The right clothes to wear on job interviews for men and women

Tailored business options for women.

The right interview outfit can pay dividends well beyond its price. Although no company is likely to base a hiring decision directly on your outfit, decisions are made every day based on the beliefs your appearance causes an interviewer to form about you. 

Newest research reveals it takes as little as 7 seconds for someone to form a whole laundry list of impressions of you, and you want to be sure they are all positive ones. Learn how  to dress for success >>

Traditional businesswear for men.


Despite what many so-called experts promote, a navy blue suit is not the Magic Bullet. The right wardrobe choices for interviewing are far more nuanced. Here is the real info you need to know to create a winning first impression:

  • DO your homework to understand how the people in this organization dress for work. Is it a traditional suited environment, a free-wheeling casual/creative place or something in between. Ask a friend on the inside, check out the photos on the company web site or in the annual report, or drive to the parking lot at closing time and watch the people coming and going. Be aware that appearance styles within a large organization can vary widely from department to department, and adjust your intelligence gathering accordingly.
  • DRESS toward the top end of the looks your research reveals are appropriate. Dressing too casually can make you appear less serious about your candidacy for the position.
  • DON’T over-dress, though. A formal business suit in a more relaxed company can make you appear desperate and trying too hard, or position you in the dreaded “over-qualified” category.
  • DEFINE Business Casual with an emphasis on business and avoid social-casual attire. Choose instead:
  • Men (Business Casual): Nicer khaki trousers, not top-stitched cotton styles, with a small-patterned long-sleeved shirt or a like-new, traditional color polo shirt and leather loafers.
  • Women (Business Casual): Neutral-colored slim skirt or trousers with a shell and blazer or a twin sweater set, leather flats or low-heel pumps.
  • Distinctive touches can help you be more memorable to an interviewer who has talked to multiple candidates.  LinkedIn Influencer Jeff Haden – in an article about what interviewers want to see from candidates – shares that “the more people we interview for a job, and the more spread out those interviews, the more likely we are to remember certain candidates by impressions rather than by a long list of facts.” A scarf or interesting necklace can do the trick for a woman.  A distinctive fountain pen could be a good choice for a man.  An interesting necktie can also make you stand out from the crowd, but avoid the mistake one client made when he interviewed for an internal promotion wearing a Mickey Mouse tie.
  • DOUBLE-check the details:
  1. Shoes polished, appropriate hosiery or dark socks
  2. Garments clean, crisply pressed, well fitted.
  3. Fingernails groomed
  4. Facial hair – if any – neat and conservatively trimmed.
  5. Necktie ending in line with the belt buckle; no tie clip or tie tack
  6. No visible wear on belt or handbag
  7. Subtle but polished makeup
  8. Neatly trimmed and styled hair; natural-looking color with no visible roots; no hair ornaments
  9. Jewelry limited to watch and wedding ring and/or college ring; tailored earrings for women, nothing glitzy, noisy or dangling.
  10. No cologne or other fragrances
  • DEMONSTRATE your preparation; carry a nice portfolio with personal business cards, resume or other materials and a quality pen for taking notes or completing required paperwork.


Business casual styles for women.
Business casual styles for men.


Go beyond the basics and select wardrobe colors that enhance your message. With a man’s dark suit, an ivory or white shirt connotes authority while a pale blue one sends a more friendly, collaborative message. A small contrasting stripe or tiny plaid shirt gives a slightly more creative impression.

For women, the high-contrast symbolism still applies, but you can have more flexibility in you color combinations. With a navy pantsuit, try a sage green shell. Pair charcoal gray with blush, or dark brown with dusty aqua blue. A knit shell or fine-gauge sweater will look and feel better under a jacket than a cotton button-up shirt. And if you arrive to find yourself over-dressed, that sleeveless shell will let you easily push up the jacket sleeves to relax the look a notch or two.

For both genders, avoid wearing clothes with extreme light/dark contrast – black and white is the classic example – because the intensity of the combination will overpower the color pattern in your face and pull attention to the garments and away from your communications center.

Select accessories that compliment your hair and eyes.

Look for opportunities to repeat the color of your hair and your eyes in your outfit. A man’s necktie or a woman’s scarf provides one great option to work in those colors. By doing so you subtly encourage the interviewer to make eye contact with you more readily and sustain that eye contact longer, creating a positive, friendly emotional connection.

If your interview outfit is a level or two dressier than your everyday wear, plan for a practice run in advance of the real event. You want to be sure everything feels comfortable and familiar so your positive body language won’t be interrupted by fiddling with your clothes.

Wear the right outfit on your job interviews ... because you never get a second chance to make a positive impression.



Nancy Nix-Rice
Guest blog post by Nancy Nix-Rice 
Image/Wardrobe Consultant | Color Consultant | Personal Shopper | National Speaker | Author of LOOKING GOOD Every Day

Thank you, Nancy! If you are looking for a wardrobe consultant to "up" your game for interviewing, I highly recommend Nancy. Visit her web site to learn more. -- Kathy

Style idea images shown were selected by Nancy from Polyvore

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