How to Dress for a Job Interview?

We all know what is work appropriate after we get the job, thanks to the dress code prescribed by every organization. But, most of us are clueless about how to dress for an interview. We are afraid we might look too uptight or end up looking underdressed for the part. Thanks to one of my readers, I have written this article that explains what is job interview appropriate depending on which level of the corporate hierarchy you are aiming at.


Formal wear changes its meaning depending on your profession. (For details, read : Formal Wear – How to Put Together Your Work Wardrobe.) There is a huge spectrum from the really stiff suits to fun colorful clothes. But, when it comes to a job interview the differences are subtle and are based on which level in the organizational hierarchy you are applying for and not what field you are in. An interview is a serious affair and you want to look and be taken seriously.


Dress for Job InterviewGeneral Job Interview Guidelines

1. Look Professional

No matter what the job entails, you should look the part. Come across like you mean business. Only then will you command respect and be taken seriously.


2. Look Like You Care About Your Appearance

If you can’t care enough to dress well for the interview how much are you going to care about the job? Shabby clothes, untamed hair or worn out shoes just say you are too careless a person and definitely don’t go to make a good first impression.


3. Formal But Not Too Uptight

You want to be formal – it’s a job interview after all! But, you shouldn’t look stiff or too uncomfortable in your clothes. You shouldn’t be fidgeting with your jacket button or any of your accessories. You should look and feel confident in what you wear coz, if you don’t, it reflects in your interview. So, if you have never worn a suit before, practice before wearing it for the interview. Get used to it so you can fully concentrate on doing your best in the interview.


 4. Pay Attention to Your Hair

Keep your hair simple. If you like to leave it loose, make sure your hair looks well groomed and there are no fly-aways. If your hair is very long, tying it up will be a better idea.


 5. Make Up is a Must

Make up should be used to hide your flaws and play up your best feature. It should never be overdone. The trick is to keep everyone guessing if it’s your natural self or made up look. The cakey, gaudy look is very distracting and will do no good in an interview. Use a good foundation to even out your skin tone. You can use eye liner and mascara to brighten your eyes. Use a light blush on the apples of your cheek and finish with a lipstick that is very close to the natural shade of your lips. Avoid lip liners.


6. Be All Covered Up

This is not the time to flaunt your assets. Your clothes should definitely fit well but by no means be distracting. Plunging necklines, form fitting clothes, very short skirts can never get the interviewer to look beyond your clothes and judge your caliber. Revealing clothes make you seem like you are using your body to cover up your lack of talent for the job. Even if you are going for the post of a secretary, a sexy secretary look is best reserved after you have landed the job!


 7. Choose the Right Fabric

Go for rich fabrics like silk, wool, satin and crisp cotton. Linen, though a beautiful fabric tends to crease very easily. So it’s not for your interview. No 100% polyester please. Also, avoid clingy materials at all cost – it just looks cheap for a formal occasion like this.


Specific Job Interview Guidelines

Now that you know the general rules that are applicable to everyone appearing for a personal interview, let’s look at the specifics in terms of clothes and accessories appropriate for the level you are aiming for.


For a Senior Management Level

You want to be absolutely professional. If you are unsure of something, don’t wear it. A suit with structured jacket is a must. Go for darker neutrals like gray, navy or brown. You can wear pastel color shirts. But try and avoid very bright colors. Stick to pumps and a formal bag again in neutrals.

Since there is not much room for experimenting with colors, you can play with textures or patterns. Try pin striped or very light window pane pattern in the suit. It’s subtle but makes a difference. Croc leather pumps or bag also bring excitement to the outfit without compromising on the professional look. Pearls are the best but you can go for delicate accessories with small diamonds or some semi precious stones as well.

If you want to look more feminine, go for a skirt suit with ruffled cotton shirts. The skirt should hit at the knee. Don’t forget the pantyhose!


Mid Management InterviewFor a Mid Management Level

Depending on the kind of organization a suit may or may not be mandatory. If you don’t want to take a chance, go with the suit – better overdressed than underdressed for a job interview. Otherwise, you have a little more liberty to play with colors. But don’t wear bright colors by themselves – your outfit should only have a pop of color – like a red satin blouse under a gray jacket. Apart from trousers and skirts, you can also opt for a shift dress with a jacket for a unique yet professional look. The dress should hit at the knee.

As for shoes and handbags, a little color is fine but nothing over the top. Depending on the color of your clothes, here are you non-neutral options in shoes and bags – olive, deep purple, teal, deep red, dark wine. Avoid bright colors like fuchsia, turquoise, orange, yellow, bright green and so on. Remember, no animal prints to interviews, please! But you can play with textures like snake leather or suede. Patent leather is best avoided.

You can also experiment with jewelry. Go for the slightly bold colors and chunky pieces to make your look more interesting. But make sure there is only one focus item. If you are wearing a beautiful pendant or a chunky necklace, let your earrings and bracelet recede in the background. If your bracelet is the focal piece, keep the earrings and necklace really simple. You get the drift, right?


For Entry Level Position

This is the most precarious stage. You are not quite out of the student mode yet as you are afraid of looking matronly if you shun your college gear. A notion that most young women have is that they have to dress in their teenage clothes to look young. You cannot be more wrong! You don’t want to look younger in your twenties – you already are young. You should focus on looking your age. Accept the fact that you are no longer in college, no longer a teenager and embrace this new stage in life.

You are entering the professional world and you want to look like you belong there. Remember Legally Blonde 2, where Elle (Reese Witherspoon) is mistaken to be an intern every time she is spotted on the main corridor because of the way she dresses? Well, trust me, you don’t want to be in that situation. In a corporate world, you want to be taken seriously and to be given the due respect and the most important step towards this is dressing right for the part.

You have the liberty to avoid the suit and go for formal dresses or formal blouse with skirts or trousers. You can play with bold colors but keep the textures rich – you can even wear a structured leather jacket in a neutral color. Irrespective of the place you are applying for a job, you need to maintain a certain level of decorum and carry yourself well. Refrain from shopping at the Juniors’ section at any cost. Keep the prints simple – geometric are the best.

Shoes and bags shouldn’t be too funky either. Carry a formal bag and wear pumps in a color that‘s not too bright. If you are applying for a job at an investment bank or any other highly formal workplace, make sure you wear a jacket and look more sober with neutral colors in clothes, shoes and bag. Any other place wouldn’t expect an entry level candidate to wear suits.



  • Pay attention to your appearance – clothes, accessories, make up, hair
  • Your look should say professional but try not to appear stiff
  • For a senior management position – suits are a must ; play with textures but stick to neutral colors
  • For a middle management position – suits may be optional; play with colors but keep them to a minimum
  • For an entry level job interview- experiment with colors, patterns and textures but keep the look formal; no juniors’ collection

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