How To Design the Perfect Interview Outfit

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Dressing for an interview is a crucial element in winning the job. Although it has been said that it’s the man (or women) not the suit that matters, the reality is that first impressions are everything.

So the question is, is it possible to over dress for an interview?

I’ve had the privilege of sitting on both ends of the table and in my opinion, I don’t think it’s possible to over dress.  Although some companies are more casual than others, I think it’s generally understood that interviewees will typically dress with the idea of creating an excellent first impression.

A friend of mine interviewed at a local tech company for a sales position. For the interview, he wore a suit and tie. When he walked into the interview, he found that he was the most dressed up person on the floor. He said that this made the interview a little awkward. My friend later asked me whether he should have dressed more casually for the interview. There are many schools of thought on this.

If you are interviewing for a position at a company that has a relaxed culture, I think most people can get away with simply wearing a suit with a well paired shirt. Although some people may disagree with this logic, interviewers are looking for both aptitude and  cultural fit. The means that in the interview,  the hiring manager is typically are looking at you through the lens of whether or not they can imagine you working at the company.

On the other hand, it can be argued that you can never really overdress for an interview. A mentor of mine insists that it’s always better to be overdressed than to be too casually dressed. I tend to agree with the more conservative approach because dressing too casually can often backfire

Here are a few tips for designing your interview outfit:

  • Focus on fit! Well fitting suits exude confidence and attention to detail.
  • The tie can make or break an outfit so choose wisely. Slimmer ties are back in vogue.
  • Shine your shoes. Unpolished shoes look incredibly unprofessional.
  • Use classic accessories such as tie clips, cuff links and pocket squares. But don’t go over board. Stick to simple designs.
  • Make sure your suit and shirt doesn’t have wrinkles
  • Dress to your comfort level. If you’ve never worn a tie, then consider leaving it out as it may make you feel awkward in the interview.
  • Wear bold color combinations and pair it with greys and blacks.
  • Do a bit of research on the company to see what kind of culture they have. You would most likely plan your outfit differently for a law firm versus a tech company.
  • Wear your favorite professional work outfit to your interview. A well put together outfit that you’ve stylized exudes confidence.

One last point, is that while looking sharp is really important, it doesn’t replace preparation. Make sure you’re on your A game both in your outfit and in your head.

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15 comments

  1. Hey Erik! I’m a huge fan of three piece suits. Glad you like the one above. It sounds like overdressing works for the interviews you’ve had so far! I’m curious to hear what other people will say.

  2. Great topic – thanks for sharing. I have had an interview recently where they were concerned I was over experienced and needed to downplay myself a little, but still be professional and confident! It’s a tough one, but I lean more towards it’s ok to be overdressed as this shows you are serious about the interview. I once worked with a guy who was applying for an internal position and it was a better job for him, but not a promotion. We were a casual organisation and dressed mostly in polo shirts. He arrived on the day in a suit and of course they said he didn’t need to worry, but it gave him the opportunity for him to say how excited and serious he was about the job!

    I’d be interested to hear what you think about interview-wear for women?

    1. Thanks for sharing that story! Internal interviews are always a bit awkward because if you work in a casual environment, it can seem odd to dress up!

      Also, thanks for bringing up the point about interview-wear for women. A friend of mine will be writing part 2 of this post which will include tips for women!

  3. You should always dress up for an interview! Don’t fear over dressing. Dressing up shows you are serious, professional, and presentable to clients and others you would interact with on the job, and will represent the business well. Just today at work someone came in for an interview in a pretty casual outfit. On a normal day of work her attire would be fine but for an interview I took one look at her and though, How Sloppy!

    1. Good point! I agree that dressing up is a really good way to show people that you are serious for the interview. Thanks for reading the post!

  4. So you are saying no skinny tie? I mean I think there exist today 3-types of tie sizes. Regular, slim and skinny (in descending order according to size). So those tacky skinny ties are obviously excluded, but about about like a slim tie that is not oddly skinny?

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