What To Wear To A Job Interview

You got the interview! What are you going to wear? What should you wear?

Today’s tips in our continuing series on successful interviewing is all about what to wear. We’ve talked about your winning profile picture, and preparing for your interview. Today we’ll find out about dressing to get the job.

Why is this even an issue? Let’s face it, we live in a pretty casual world. People even wear sweats to church and shop in their PJs and fuzzy slippers. That can make it hard to decide exactly what the right thing to wear really is.

Here’s a great example of clothes making all the difference from the hiring manager I interviewed for this series:

“When my stepson was 17 he applied for Kmart and was the only one hired out of five interviewees that day.

The reason the manager told him he got the job because of the way he dressed for the interview. Khakis and a nice polo (tucked in) with dress shoes. The hiring manager told him that he was hired because of the way he dressed and how he presented himself (polite and respectful). He had no experience at all. He showed up and worked hard for Kmart for 3 years. Because of his good employment record he was hired at a cable company, once again with no experience..

Appearance and good communication make all the difference.”

Let’s talk specifics.

For The Office

For women seeking an office job, wearing a business suit with a skirt or slacks and a tailored blouse is great. With sleeves is better than sleeveless, unless it’s under a suit jacket or very nice cardigan.

Wear a slip or a camisole if your blouse or dress is even slightly see thru. Make sure your bra straps do not show. Wear a bra.

As to shoes, a more conservative flat, pump or a slightly lower set of heels is great. Keep your makeup lowkey, and your hairstyle neat and tidy. Easy on the jewelry and perfume.

For men: Wear a suit, shirt, tie and dress shoes. Make sure your hair is neatly styled and you’ve shaved. Easy on the cologne, after shave, or body wash. Be sure your shoes are polished.

The difference between business and business casual office wear.

Do your homework. Pay attention to the environment or culture of the company you’re applying to, whether their atmosphere is casual or more formal. Never be afraid to ask the person who is setting up your appointment with you.

What to Avoid

  • Too much jewelry or makeup.
  • Avoid low cut tops and short skirts, and flip flop styled shoes or stilettos.
  • Avoid too much scent.

Retail Associates

Dress to the level that you have seen other associates dress in the place you want to work. High end retail outlets are going to be different than Walmart or Kmart, Trendy, edgy shops have a whole other dress code.

For men: Nice khakis or casual slacks (not jeans) with a button down or polo shirt. Tuck your shirt in and wear a nice belt. Wear either dress or more casual slip on shoes but avoid athletic shoes, especially run down ones. Polish out scuffs and make sure you don’t have dirt or mud on your shoes.

For women: Wear slacks or a skirt, not jeans, with a nice business casual top or blouse. Wear appropriate shoes for the environment. If the retail position is in a higher end store, dress as you would for a professional office job.

Production and Construction

If you are applying for a production/factory position wear khakis or nice slacks. If you do wear jeans, make them your nicest jeans with a polo or button down shirt. Women can wear a nice blouse if they like. Make sure your jeans have no holes, stains and are not faded. If you can avoid it don’t wear athletic shoes. If you do, make sure they are clean and not dingy.

Most manufacturing companies require steel or hard toe boots. Wearing a pair to the interview can show you are serious and understand the job. Do be sure you understand what type of boot is required before you go out and drop a bunch of money, though.

On A Personal Note …

Cleanliness counts. Be sure both you and your clothes are fresh, clean. Your clothes should be unwrinkled, and well-fitting, neither too baggy nor too tight.  Conservative is good, in both cut and color.

Strong Odors, whether perfumes, body odors, or essential oils can be unpleasant and cause problems in the workplace. Many people are sensitive to fragrances, including laundry products and very strongly scented deodorants.

If you’re worried about BO, shower regularly and wear deodorant, don’t try to cover it up with more scent. That just gets nasty. A good rule is that your scent should stay on you, not around you. People should not be able to smell you before you enter a room or even before you get out of your car.

How is your manicure? Your hands should be clean, tidy and well-groomed. That goes for your oral health as well. Stained teeth, inflamed gums and death breath tell potential employers that even if you are dressed nicely today, you probably don’t look like that every day and you could become a problem to the Human Resources department.

The Bottom Line

Businesses fail all the time, and a lot of those failures are because of staffing problems and poor customer service. If employees don’t look trustworthy and professional, then customers will go where they feel comfortable. The company will lose business, and they can’t take that risk.

If there is a choice between a smiling person dressed appropriately or someone dressed radically with visible tattoos, the Clark Kent type is going to get the job.

What you wear to the interview can show you will be easy to work with and willing to bring value to their company. It’s a sign of respect for both them and yourself.

If you show you are flexible enough to adjust your personal taste to the needs of their business. they’ll be willing to take a gamble on hiring you. Win win. They stay in business, you get a job and keep living indoors.


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