What to Wear to a Job Interview for College Students

College student interviews at job fair
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When you're in the classroom at your college, your outfit may be casual. But standards are different during a job interview. College students should aim to dress professionally when interviewing for a job or internship.

What you wear will play a role in the interviewer's first impression of you—so make it a good one. Below are a few tips on how to select the perfect outfit for a job interview.

Research the Company

Before going to an interview, find out how employees at the company dress. 

This might involve researching the company online or even contacting the company and asking before your interview. Some companies are very conservative in their dress policies and require business attire, while others are fine with business casual.

Either way, you should always dress at least slightly nicer than the employees. If you cannot find out how the employees typically dress, it is safest to dress conservatively. 

It is far better to come to an interview overdressed than underdressed.

Interview Attire for College Men

Men should wear a suit, tie, and dress shoes for most interviews. Small details matter here: The suit should be a subdued, solid color (navy and deep gray are best), and shoes should be black or brown. Wear a long-sleeve, button-down shirt (either white or another color that matches your suit), and a subdued tie (small dots or classic stripes work well). Wear black socks so that you will look professional if you cross your ankles.

Even if the employees typically dress in a business casual style, you may still want to wear a suit and tie. However, if the interviewer tells you that you should dress casually, or you are very confident that they prefer a casual style, you can wear a blazer or sports jacket with dress slacks and either a sweater or a button-down shirt.

Make sure your jacket and pants match (again, navy and deep gray work best) and that your shirt or sweater is not too brightly colored or patterned. Wear black or brown dress shoes and black socks.

Your look must be polished; iron your outfit the night before and make sure your shoes are clean (you may consider shining your shoes before the interview).

Interview Attire for College Women

Women have slightly more options for professional interview attire. A suit (either pantsuit or skirt suit) with a button-down shirt or blouse is most appropriate for a professional interview. The suit should be a solid, neutral color, such as navy, dark gray, or black.

The shirt or blouse can be any color that matches the suit but is not too bright or loudly patterned. Make sure your blouse is not low cut; if you feel at all concerned that it is too revealing, do not wear it.

Wear neutral-colored shoes, either professional flats or heels (no more than 2-3 inches). Whatever shoes you wear, you should be able to walk comfortably in them. 

If company employees typically dress in a business casual style, you can still opt to wear a suit if you like. If you are instructed to dress casually, a skirt or slacks with a blouse or button-down shirt and blazer or neutral cardigan should do the trick. The skirt or slacks and blazer should be a solid, neutral color, such as navy, dark grey, or black. Make sure your blouse is not too low cut or too brightly patterned.

If you wear a skirt, you may want to wear nude pantyhose, especially if you are interviewing for a very conservative company.

It always helps to give your clothes a fresh iron and shoes a polish before your interview. 

Grooming Tips

Avoid heavy colognes and perfume that might be distracting for the interview. For men, hair should be trimmed; women can put up their hair in a clean, simple updo, such as a sleek ponytail or bun, or wear it down if it is washed and trimmed. Men should spare a moment for their facial hair as well, making sure it's shaved or trimmed. 

Makeup should be limited. This may include a concealer or foundation, a neutral gloss or lipstick, and mascara. Avoid brightly colored eyes.

Jewelry

Opt for less when it comes to jewelry. Earrings should be simple and discreet, such as studs, little hoops, or a single necklace.

Consider removing facial piercings, and wearing clothes that disguise tattoos. Toning down jewelry and tattoos is more necessary at offices where the dress attire is business formal than at smaller startups where wearing denim may be the norm. Use your judgment, but in general, a more conservative approach will generally be the safer choice. 

Key Takeaways

OUTFIT CHOICES MATTERS. Dressing professionally will help make a good impression on employers. 

OPT FOR OVERDRESSED. A little research can help steer your outfit, but when in doubt, it's preferable to be overdressed than underdressed. It's also best to be conservative when making choices about jewelry, patterns, and colors. 

PAY ATTENTION TO GROOMING, TOO. Don't handicap your candidacy with untidy hair or dirty fingernails.