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How to Dress For a Job Interview

Fashion Tightrope: Interview Attire

Whether we like it or not, our appearance is part of the overall first impression when we're interviewed for a new job. If your resume is polished but your attire doesn't mesh with the company's culture, you may be overlooked for someone with a similar resume that took time to dress appropriately. A well thought out interview outfit will not only let the company know that you're serious about the job, but you'll feel more confident knowing that you've done everything you can to make yourself a memorable candidate.

Interviewers can be more observant than you'd think and pay attention to everything from peek-a-boo bra straps to ragged socks. The Wall Street Journal featured a "Dressing to Impress" list for job seekers composed by business-etiquette consultant Ann Marie Sabath. To see her tips for dressing up and dressing down, just

These are her tips that I found most compelling.

  • Iron your shirts — even the no-iron ones.
  • Keep a sharp crease in your pants.
  • The higher a woman climbs on the corporate ladder, the more light-colored suits she can and should wear (to be less intimidating).
  • The definition of business casual: one notch down from business normal.
  • Dress for the position you want, not for the one you currently have.
  • Match the culture of the industry: Call ahead or have your recruiter suss out the office's style.


chancleta chancleta 9 years
all great tips savvy thanks! i think we as woman have a lot more flexibility in dressing professional then men we can liven up a dark suit with a feminine blouse :)
gigill gigill 9 years
I tend to go for interviews in the creative industry. I would NEVER wear jeans to one, but usually black pants and a nice blouse/sweater/jacket seem to do the trick.
girlgreen girlgreen 9 years
when i graduated from college and interviewed this summer for my first real job, i bought two nice pant suits, one black and one light gray. they were expensive but totally worth it. it was good to have two, because some places asked me to come back for a second interview, and some of these were as soon as the next day. I didn't want to come back the very next day wearing the same suit. so my advice is to get two suits, maybe a skirt and a pant, or the same kind but in two different colors.
meumitsuki meumitsuki 9 years
Interviewers also look at your hands, so make sure your nails are nice and neat with no weird colors. I graduated 5 years ago and the suit rules were given to me as well as pulling hair back, go light on jewelry and wear sensible shoes (no 4 inch stilettos). I once interviewed a college senior for an internship (in pharmaceuticals) and she wore a halter top.
amheld1481 amheld1481 9 years
Other good tips I got from my recruiter was to go light on the amount of makeup and jewelry you wear, and if you have long hair, to wear it in a ponytail, or pull it back somehow. You don't want to play with your hair when you're nervous.
emalove emalove 9 years
I've always thought it was very important to dress as professionally as possible for an interview in your career field.. When I was about to graduate from college, most of my professors HIGHLY recommended we wear a suit to our interview(s). I have two skirts suits that I've worn on every interview I've gone on since I graduated. They were expensive, but good to have. I certainly don't wear them to work (I'm a teacher), but I am glad to have them when I need them. My daily outfits consist of dresses, skirts, blouses, dress pants..."normal" professional attire. I think a suit makes the best impression, appearance-wise, on an interview. But if you work in a more casual, creative industry, you can probably get away with something less formal at your interview.
cubadog cubadog 9 years
There is such a spectrum as to what is acceptable by industry so you should be doing the research about the company not your recruiter. The person interviewing you will know right away that your recruiter told you everything. Chances are if the recuiter told you they also told the 5 other people she is sending in for the interview. The wear light colors comment is completely stupid to say the least. I have worked extremely hard for my career and if your intimidated by what I wear so be it. Wear what makes you feel confident and is professional for your industry.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 9 years
Generally, bosses shouldn't be intimidating, whether they are men or women. They should be firm and fair, but not intimidating. And I think the comment about the lighter color suits doesn't mention men because men's suit colors have alot less color variety and are usually darker colors. You don't see alot of men in white suits....unless you work in an insane asylum.
tbgallagher tbgallagher 9 years
i completely agree GeriAnne1932. I work in an extremely relaxed environment but try and dress business casual. however, not earning a particularly stellar amount of money, it works out expensive to buy a lot of nice pants and shirts. So unfortunately I quite often find myself falling back into the jeans and t-shirt mode.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Those are awesome tips! Thanks savvy :)
krampalicious krampalicious 9 years
i actually have an interview tomorrow morning--thanks for the tips!
GeriAnne1932 GeriAnne1932 9 years
I just think rules like this are so bazaar and yet just plain common sense. However, I did read an article either in the NYT or somewhere that talked about how a gentleman had an employee who would wear mini skirts and flip a business attire setting. So maybe it's a whole new generation of employees entering the workforce who seem to lack the common sense to know what is appropriate. Additionally, I would really really hope that just because someone can't afford the best of professional clothing, that they would be passed over for a job. Employees who make 20k should not be held to the same standards as employees who make 100k more than that. It's all in the presentation, but I sometimes think people equate expensive professional clothing as being the only option.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
chatondeneige, That is exactly what she should be. A woman boss should not be your friend, same as your mom should not be your friend. I always thought the best teachers for me were the hardass ones that I feared, but I always learned best under them. Luckily I'm not a boss anymore, but when I was 22 I got put into a position to be one for teenagers. THE WORST!
chatondeneige chatondeneige 9 years
absolut_lauren is right on with this - If you're unsure of the dress code at the office (or applied for the job yourself, sans recruiter) go a step or two up from what you think they're wearing, you can dress down later. SkinnyMarie - You sound like an intimidating boss, regardless of the color of your suit! ;) I'm the worker for several partners, and I work my butt off, just as I know they did to get there... but I'm 22, of course I'm not a partner anywhere, I don't even have my degree yet! That said, I think women should be as intimidating as they please. I was terrified of my boss when I met her, now I think she's the bees' knees, and she thinks the same of me.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
clarient I agree. If I'm higher up, I should be able to wear what I want. I think that whole "nonintimidating" thing is stupid. So a male coworker in the same position can be intimidating, but I can't because I'm a woman? Honestly I would be harder on my workers because I worked my butt off to get where I was.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Great tips. I try to dress as professional as possible but no suit for me. I feel like it's presenting myself as someone I'm not and actually makes me feel UNcomfortable than more comfortable.
absolut_lauren absolut_lauren 9 years
For an interview in a business or corporate industry, you should always dress to impress, and always be dressed professionally even if they go by business-casual in the workplace. If you get the job, then you can relax to their standards.
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