Dress for Success: A Guide on What Not to Wear to an Interview
So, you have been invited to a job interview. That’s great news! Your potential employer has obviously seen something in your resume or application form that gives them cause to consider you for a job.
Of course, that job you have applied for isn’t yours for the taking just yet. You still have to prepare for the interview and as part of that preparation, you have to get your interview clothes ready.
You will make a good impression if you wear the right outfit but the opposite might apply if you dress in clothes that aren’t suitable for a job interview.
With this in mind, here are our tips on what not to wear to a job interview!
Table of Contents
Why Is It So Important To Dress Appropriately For An Interview?
You don’t need to worry too much about your wardrobe if you’re looking to nail a phone interview, as your potential employer won’t be able to see you.
But if you’re having a face-to-face interview, be that in person or via a Zoom call, the clothes you wear matter. Why? Well, there are two very good reasons why you should take care choosing your outfit.
You need to feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable in your interview clothes, this could distract you from being your best self, which might not bode well for you when you’re sitting in front of the interviewer.
First impressions matter. If you walk through the door wearing clothes that look unprofessional, the interviewer won’t have a very good first impression. So, don’t let them judge you too harshly. If you dress appropriately, their first impression will be a good one and this could sway them towards you when deciding who should get the job.
We offer a few tips for dressing appropriately later in this article. But for now, let’s consider a few interview attire mistakes.
What Not To Wear To A Job Interview
1. Overly Casual Clothing
Even if the company has a relaxed dress code, you should still dress professionally at your job interview. As such, you should consider ripped jeans, baggy shorts, tank tops, tracksuits, and other types of casual clothing a no-no, unless you have been specifically told otherwise prior to the interview.
2. Garments That Feel Uncomfortable
If you’re constantly fidgeting during the interview because your shoes don’t fit or because your shirt is too tight, you aren’t going to make a great impression on your prospective employer. You might also fluff the interview questions if your mind is focused on your outfit and not on the person sitting in front of you.
If you buy a new set of clothes for the interview, make sure you choose the appropriate sizes. Try different items on while you’re in the store and walk around a little to check for comfort. If buying new shoes, take the time to get used to them when you’re at home, as they will start to feel more comfortable the more you wear them.
Instead of going to your local clothing store, it might be a good idea to get your clothes professionally tailored so you can be assured of a good fit. You will then have peace of mind about your outfit before the interview so you will have one less thing to worry about before the interview day itself.
3. Flip Flops Or Open Toed Shoes
Flip flops and open-toed shoes will certainly feel very comfortable but they don’t present a professional image. Instead, choose slip-on dress shoes in a color that matches your outfit. Be sure to give these a good polish prior to interview day so they don’t appear dirty or scuffed when you’re sitting in front of your potential employer.
Jeans and other items of denim clothing are usually frowned upon so wear something more appropriate, such as any item of clothing that would normally be associated with a business suit.
If the company you are applying to has a casual working environment, you might not need to look too formal. However, it’s still wise to look professional, so you could opt for the ‘business casual’ look and blend elements of casual and formal attire within your interview outfit. This could include a pair of non-denim trousers or a skirt that isn’t usually a traditional part of a business suit.
5. Too Much Make-Up
Unless you’re applying to a clown school, go easy on the make-up! You can still wear a little if you want to enhance your appearance but go easy with the lipstick and eyeliner as too much can be distracting for the interviewer.
If you do wear make-up, choose softer shades that are within a close range of your skin tone as these will blend into your face and not prove off-putting to the people sitting in front of you.
6. Flashy Jewelry
You want to dazzle the interviewer with your personality and professionalism and not the pieces of jewelry you hang around your neck or arms.
Choose pieces that complement your outfit and not stand out from it and be sure to avoid anything that could be noisy, such as bangles, as these could prove to be a distraction when you’re being interviewed.
It’s advisable not to wear a hat to an interview as the interviewer might assume you have something to hide about your appearance! They might also think you care more about your sense of style than the job you are applying for.
The exception is if you’re wearing headwear for a religious or medical reason but in all other cases, avoid avoid avoid!
8. Body Jewelry/Exposed Tattoos
Body jewelry and tattoos may be distracting for the interviewer so it’s best to remove your piercings and cover up your tattoos before you go into the interview.
Some companies prohibit piercings anyway so it’s wise to check the policy of the company you are applying to, as you may be asked to leave your body jewelry at home if you manage to secure a job with them.
Wish you could connect with more amazing people, and not feel awkward in social situations? Download our FREE Ultimate Guide to Social Skills below.
