What kind of “first impression” will your clothes, shoes, and overall appearance give as you interview? Dressing for an interview (business attire) is different from dressing for dinner at a fancy restaurant (formal evening wear), just as “business casual” is different from just “casual”. Knowing what to wear for interviews, career fairs, and once you’re on the job is an important career-building skill. The right clothes won’t get you the job, but the wrong clothes may close doors before your first handshake.
1. Always dress professionally for an interview. A Wall Street recruiter emphasizes the importance of wearing conventional attire and having a well-groomed appearance for any interview: "Although appearance is important you want to make sure that you are remembered for your skills and not your clothing. It is important to dress smart and conservative. We recommend wearing a dark colored suit with a neutral colored shirt or blouse. Skirt or pant suit is appropriate for women. Avoid busy-patterned ties and excessive amounts of jewelry or accessories. You want the interviewer to focus on you and not what you're wearing."
2. Wear clothing and shoes that are clean, neat, and tailored. You don’t have to run out and buy a new suit every time you get called for an interview. In fact, you can use one classic suit for all your interviews by changing your shirt, tie, or accessories, as long as it is cleaned before your interview. Check that your clothing and shoes fit well and are not tattered or stained. You’ll be able to convey confidence and responsibility with a look that is polished and “put-together”.
3. Stick with neutral colors. For both men and women, it is best to dress in a neutral colored suit, such as navy, black, gray, or brown. Blouses and shirts should also be in neutral shades of white, cream, blue, etc.
4. Minimize accessories and fragrance. Keep your tie simple. Jewelry, scarves, and other accessories should blend in with your outfit and not attract too much attention. You should also minimize colognes or other fragrances as interviewing spaces can be rather tight.
5. Make adjustments based on the industry and the situation. It is true that some industries welcome an appearance that is more stylish or creative than standard interview attire. Those interviewing for positions in fashion or architecture, for example, may want to express their own style through their appearance. Some employers may tell you to dress in “business casual” for an interview, in which case their instructions should be followed.Keep in mind, however, that an interview is still a professional situation and that you should exercise judgment with your choices. If you are unsure ask the recruiter or someone in the organization what would be appropriate.
6. Remember that “business casual” does not equal “casual”. Though it often means no ties or jackets for men and sweater sets or other knit tops for women, it does NOT mean at-home weekend wear. Do not wear jeans, cut-offs, wrinkled khakis, sweats, t-shirts, or flip flops if the event calls for “business casual”. A polo-style shirt may be acceptable for men, as well as less formal shoes for women. Low-cut shirts, high skirts and tight pants are never acceptable in a professional environment.