Clothing and the Interview

By Tracy Tomlinson, CM

Common Tips – What not to wear to an interview

  • Flip flops
  • Tank tops
  • Short shorts
  • Underwear that sticks out from your clothing (this includes bra straps)
  • Skirts or dresses that are too short
  • Shirts that are too low or that expose your stomach
  • Too much cologne or perfume
  • Hats

Seems like common sense, but is it?  Clothing styles, fashion, appropriateness in a workplace, and workplace culture are all relative and unique.  However, there are a few tried and steady tips.  Your objective is to make a good impression.  Looking your best in how you dress is an important part of how others perceive you.  Ask yourself – what message do you want to send to a potential employer; what does this outfit say about you? Presenting yourself as the best candidate for the job and the right fit for the company can start with your clothing choice at your interview.

What is the Dress Code?

You’ve made it this far – you got the call for the interview.  Your next step should be to do your research.  Research the company’s website for hints on workplace culture.  If the company doesn’t have a website or you aren’t able to get the information you’re looking for, do a run through before the interview.  Take a visit to the business.  Find out what employees are wearing on a regular day.  

The smart choice is always business casual.  This is professional attire that isn’t formal, but it is a step up from jeans and a T-shirt. Keep jewellery simple, wear neutral colours, choose dress pants or a skirt, a fitted sweater or cardigan.  Remember not to wear anything that looks loose and sloppy.  A blouse or button down shirt that is ironed and pressed is the best bet.  Ensure your clothing isn’t wrinkled or missing buttons.  Wear comfortable closed toe shoes, even sticking with black shoes as a rule.  Make sure your shoes are not scuffed.  Pay attention to details.  You want to look polished.  This includes nail polish – if you decide to wear nail polish, make sure it’s fresh and not chipped.  Brush your hair.  Also, make sure you look organized.  If you take a purse, chose one that’s simple and classic. Try your clothing on a day or two before the interview.  Do a dress rehearsal.  This way you can make sure there are no holes, no stains, and no pet hair on your clothing.  Simple and clean is your best choice.

Workplace Culture?
Do your research! 🙂

The industry and the job you are interviewing for (your role within the company) is a consideration at times.  For example, some would say stay away from athletic clothing and running shoes.  Perhaps, this is not the case when interviewing for a position at a gym or a athletic retail store such as SportChek and Foot locker. 

Recap: Tips for Interview success

  1. Do your homework
  2. Err on the side of overdressing
  3. Pay attention to details
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Have a dress rehearsal

Recap: Decoding dress codes

Business professional:  In a business professional environment, suits are the norm, for men and women.  Women might also wear skirts or dresses and low heels, while men could wear a blazer or suit jacket, button down shirts, dress pants and dress shoes.

Business casual: Suits aren’t necessary with business casual.  Simple and conservative in these cases.

Casual: It is still important to look polished and professional. You never want to appear too casual.