Make sure you set that alarm clock early on the day of a job or internship interview. Although most college job interviews don't require full-on, business formal dress—meaning you don't need to wear a suit, tie, and fancy dress shoes—you do need to look like you put some effort into your appearance. Everyone knows first impressions are key, and when it comes to a college job interview, this is even more so the case.
You'll need to dispel the stereotypical image of a college student and present yourself as professional, mature, and serious enough to commit to a job, even if it's just a part-time or on-campus job.
Campus Casual Interview Options
If you're heading to an interview for a job located on your college campus or applying for a non-professional job—like in a café, restaurant, or retail store—it's acceptable to wear a more casual look.
A button-down shirt with a nice pair of slacks will work in this case. But, remember that when it comes to a casual look, presentation is key. That means you should make sure your clothing is un-wrinkled, stain-free, and freshly laundered.
Top Interview Tip: Research the company, organization, student association, or campus office, so you know what to expect before you go into the interview.
Don't Wear Denim-on-Denim
Many students wonder about wearing denim to an interview. The general rule is that you should avoid denim-on-denim. What does that mean? If you're going to wear a denim shirt, pair it with khaki pants or a colored slack.
And, if you're going to wear denim on the bottom, opt for a dark-colored, unripped pair of jeans and choose a dressier top to balance out the look.
Top Interview Tip: See if you can convince your roommate to help you practice for your interview by going through sample interview questions and answers.
Choose Footwear Carefully
If you don't own a pair of dress shoes, don't fret. For non-professional or part-time jobs, you can wear a pair of "fashion" sneakers to "dress down" a more formal look.
Although you can make an outfit work with a pair of street sneakers, it's unlikely you can pull this off with athletic trainers or shoes you might wear at the gym. If in doubt about your sneakers, stick with a pair of loafers instead.
Top Interview Tip: At the end of an interview, a majority of interviewers will ask you something along the lines of, "So, do you have any questions for me?" You don't want to appear disinterested or bored by having nothing to say, so make sure you have a few questions on hand to demonstrate your enthusiasm.
Check Out Casual Interview Attire Options
If you need a relaxed business casual look that works in almost all seasons, this is it. If all you own for interview attire is two button-downs, two-sweaters, and one nice pair of dark jeans, you'll be able to come up with a variety of outfits for different interviews.
Top Interview Tip: It's not just what you wear or what you say that matters in an interview; you can use nonverbal communication to impress your interviewer, too.
Use Layers to Vary Your Interview Outfits
Dressing for an interview doesn't have to be hard, especially if you put together a few staple pieces you already have in your closet. The key is to create a balanced look.
Although a t-shirt on its own is too casual, you can make it work by layering it under a stylish jacket, a cardigan, or a relaxed blazer.
Top Interview Tip: Do your homework before the interview and watch out for common job interview mistakes in order to improve your interview technique.
Consider a Modern Approach
If you're tired of the button-down and khaki look that you may have seen your dad wear time and time again, take a more modern approach. If you need some style tips, read up on the latest in men's fashion.
Show Your Personal Style
If you have a favorite blazer, scarf, or pair of shoes, with a little tact you can incorporate it into your interview outfit and express some personal style. This is a great way to complement your individuality, which you can also do by showing your personality during the interview experience.
This is especially important if you're interviewing off-campus for a job with a unique company culture—in that case, you should consider a "startup casual" look.
Top Interview Tips: Unconventional companies sometimes employ unconventional interview techniques, like a group interview, so read up before the big day.
When to Wear a Polo Shirt
A polo shirt is a good choice for milder temperatures, as well as for jobs where the workplace is casual. However, because it's a more relaxed look, it's a good idea to wear a polo shirt with khakis instead of jeans.
Dress It Up With a Formal Look
If you're interviewing for a position that you think might require a more formal look, add a blazer, or a tie—you probably don't need to wear both, and you might get some funny looks if you roll up in a full suit and briefcase unless you're interviewing for a corporate position where business attire is a requirement.
That said, it's usually better to overdress than to underdress, but listen to your gut. Still unsure about what to wear? When scheduling your interview, it's acceptable to inquire about the office dress code, which should give you a good sense of what to wear.
Top Interview Tip: Learn about the differences between business vs. business casual, and if you have to wear a formal outfit, make sure you've taken the time to dry clean or iron your clothes as necessary.
The Classic Go-To Look
Don't worry, there's a simple "go-to" look that works for almost any non-professional college job position. A wrinkle-free patterned button-down, comfortable, but well-kept slacks, and any pair of casual loafers.
Now go ace that interview!
Top Interview Tip: So, you've made a good first impression by dressing well, and sending a post-interview thank-you note is a great way to make a good last impression, too.