What Not to Wear to an Interview

People sitting in a row, waiting for job interview
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While what you wear to a job interview matters the most, it's also important to consider what you shouldn't wear if you want to make the best impression. When you are dressing for a job interview, how you present yourself counts. Your image is the first thing a potential employer is going to notice about you before you even have a chance to say a word or shake a hand.

In order to make a good first impression, you should dress appropriately and separate your social image from your professional presence. Even if you're interviewing at a start-up with a very casual workplace, it's important not to dress it down too much. 

Your attire should either match or exceed the type and quality of attire worn by your interviewers.

What Not to Wear to a Job Interview

There are a few common-sense items on this list, along with others that you might not have thought of. Wearing any of the following items could give the impression that you don't take pride in your appearance, or that you don't respect the company and interviewer. It's best to avoid wearing the following:

  • Flip-flops or sneakers.
  • Underwear (bras, bra straps, briefs, boxers, etc.) that is visible to others. Avoid wearing any undergarments that show outside of your clothing, even if your bra straps match your top.
  • Shorts.
  • Jeans.
  • Skirts that are too short.
  • Pants that are too low-rise, too distressed, or too tight.
  • Blouses that are too low-cut or too short. Your blouse should not show your cleavage or your belly.
  • If wearing low-rise pants, make sure the top of your underwear, especially if it's a thong-style garment, doesn't show above your pants' waistline.

    Trendy vs. Classic

    Take note of how people dress in your target company or similar companies. Different industries have their own dress codes, and you could get away with more creative or trendy wardrobe choices in an advertising agency, while classic suits and conservative styles will go over well in a financial firm. Consider these points when you go shopping for your interview outfit:

    • A classic interview suit or outfit appropriate for your career field or industry that will last for years is a better investment than the latest trendy attire that will only last a season.
    • Your idea of trendy might not match the interviewer's perspective on what's fashionable, so err on the side of dressing conservatively when you interview.
    • Shop wisely: Visit outlets, shop sales, shop online, and use coupons to get the most mileage out of your interview budget.
    • Plan ahead: If you have that one classic interview outfit n your closet, you'll be prepared for an unexpected interview, regardless of when it occurs.

      Your Professional Presence

      When you show up for an interview, you're there to put your best foot forward, not to create a distraction. If you wear risque clothing, strong scent, too much body jewelry or clothing that shows off your tattoos, you risk having people form snap judgments that could prevent you from succeeding in the interview or landing the job. Here are a few things to look out for:

      • Your social vs. professional presence: What you wear off-the-job and socially doesn't have to be what you wear for interviewing or at work. In fact, your professional presence may be very different from your personal presence, and that's fine. You can have a closet full of fun clothes and a wardrobe of work clothes.
      • Perfume and cologne: Your scent (even if you smell good) can be an issue. Some people say they won't hire anyone they can smell from across the room. Also, a scent is one of the strongest senses and your favorite perfume or cologne might coincidentally be the same scent the interviewer's ex-girlfriend or ex-husband wore. That subliminal negative impact could squash your chances of getting a job offer. With any type of scent, less, or none, is better.
      • Pantyhose: The question of whether women should wear pantyhose on a job interview creates a lot of discussions, and the answer is an overwhelming yes. Here's more on wearing pantyhose to work or to job interviews, including when it's appropriate, and when you can go bare-legged.
      • Tattoos and piercings: Depending on where you are interviewing, you may want to consider covering your tattoos and taking out your rings. Although employers are loosening up about these, there are still companies that have policies which limit both.

        Once you get hired for a new job if you're not sure what to wear, ask the hiring manager before you start. You can also visit the workplace to see what the people coming in and out of the building are wearing. There is no better way to make a good impression than to show up for your first day dressed appropriately and ready to work.