you tend to sweat when you’re nervous, a warm sweater might not be the best idea.

A Note on Interview Shoes

Leave the stilettos at home with the flip flops. In most situations, you’ll want to skip the open toed shoes, too.

Try to pick a dressy shoe that has a modest to low heel. You can have a little personality in your shoes because everyone appreciates a great shoe. But you don’t want to seem too over-the-top or risqué.

What Jewelry to Wear on an Interview

It’s usually best to keep your jewelry a bit on the reserved side. Don’t wear anything that gets noticed the minute you walk into a room. And you certainly don’t want to wear one of everything. But having an interesting piece of jewelry isn’t a bad thing. A pretty art fair necklace can be an ice breaker. A bracelet your designer friend made might be perfect and give you a little moral support.

When to Throw the Rules Out the Window for Interview Apparel

Sometimes the job you’re applying to is looking for creatives or renegades. Maybe the office is completely casual and prides themselves on being different. Or you might be looking for a specific job that needs you to wear a certain type of clothing.

There are always some jobs and companies that just don’t line up with the rest of the business world. This is why it’s always a great idea to research a company before you apply for a job, and especially before you interview there.

How Should I Dress for a Virtual Job Interview?

Once a pretty rare occurrence, virtual job interviews are now pretty commonplace. So, do you roll out of bed, still wearing your pajamas, and clock in for your interview? Of course not, even if you’re always going to be working remotely and no one will see you after the interview.

Consider your virtual job interview to be exactly like an in-person job interview. At least halfway – the top half. You probably don’t have to worry too much about what pants or skirt you wear, and your shoes won’t matter at all, so keep your slippers on. But your hairstyle, makeup, accessories, and your top will matter.

The overarching theme you want to remember when interviewing for a new job is to keep your look conservative, tailored, and professional. Opt for darker colors, subdued prints, and not too much jewelry.

Think about all the hard work you put into your resume and your cover letter just to get you in the door. Now, don’t blow it on an outfit that’s just not appropriate for the workplace. And remember to follow all workplace etiquette rules as soon as you walk in the door. You may not work there yet – but you want to.

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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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