First impressions are everything. It takes only one tenth of a second for us to make up our minds about new people we meet.1 In an interview especially, where both parties are deliberately tasked with making definitive judgements about the people in front of them, it’s important to make that first impression count. For interviewees contending for a new job opportunity, the first few seconds will be more about your physical appearance—the clothes you wear—than about the skill set or core values you can bring to the table.
Dress codes vary by industry and company culture, and when deciding what to wear to your interview, you may want to take these factors into consideration to show you understand the field and would make a good fit for the role. For example, wearing a suit, tie and jacket to a law firm immediately tells an interviewer that you understand the corporate culture of their industry and are prepared to fit right in.
To choose the right attire for your next job interview, you’ll need to know when business casual and professional attire apply, as well as some important interview attire dos and don’ts.
Business Casual vs. Professional Interview Attire
Whether applying for an administrative, professional or light industrial job, an interviewee typically has two attire options: business casual or professional. Determining which route to take on interview day can be stressful, especially when you’re busy prepping for other aspects of the interview, like your answer to that challenging strengths and weaknesses question, but considering the daily functions, environment and dress code of the role you’re applying for can help you decide.
Business casual attire for light industrial positions
For light industrial positions, which can include assemblers, material handlers and press operators, among others, business casual clothes might be the most appropriate choice. These positions don’t typically require dress clothes on a daily basis, so overdressing for the interview can actually have a negative effect, giving the impression that you’re potentially overqualified for the role or don’t understand the nature of the industry.
Here are some great business casual interview attire options for men and women:
- Collared shirt or polo
- Jacket or cardigan
- Khaki pants, dress pants or knee-length skirt
- Dress shoes, loafers, flats or heels
Professional interview attire for administrative and executive positions
For administrative and professional positions, which are more likely to be office-based, professional interview attire is the most appropriate option and will help the interviewer easily picture you in the role.
Here are some recommended professional interview attire options for men and women:
- Collared shirts or blouses in basic colors or solid patterns
- Suit or sports jacket and tie
- Knee-length skirts or dresses
- Suit pants or dress pants
- Dress shoes, low heels or flats
If you’re still unsure of what the appropriate dress code is for your interview, look to the website or social media channels of the company you’re interviewing for to see its team members in action. This will give you candid insight on what the work environment or office space looks like and how people dress, and then you can choose an outfit that takes the everyday attire up a notch. It’s natural for employees of some professional companies to dress more casual as time goes on, so consider these images the dress code minimum. Use the interview to put your best foot forward with an outfit that says you’re worth their time, especially if you’re interviewing for a leadership role.
What Not to Wear to an Interview
What about clothes that might leave a bad first impression? Knowing what not to wear can help you refine your overall appearance on interview day. A seasoned interviewee might know what’s risky, but new talent just entering the workforce might be lacking in proper interview attire and etiquette inspiration. What you wear and how you look isn’t the be-all and end-all of making a perfect first impression, but poor styling won’t help your cause.
- the color orange, which is often associated with someone unprofessional2
- distracting clothing or accessories that can deflect attention from your actual skills
- hairstyles that require constant touching or fixing
- blazers or button-down shirts that are too tight and can risk popping open
- clothes that risk showing sweat stains because let’s face it—interviews are nerve-wracking
- a new outfit that you’ve never worn because you don’t know how it will wear
It’s true what they say about dressing for the job you want—it gives you the confidence boost you need to succeed. After reading these tips, we hope you feel better prepared to choose your next interview outfit. Remember, first consider the industry and type of role you’re applying for and do your research to learn what professionals in your field wear on a daily basis. Once you identify the standard dress, kick it up a notch for interview day by choosing items from the lists above and being mindful of the don’ts that could lead you astray. A carefully selected interview outfit shows your interviewer that you care about this moment and will give you the confidence to stand out from the crowd.
Think you’re ready for your next interview? Get your job search going by reviewing the current job openings available through McCallion Staffing, or contact us today to speak with a McCallion Staffing Specialist about your career path and personal career goals. As a leading administrative, manufacturing and light industrial staffing agency, we know exactly what it takes to place top talent into rewarding career opportunities.
- Research shows first impressions really count, The Guardian
- Why you should never wear orange to a job interview, Workopolis
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