Business formal? Business casual? Black-tie optional? It can be overwhelming that on top of preparing for aptitude tests for interviews and your interview answers, you need to think about what you’re going to wear on the day of the interview too.
What you wear is important; especially when you take into consideration that over 50% of communication is non-verbal. It’s key that the way you present yourself is authentic, so you can be comfortable and confident, but you’ll also want to bear in mind the role you’re hoping to secure.
Check out our tips below on what to wear for business formal or business casual.
Most job interviews are considered formal, where you will be expected to wear professional or business attire. Here is what that means for men and women:
For men, a suit is a must. You want to choose something simple and traditional, so opt for a black, grey, or navy suit. The shirt should be plain (ideally a traditional white or light blue colour).
It’s the same story for the tie: avoid wearing any bright or flashy colours. Wear black leather shoes with black socks and a matching belt.
Women should also keep their suit inconspicuous by sticking to traditional colours. They can also opt for a smart dress (not flowy) or a smart blouse and dress pants.
Heels should be moderate (3 inches max) and should coordinate with the clothing. Avoid jewellery that is too chunky or dangly.
The interviewer may state that there is a business casual dress code, which is somewhere in the middle of casual and business formal. If you aren’t sure if the dress code is business casual, check with the hiring manager or interviewer.
Business casual means no suits. Instead go for a collared shirt with long sleeves, possibly with a tie, knitted sweater or jacket as well.
You should not wear jeans; instead choose chinos, khakis or dark trousers. Opt for leather shoes, which can be either brown or black, and should match the belt.
Women can opt for a dress (can be more flowy than for a formal interview) or a simple, professional blouse or button-down shirt with cardigan. This can be paired with smart trousers/skirt (opt for neutral colours and simple patterns).
Wear black or brown closed-toe flats, pumps or low heels. Choose simple jewellery accessories (nothing too chunky).
Here’s a checklist to take the worry out of what to wear to your interview:
Check the invite
First, make sure that you look for a dress code in the invitation to the interview. There may not be one specified, but if there is you’ll fall at the first hurdle if you failed to follow instructions.
Do your research
You can get a strong sense of how formal a company is from the website, recruitment materials and social media channels. If everyone is in jeans, you might not want to turn up in your smartest suit.
Err on the smart side
Your interview is your opportunity to present your best self, so even if it’s a creative office where everyone is very dressed-down, steer clear of ripped jeans, messy hair or muddy shoes.
Comfort is key
You need to be feeling confident and positive in your interview, so stick to an outfit you feel good in rather than trying to be something you’re not. That being said, without knowing the environment really well yet, avoid your most fashion-forward trends – you need to be able to demonstrate you can fit into this new environment, so don’t take big risks with visible tattoos and jewellery unless you’re really sure that’s what they’re after.
The same goes for being physically comfortable – you won’t feel as confident if you’re fiddling with an awkward hem or hobbling in painful heels.
Take the stress out of the morning of the interview and have your outfit prepared the night before. Arrive feeling calm and collected – and confident.
It’s better to look slightly overdressed than underdressed. You may notice from pictures on the website that many staff don’t wear ties but if you’re interviewing for a major professional firm it’s advisable to wear one.
White shirt or black shirt?
If in doubt, a white shirt is a sensible thing to wear. It’s clean, crisp and neutral. If you think you need to wear a tie avoid a gaudy one; a red or blue tie with a simple pattern on it would be an ideal professional look.
This might sound obvious, but it’s essential you turn up to the interview with clean and polished shoes. This detail doesn’t go unnoticed by many interviewers.
Finally don’t forget your aptitude tests – it’s common for hiring managers to retest candidates at their assessment centre day or at interview.