You perfected your resume, applied for the position and now you’ve scored yourself a job interview. First of all, congratulations! Now all you have to do is wow the recruiter with your clever, direct responses to her questions, thoughtful insights on the company and fabulous interview outfit. Easier said than done, we know, but dressing for the occasion doesn’t have to be a big deal so long as you know the rules of what to wear to an interview. Read on for tips on how to dress to impress, plus shop some of our favorite foolproof interview staples.
What to Wear to an Interview to Help You Land the Job
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General Rules To Follow:
1. If you can’t wear a regular bra with it, it’s not appropriate.
Yes, even if you want to work in a creative field where dress codes are often much more relaxed, now is not the time to sport an adorable off-the-shoulder top, open-back dress or one-shoulder blouse. This includes those who work in fashion. It doesn’t matter if the biggest trend in the world right now is strapless silhouettes—if it requires special undergarments it’s definitely a no-go.
2. When in doubt, lean toward a more conservative look.
You don’t have to wear a suit for an interview at your local Starbucks or for a position as a physical therapist, but that doesn’t mean you should show up in ripped jeans and an oversize tee. It’s better to be overdressed than under, especially if you’re hoping to impress the people you’re talking to, so pick things with a bit more polish, like a neat cardigan over slacks or a button-down shirt tucked into black, non-distressed jeans.
3. Sorry, but no cleavage.
We wish very much that we lived in a world in which women’s bodies weren’t considered “distracting” or “unprofessional.” And although we’ve begun to move in the right direction, there is still a very high chance your interviewer won’t find your low-cut top or dress appropriate. Err on the side of caution and wear something with more coverage, at least enough to not show cleavage, then let the girls go wild when you meet up with friends to celebrate getting the job.
4. Nothing too tight.
This is honestly more for your comfort than anything. If you feel constricted physically, you’re less likely to be able to think on your feet and go with the flow during the interview. Feeling comfortable is key to making a good impression, so you might as well start with your clothes (and shoes!).
5. No sweatpants, even on Zoom.
Remember early in the pandemic when it seemed like there was a new Zoom wardrobe malfunction horror story coming out every single week? Don’t be this week’s horror story. Dress from head to toe just in case you’re mistaken about what’s visible in your video. Sometimes unexpected things happen and you’ll need to stand up to get a tissue or retrieve your resume or a book you want to discuss and now you’re forced to address the fact that you’re still wearing your pajama bottoms. As a bonus, you’re also more likely to feel like you’re on you’re A game if you’re fully dressed for the occasion.
6. Wear the entire outfit at least once before the big day.
Runners are big fans of the mantra “nothing new on race day,” but it works equally well for job interviews. Give your outfit a dress rehearsal (pun very much intended) so you know how it feels to move around in it. You might discover you don’t actually feel all that comfortable in it after all, but now you still have plenty of time to make changes rather than simply pushing through.
If you’ve applied for a job at your favorite pizzeria, clothing store or even a boutique hotel you admire, the best thing to do is simply to copy the outfits of those who already work there, adding just a bit more refinement. You want to look tidy and professional. If the coffee baristas all wear jeans, flannel shirts and ankle boots to work, choose jeans in a clean wash with no distressing, a flannel shirt that’s not too oversized nor too tight and boots that are easy to walk in with no scuffs or tattered laces. You should look like a spiffed up version of the company’s best-dressed employee. Even if there is a uniform involved, like at a fast food restaurant or airline, showing up in something similar can help the interviewer to literally picture you in the role, so do some research and don’t be afraid to invest in something new if you want to look the part.
The vast majority of offices nowadays fit under the business casual umbrella. Think of this as one step above jeans and one step below formal office attire. Button-up blouses, blazers, trousers, pencil and pleated midi skirts, sweater sets—all are appropriate for this type of work environment. You can even have a bit more fun with patterns (think more plaid, stripes and dainty florals than tropical fronds or loud graphics) and colors (emerald green is fine, neon green is not). For your interview, it’s best to skew toward the more formal end of the business casual spectrum. Try a blazer over neat trousers and a crew-neck blouse or knee-length A-line dress, and finish with practical footwear like ballet flats, loafers or low block heels.
Fashion, Art, Publishing
If you want a job that requires creativity then it’s a good idea to show off your personality a bit in the interview, and this can include wearing something that’s a bit more fun than simple business casual. A blouse in a more vibrant print or pleated skirt with contrasting belt can give the interviewer more of a sense of who you are. That said, it’s important not to go overboard. Consider these offices off-shoots of the Business Casual category above and keep that advice in mind when you plan your look. The best advice we can give is when in doubt to always err on the side of caution with pieces that are simpler and more polished.
