You only have one shot at a first impression, so make it a good one!
People always ask “What should I wear to an interview?” The truth is that first impressions last forever! You should always choose the outfit that lets your experience and personality shine through, since that is what is most important. Remember, before you even have a chance to speak, the interviewer will already have formed an impression of you by the way you are dressed. Below, you will find a series of tips that will help you to successfully portray yourself in a professional manner at the time of an interview.
Dressing for Professional or Office Positions:
- Wear a suit with a pressed shirt and tie (men)/Business dress with a jacket or a knee length skirt or trousers with a pressed shirt (women) whenever possible.
Insider tip: The outfit does not need to be all black! Add a splash of color, but do not go overboard. For instance, wearing a pressed shirt that is blue or white can add vibrancy to your attire while refraining from being overly flashy.
Don’t have a suit? Don’t worry! Wear your most professional outfit, and don’t be afraid to let the interviewer know that you don’t own a suit yet, but are so interested in the opportunity that you came anyway.
- Make sure your outfit is ironed and wrinkle-free. This says a lot about how serious you are about the job.
Insider tip: Whatever outfit you choose, make sure your clothes are free from stains, missing buttons, loose seams, and wrinkles. You don’t want to show up to your interview looking messy.
- Test your outfit the day before your interview.
Insider tip: Try on your entire outfit the day before. This way, you’ll be able to see how comfortable you will feel wearing it and hang it up so it stays neat and clean.
- Do not forget to polish your shoes!
Insider tip: Wear closed-toe, solid colored shoes. Choose dress shoes, flats, or heels in a neutral color that complements your attire – no platforms, furry boots or strappy sandals. Have you heard someone say, “A person’s shoes say a lot about the person”? Indeed, they do.
Dressing for Retail, Warehouse or Manufacturing Positions:
When interviewing for a retail, warehouse or position that requires manual labor, you should dress in business casual attire. Business casual does not mean sloppy, no sneakers, flip-flops, jeans, hats or caps, sweatshirts, and no t-shirts with graphics or writing. You do not need to wear a suit, but you do need to be neat and tidy. Understanding the work environment of the employer is key to picking the best outfit for the interview.
- Men can choose from dress slacks or chinos, a button down or polo shirt, socks, and dress shoes or loafers.
- Women can choose from a skirt (appropriate length) or slacks, blouse, sweater, twinset, or polo shirt, and closed toe shoes.
Looking Classy on a Budget:
Many think they need to spend a lot of money on interview clothes, but in fact you do not! You can easily find a reasonable price interview attire between $5-10 for an entire outfit. I highly recommend going to a secondhand/thrift store like Goodwill. Also, don’t be afraid to borrow from a friend or family member!
What NOT to Wear:
No revealing outfits, no fancy jewelry, no platform heels, no big logos or overly large apparel (saggy pants). You want to leave an impression om the recruiter showing you are a reliable, professional, and well-kept individual – especially if you are applying for a position where you will be interacting with customers. The hiring manager will be trying to see how you would represent the company, so you want your professional personality to shine, not your outfit.
And don’t forget to take off your coat or jacket! During Chicago winters sometimes that extra puffy coat is necessary, but make sure to take it off after you enter the building so your professional attire can give the right impression. On a similar note, if you must wear winter boots, you should always change into your professional shoes as soon as you enter the building.
Why does this matter? Recruiters will pass on candidates simply because they wore one piece of clothing that was wrinkled, dirty, or too casual. Sure, that sounds unfair, but remember that YOU are responsible for giving them every reason to hire you. Wearing a puffy jacket or winter boots that leave a puddle of salt and slush might be the tipping point from a “Yes, I’ll give them a shot” to a “No, they don’t have what it takes”.
Having your entire outfit prepped the day before the interview will save you time in the morning, and will help you avoid last-minute stressful decisions. Being prepared the night before will also allow you to take care of any stains or wrinkles that you come across ahead of time. Make sure to try it all on! There have been times when I thought I knew what I wanted to wear for an interview, but as soon as I tried it on I felt uncomfortable. During those times, I was glad I had time to make changes. Taking the time to review your outfit and dressing well will give you the confidence to do great in the interview!
Appearance and what you wear to the interview can be the “make it or break it” piece in landing the job. Your first impression is critical – make sure YOU are the candidate that stands out above the rest! Dress to impress!
*Special Circumstances* While these may seem like hard and fast rules to follow, understanding the interview situation and the employer’s company culture is key. Break the rules when needed, but just be 100% sure it's the right time to do it.