Tips For Dressing Appropriately
Now that you know what not to wear when going for an interview, let’s consider some best practice tips for dressing appropriately.
Plan Your Interview Wardrobe
When it comes to your job interview, nothing should be left to the last minute. As such, you shouldn’t procrastinate over the research you need to do for potential interview questions, and you shouldn’t wait until the day before your interview to organize what you are going to wear.
You need to:
- Research the company in question (see below)
- Shop for a new outfit (unless you already have something appropriate at home)
- Choose clothing that is one step up from what the people in the company wear (such as a pair of non-denim jeans and a shirt if the company’s employees wear jeans and t-shirts)
- Figure out what you need to do to ensure your garments are clean and free of any rips or wrinkles
Research The Company’s Dress Code
If you’re going to dress one step up from what the employees wear at the company you are applying to, you obviously need to do a little bit of research. You could:
- Contact the company to enquire about their dress code (be sure to ask about their interview dress code too)
- Browse the company’s website and social media pages for photos of employees in their work attire
- Visit the company (if appropriate) to get a first-hand look at what employees are wearing
Dress For The Interview Location
You need to keep your physical comfort in mind so be sure to wear something warm if the interview is at an outdoors location and the temperature is on the cooler side. You could wear something that can’t be seen beneath your interview outfit or choose warmer clothing that is still appropriate for the interview.
Should the interview be indoors (which is usually the case), choose an outfit that won’t stifle you if the air conditioning is on and the office space is overly warm. You can always ask the interviewer if it’s okay to remove your jacket or blazer if you do feel too warm during the interview.
Best Colors To Wear For An Interview
Neutral colors, such as black, brown, navy, and gray are usually the best colors for a job interview, so opt for these when choosing a jacket or trousers. White is often the best color to contrast with these when wearing a shirt or a blouse but there’s nothing wrong with a pop of color with any items you accessorize with, so long as the color isn’t overly bold or bright.
What To Wear To A Zoom Interview
You don’t need to look overdressed, so you don’t have to wear a full business suit. However, you still need to consider professional attire when you’re preparing for your video interview, so don’t be tempted to dress too casually.
Business casual attire is often the best option for video calls, such as a conservative blouse paired with trousers or a skirt if you’re a woman, and a buttoned-down shirt, blazer, and trousers if you’re a guy.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind when choosing what to wear is contrast. You will disappear into the background if you wear an outfit that matches your walls or virtual background so opt for colors that will make you stand out. That being said, don’t choose colors that are too vibrant as these could prove distracting.
To secure your dream job, you need to make a lot of effort before you attend your interview. You need to research the company in question, prepare for any tricky questions you may be asked, and plan the outfit you are going to wear on the interview day itself.
If you don’t make an effort to prepare, the interviewer(s) might assume you will show the same lack of effort in the role you are applying for, so don’t let this happen. Dress smartly so you make an excellent first impression and choose clothes that are comfortable to wear so you’re not distracted by them when you’re sitting in front of the interviewer.
Hopefully, you will get the job you have applied for. To improve your chances, send a follow-up email after the interview (you can even do this in your pajamas) as not only will this show them that you’re still interested in the job but it will also show them that you are courteous (providing you thank them for taking the time to interview you in your email).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It OK To Wear All Black To An Interview?
If you’re applying for a high-powered job, wearing an all-black suit can sometimes be a good idea because the color black represents leadership and sophistication.
For any other type of job, a black outfit could be considered too serious so don’t be afraid to wear other neutral colors, such as brown and navy, as well as a white shirt or blouse underneath your jacket.
Do Nails Matter In An Interview?
Yes! Especially if you’re prone to waving your hands about when you’re speaking, your nails will be noticed by the interviewer. Ensure they are clean and short and if using nail polish, use neutral colors that don’t take away from the rest of your appearance.
Is It Okay To Smile During An Interview?
Yes, a strong smile is a sign of confidence and it can make you come across as friendly and approachable. You don’t want to smile throughout the duration of the interview, of course, as the interviewer might think you aren’t taking it seriously. So, be sure to smile at the appropriate times, such as when you’re first saying “hello”.
Should You Bring Water To An Interview?
Some interviewers will offer you water before your interview but it’s still wise to bring your own bottle of water, just in case they don’t.
If you have a tickle in your throat that develops into a cough, your bottle of water will be invaluable. A sip of water after being asked a difficult question will also give you a few seconds to think of an appropriate response, so this is another reason to bring water with you.