For many people, now is a great time to look for a new job. “Now Hiring” signs are everywhere. Headlines about labor shortages. Even though you may hear stories of employers desperately seeking help, you don’t want to take anything for granted.
You still want to make a positive impression. To convey a sense of professionalism, responsibility, and trustworthiness. What you wear will go a long way toward that first impression.
Let’s get started.
Subscribe to The Gentleman Within Podcast.
What to Wear to a Job Interview
Here I will give some suggestions of what a man should wear to a job interview for a range of scenarios from traditional business formal to a not so dressed up interview, a creative interview, and in between.
Let’s get started.
Business Formal Interview Attire
This scenario will include interviews for white collar type jobs in traditional office settings. Here, keep your outfit simple and conservative. Nothing too flashy or bold. Consider a well fitting suit in either navy blue or charcoal gray.
Most men’s style experts suggest one of these two colors for your first suit. Your dress shirt should be white, or light blue if you are feeling a little adventurous. Add a necktie in a solid color or a basic pattern such as stripes or dots. Socks should be in the same basic color as the pants.
For shoes, a pair of black oxfords will be most formal. Dark brown, oxblood, or medium brown lace-up shoes are a good slightly less formal option. Whatever shoes you wear should be clean and polished. For an additional detail that most men will not include, put a white pocket square in a simple presidential fold in your suit breast pocket. And don’t forget your favorite formal watch.
» Related: You might like this comprehensive guide on men’s dress socks.
Business Casual Interview Attire
This scenario is becoming more common as the attire in many offices and workplaces has grown increasingly casual in recent years, especially during the pandemic. It can be tricky since the term “business casual” is interpreted in so many different ways.
How to dress for a business casual interview without looking so casual that you come across as not taking the interview seriously, yet not so formal that you come across as trying too hard? Consider an oxford cloth button down shirt in white, light blue, or a white/blue pattern like stripes or gingham.
For the pants, a pair of gray flannel trousers, or dress pants in a neutral like navy blue or gray can work well here. Alternatively to dress the outfit down a little further, try a pair of chino pants. The socks should once again be in the same color family as the pants. A word of caution, the black oxford shoes may be too formal for this outfit.
Instead try a pair of brown or oxblood lace-up shoes. As in our previous scenario, shoes need to be clean and polished. You may also add a blazer or sportcoat for a smart, put together look.
Just make sure to have some contrast in color between the jacket and the pants, per the first example above. If they are too similar it will look like you tried to match them and came up short. Oh yeah, don’t forget a pocket square. If you’re going slightly more formal, it’s perfectly fine to have matching suit jacket and trouser colors.
Alternatively, for colder weather, you can opt for a fitted puffer jacket and gray scarf over top of a wool or cashmere crewneck sweater, oxford cloth button down combination.
Quick note: If you’re enjoying this article on what to wear for an interview, then you’ll probably find my other writing on all things style useful. Each week, I share updates, style tips and other things not shared on the blog through my free email newsletter.
To join now, just enter your email address below and click “Get Updates!”
» You might like: High Paying Skills (Anyone Can Benefit from Learning).
Casual Interview Attire
This scenario will be best suited (although you won’t be wearing a suit here) for interviews where the previously discussed outfits would be overkill. This may include interviews for blue collar laborer type jobs, restaurants, or retail.
Here you want to look competent and professional without going overboard. Dressing up too formally can even work against you by giving the impression that you don’t want to actually do any physical work and get your hands dirty.
For a casual job interview outfit consider a simple combination of a polo shirt and chino or khaki pants. Or you could swap the polo for an oxford cloth button down and denim jacket for the sartorially inclined. Stick with basic, solid colors such as neutral shades of blue, gray, brown, or white.
And of course, make sure your getup fits you well. Not too baggy, not too tight. And make sure it is clean and pressed. For shoes, consider a pair of loafers, brogues, or dressy boots depending on the weather.
Creative Interview Attire
As a creative, you likely know all about the importance of self-expression and making a statement with your personal style. And more often than not, especially in today’s hiring landscape, creatives tend to get hired based on their creative talents and abilities, not the way they’re dressed.
In this scenario you’ll likely be able to be riskier and more daring with your interview ensemble. If you come dressed too dapper or elevated you run the risk of alienating yourself from the rest of the department. It’s best to read the room in this scenario. But above all, dress comfortably you.
Take it from Khoi, Gentleman Within’s founder, who used to work in the advertising industry as an art director. He attended the first day of his post-graduate internship at DraftFCB in NYC with a dress shirt and tie and was (playfully) laughed at for being so well dressed. That’s not to say you can’t wear a tie for a creative interview, if that’s your thing, go right ahead.
A little bonus tip, if you’re still unsure, is to ask HR about what’s the typical dress code for the creative team. They’ll give you the guidance you need. Just remember, overall that creative departments tend to have the most relaxed dress code.
Virtual Interview Attire
This scenario has especially grown during the pandemic and stay-at-home lockdowns. What to wear to a Zoom (or Teams, WebEx, etc.) interview when you might only be seen from the shoulders upward? My advice is to look at the recommendations above and then wear whatever you might wear if the interview was in person.
This will help put you in a mindset to interview. A concept known as enclothed cognition. The way you dress affects how you feel and think. It may be tempting to only dress up your top half and then wear your favorite comfy sweatpants and slippers on your bottom half.
While you could, but what if for some reason you need to stand up while you are on screen? Also, the contrast between your top and bottom halves may feel awkward. My advice is to complete the outfit from head to toe.
Borrowing a quote from the head football coach at my mother’s alma mater, Coach Deion Sanders likes to say, “Look good, feel good. Feel good, play good. Play good, they pay good.”
» Readers’ Favorite: How to Mix and Match Clothing Colors for Men (A Master Class in Styling)
Bonus Interview Tips
Wear a watch
It is a subtle signal that you care about time and will be punctual. I also suggest carrying a pen in case you need to sign any documents or fill out paperwork. Doesn’t need to be a super expensive fountain pen, just something that looks nice.
» Related: Check out this guide on 3 Watches Every Man Needs.
Don’t forget about personal grooming
Shave or trim your facial hair. Get a haircut. Brush your teeth. Put lotion on your hands. Poor grooming can quickly bring a great outfit down.
» Related: You might like this guide on 14 Grooming Tips for healthy & stylish men.
What not to wear to an interview?
There are a few things that I would generally avoid. Such as jeans, shorts, athletic wear, sandals and flip-flops, and t-shirts, especially graphic t-shirts. And anything dirty, damaged, or worn out.
If you have doubts about what to wear, try asking the person within the company who you have been in contact with. Or, if you are fortunate to know someone in the company, ask for their recommendation.
Or, if you have a way to see what the people typically wear, go slightly more formal than them. In an interview situation, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed so err on the side of formal.
» Related: You might enjoy this guide on How to Present a Portfolio.
I hope you found this post helpful and gives you some ideas. You probably won’t get the job only because you dressed well, but it can certainly enhance your chances. So give yourself an edge over your competition. Thank you for reading.
DeJuan is a husband, father of an 11-year old son and 4-year old daughter, and a chemical engineer. He enjoys watching sports, reading, playing and listening to music, and of course men’s style. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and works as a project engineer at a chemical plant. See more of DeJuan’s style on his Instagram.
What did you wear for your last interview?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.