A Few Tips on What to Wear to a Job Interview

Your first interview for a “real” job can feel both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking.

Sure, you’ve probably had interviews already for a high school or college job at a fast food joint or your local golf course—and those are actually great experience! However, an interview for a business job—the kind where you wear a suit and tie to work or the kind where a panel of people are interviewing you—can be a bit different.

Putting your best foot forward at an interview is essential. These days, there’s a lot more competition out there—many students have internships under their belt, along with personal recommendations to boot. While your clothes might not seem like an important element when it comes to an interview, they’re actually a huge part of what goes into making a first impression. We’ve pulled together a few tips to consider as you’re putting together your outfit for the big day.

1. Take note of what current employees wear 

For most interviews, it’s a good idea to dress up. However, this rule only stands if the company you’re applying to work for also has a fairly strict dress code that requires a suit and tie, pantsuit, dress, etc. If the business has a more overt policy to dress casual, you want to be careful about going overboard. It’s a good idea to dress one step up from the current dress code. So if most of the employees are wearing jeans to work each day, you might consider chinos or a casual skirt.

However, if the company you’re applying to work at requires a suit and tie each day, you’re going to want to really go for it in the professional wardrobe department. Pick out your outfit the night before your interview and lay it out so you don’t run into any stress wondering wear your nylons are at or what happened to your belt.

2. Make sure things are clean and ironed

When you’re in high school and college, most of your peers and the other adults you interact with don’t really mind if your shirt is wrinkled or your pants have holes in the knees. It’s a different story when you’re interviewing for a professional job. Hiring managers notice what you’re wearing, and if your clothes look frumpy and unkempt, it may be easy for them to assume that you don’t really care about the job you’ve applied for.

While hauling out your iron and ironing board can feel a bit cumbersome, it really is worth it in the end. And for heaven’s sake, please make sure you’re clothes are clean and don’t smell like the bottom of your hamper.

3. Make sure YOU are clean and groomed

Yes, as crazy as it sounds, it’s a good idea to take a shower now and then—even and ESPECIALLY before your interview. Depending on the job, you might want to consider shaving that beard or pulling your hair back into a simple bun or ponytail. While you shouldn’t be discriminated against for your looks, there’s something to say for at least trying to look a bit put together. Consider getting that haircut, don’t forget deodorant, and don’t overdo it on the makeup.

4. Tattoos and jewelry

This can be a tricky one, but it’s important to know that many workplaces prefer that their employees don’t showcase elaborate tattoos or extreme jewelry, such as chains, spikes, or aggressive piercings. Cover up where you can and wait to have a conversation about it with your supervisor AFTER you’ve gotten the job.

5. Technology

In this day and age, it’s fairly normal to see everyone and their brother on a mobile device while they wait. However, checking your phone while you’re in an interview is an absolute no no. Not only will it look like you’re uninterested in the job, but it’s just plain rude do that when another person is trying to have a conversation with you. To them, you might appear as an easily distracted interviewee, and no one wants to hire someone who they know will get distracted on the job.

Play it safe and keep your phone on silent, out of your hands, and tucked away in your pocket or purse.