Finance, Law, Politics and the Like
In some ways, these interviews are the easiest to dress for because these industries have a fairly well set, narrow expected dress code. Opt for sharp tailoring in the form of a suit with a button-down shirt, or you can sport a blazer over an office-appropriate dress (don’t wear anything that hits above the knee and add black tights in fall and winter). Wear sensible footwear—neat loafers, pointy-toe flats or block heels you can actually walk in—and make sure your bag is equally sleek. Avoid anything too trendy or fussy and, unless you know for sure from current employees at the company that it’s OK, opt for neutral hues (black, navy or gray) over patterns or brighter shades.
Foolproof Interview Clothing Options:
1. acevog Bow-tie Neck Blouse
This breezy tie-neck blouse can be styled multiple ways—a neat bow, draped knot, left open—and comes in a whopping 38 different colors. Some are a bit too bright for interview day, but if you’re working in a more creative field that could absolutely be worn to the office once you’ve got the job or for casual Fridays. Plus, it has almost 4,500 reviews with folks raving about how easy and comfortable this blouse is, and how it looks far more expensive than its under-$30 price tag.
2. lee Secretly Shapes Straight Leg Pants
These classic trousers have hidden shaping panels at the hips, rear and front to help smooth your silhouette and give you a little confidence boost on interview day and beyond. They come in 11 different shades and three inseam lengths (petite and tall ladies, rejoice!). Per one happy reviewer, “The material is soft and has a decent amount of stretch, and I love that they have so functional pockets. It has been surprisingly hard to find dressy/business causal pants with real pockets. Would absolutely buy again!”
3. kasper Sleeveless Sheath Dress
With three neutral hues to choose from (plus bright red if you’re interviewing in a more business casual space), this sheath is a phenomenal layering piece that will work under blazers, cardigans or even pull-over knits, and can be worn all year round. According to reviews the dress runs true to size and is surprisingly comfortable. Many also mention how easy it is to make this simple frock feel fresh with the addition of a belt, statement necklace, scarf or even an old-school brooch.
4. tommy Hilfiger Classic Two-button Blazer
Tommy Hilfiger is a great brand to shop for work-ready apparel, but we’re particularly fond of this easy blazer. It hits at just the right spot, not too high on the hip to crop your torso and not too low as to swallow you whole, and comes in a multitude of solid hues, stripes and plaids. This dark navy color combo is definitely our favorite however, because it will easily work over jeans and a tee for the weekend too.
5. van Heusen ¾-sleeve V-neck Top
If you don’t want to deal with the stress of buttons potentially pulling or looking wonky, opt for a clean button-free top like this silky number by Van Heusen. We love that the neckline has some detail but not so much as to feel fussy and it would even work for more conservative offices. It comes in a few patterns, but we prefer the solid hues for interview day.
6. billie The Label Sofia Midi Shirt Dress
You can pretty much never go wrong with a classic shirtdress. We love that this one has an adjustable cinched waist so those with a larger chest can size up to ensure no button gaping and still give their figure a flattering shape. The midi length will also look gorgeous on women of any height, especially if you add in a block heel to lengthen your frame.
7. j.crew Parke Blazer In Wool Flannel
This blazer is one of J.Crew’s ultimate best-sellers and comes back year after year in our go-to hues—navy, black, gray—as well as some more casual options like camel. We also appreciate that this timeless topper is available in both petite and tall sizes so you don’t have to take it to a tailor to make adjustments. And while you can’t see it when the collar is folded down (a benefit for more formal offices), the collar actually has a contrasting panel underneath that’s fun to show off if you’re interviewing someplace with a more creative vibe.
8. m.m.lafleur The Jane Dress
Another fabulous year-round layering piece, this midi is flattering, professional and incredibly easy to dress up or down. We suggest opting for the black or navy versions of this dress if you want to play it safe—you can always add interest with a bolder necklace or scarf.
9. nic + Zoe Wonderstretch Straight Leg Pants
These easy trousers come in both black and beige, but their real appeal is in the stretchy material that easily accommodates curvier hips and won’t dig into your waist, even after you’ve enjoyed a big post-interview celebratory lunch. In fact, Nic + Zoe is a great brand overall to check out if you want to expand your workwear collection, with a wide variety of pants options, matching blazers and easy tops to layer in-between.
10. Alex Mill Bobby Shirt In Paper Cotton
There’s a reason the white button down is considered one of the ultimate wardrobe staples. It can so easily be dressed to fit just about any occasion, including interviews for just about any field or industry. Just be sure t to iron or steam it so you look polished and proper on the big day.