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5 Tips for Choosing What to Wear to an Interview

Don’t let inappropriate attire sabotage your next interview. [TWEET]

Dust off those dress clothes and polish your shoes, time to get ready for an interview! Dressing the part is just as important as writing a resume or cover letter. The interview or a job fair is where your hard work pays off and you get the chance to put on a show. Choosing your interview attire to keep in line with today's dress code, is much like playing poker. Reading the cards, knowing the players and cultivating a winning hand are all part of the process.

Let’s be clear here. There are no cut-and-dry answers or easy solutions for what to wear to an interview. Some professions require all but a tuxedo to win the job. Other hiring managers don’t care, as long as you don’t show up in a T-shirt and jeans. Here are five guidelines to help you dress for success.

1. Dress better than the guy next to you.

When preparing for an interview, look at the next two positions directly above the one you’re applying. Use their dress code to determine what to wear to an interview. This shows you have the drive to move up in life. For example, applicants interviewing for shift supervisor at Walmart may wear khakis and a polo shirt on the job. However, go the extra mile and impress the hiring manager by showing up in a suit and tie. This shows the boss you have an executive mentality. Before an interview, be sure you:

  • Research dress codes for your position and industry.

  • Look at the two immediate positions above you for inspiration.

  • Dress for success, but don’t go overboard.

2. Dress the part.

Hollywood actors know playing the part is more than reciting lines and choosing the right moment to let loose a tear, their wardrobe has to complement their performance. When it's time to get dressed for the interview, keep in mind that it’s not so much that you're trying to get the job with what you wear, you’re incorporating your attire into the overall presentation. Hiring managers decide in 10 seconds if they don't want to hire you. If your presentation is flawless and attire matches, they may have a more difficult time eliminating you from their list. Before the interview, be sure to:

  • Wear neutral colors, and stay away from patterns.

  • Google interview videos to see the current trends.

  • Consider comfort and climate at the office.

3. Stay up-to-date.

Interviews are all about sending messages. Nothing sends a bad message faster than an outdated interview outfit that does not adhere to day's dress code. This doesn’t mean you have to wear the current fad, just stay away from clothes older than five years. Wearing fresh, new styles sends the message you are in touch with the here and now.

Another red flag to watch for is going too fresh and casual. Yes, hiring managers want to see young, fresh styles. They want to know you are part of the new world. They don’t want to see nose rings, sandals, or applicants who look like they are ready for a night out with their friends. Don’t dress like you just graduated college, even if this is the case. Dress like you’ve had similar jobs or better. Remember to:

  • Say no to clothes and styles older than five years.

  • Don’t go too casual or dress like you’re on your way to the club.

  • Stay up-to-date on current styles.

4. Remember the occasion.

Suit and tie or other professional garb may not always be the best route to go. Some jobs simply don’t require formal attire. Remember, you are painting a picture of the type of candidate you are with the interview dress code. The best way to avoid embarrassment is research. Talk to local recruiters and college education centers. They know the industry and will guide you in appropriate dress.

Another occasion to prepare for is weather and climate. Wearing a thin dress shirt and tie may not be very practical during Michigan’s colder winters. A dress sweater over the shirt would fit the climate perfectly. On the other hand, stuffy dress clothes may be uncomfortable if you’re interviewing in Nevada’s desert heat. General rule of thumb: Dress the part, but make sure you stay comfortable. Remember to:

  • Pick clothes to accommodate the climate and season.

  • Research the industry to determine the best attire.

  • Stay comfortable, and don’t try to wear something you know makes you sweat.

5. Stay comfortable.

Again, comfort is important in interviews. Hiring managers can spot someone who is nervous and uncomfortable. Your discomfort may come from those new shoes you bought yesterday. The hiring manager doesn’t know that. They may assume you are nervous due to inexperience or reason. When deciding what to wear to an interview, pick your clothes to help you win the job. Your attire should compliment. Don’t wear brand new clothes. Wear an outfit that is tried and true. Break in new shoes at least several days before the big day. And, remember the biggest embarrassment to avoid: remove the tags. Remember to:

  • Wear clothes you are comfortable with, not new, itchy suits that’s never been worn.

  • Break in your shoes.

  • Always remove the tags after purchase.

Takeaways

Dressing for success isn’t difficult. You just need to do a little homework on interview dress code and make sure to be yourself. Interview apparel should complement your presentation, much like an actor’s wardrobe. Consider the industry, position, two positions above you and climate. These will help you develop a perfect match every time. While there is no true set of guidelines, keep the following in mind:

  • Stay comfortable.

  • Think stylish and current rather than glamorous.

  • Dress like you’ve been in the industry longer than you have.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!