Sometimes deciding what to wear to a job interview is more nerve-wracking than the actual interview itself.

OК, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but it is a significant cause of stress.

You know that when you step into that interview, you will be judged. It’s not a comforting thought.

So the best way to go in there confidently is to start out looking like a million bucks. And the right interview outfit will do just that for you.

Basic Things to Consider

What you wear to a job interview is incredibly important, of course. Just as important, though, is how you wear it.

how to wear a suit for an interview

For example, if you wear a suit, it must be well-fitted. It doesn’t matter how fancy or expensive it is if it doesn’t sit well on your body. An overlarge suit only ends up looking sloppy.

Cleanliness is also a priority. Showing up wearing dirty clothes to a job interview will send your interviewers the message that you don’t really care to be there.

You may not think they notice if you’re re-wearing your shirt, but trust me, they will.

How Outfit Helps Your Interview

As unfair as it may be, people will make assumptions about you before you even speak.

Since you can’t do anything to change human nature, you may as well work with that knowledge. Think of your interview outfit as an advertisement for you.

The clothes and your overall attire usually help interviewers assess if the candidate has good judgment in evaluating the work and the environment.

clothes help interviewer assess candidate's judgement

Therefore, you want to make the best possible first impression. The interviewer’s first impression of you is indeed critical.

Of course, impressions can change, but you don’t have much time to turn that ship around.

Job interviews are relatively short, so take advantage of every possible chance to impress your interviewer.

Research Company’s Culture

Again, how you dress will tell your hiring manager if you fit into their work environment.

If your clothing matches what the other employees are wearing, it will send the message that you understand the company culture. They will unconsciously peg you as one of them.

That’s important to employers because no matter how good an employee is, they often have problems if they don’t fit into the company.

If you aren’t sure how the other employees dress, you can try looking at the company’s website for clues. That’s especially useful if you’ve applied for the interview online.

You can also check what other employees wear by just passing by the office.

Additionally, you could also send a quick email to their HR department when you confirm your interview to ask them what their company dress policy is.

Keep Your Attire Simple

You want your interviewer to remember you, but not for all the wrong reasons. You always want to look professional, and a flashy outfit does not fit with a professional environment.

Avoid wearing a peak lapel suit, pocket square, and tie – all at the same time:

wearing striped shirt and solid tie

It’s natural to want to make an excellent impression, but you risk getting carried away.

So don’t overdo it with your clothing or accessories. You may ultimately scare off your prospective employer and be labeled “high maintenance”.

Instead, stick to a neutral color base for your clothes. You can add a splash of color with your tie or a small and subtle pattern in your suit, but keep it tasteful.

wearing striped shirt and dotted tie

It’s perfectly acceptable to add a personal touch, but your outfit should be mostly impersonal otherwise.

What’s the Proper Attire to Wear to an Interview

Different occupations have different ways of dressing. This means that not all job interviews are going to expect suits and ties.

Of course, you need to wear a suit if that is what people in that role or industry typically wear.

However, if the office has a business casual environment, you don’t need a full suit. You have other options for dressing based on what the office expects.

What to Wear for Formal Interview

If the dress code for your possible place of employment is business-formal, you’ll be expected to dress at the height of work formality.

business formal interview attire for men

That office is a very conservative atmosphere, and you need to reflect that in a sensible suit.

Your suit jacket should be dark and single-breasted. Although very subtle pinstripes would also be acceptable, a solid color is the best choice. As long as your pattern isn’t bold, you are safe.

Your tie can provide the splash of an appropriate color for your outfit. A solid tie or one with a small printed design is fine, but make sure it’s well-matched with your suit.

Stick to a Neutral Color Suit

The perfect colors for an interview suit when dressing for business-professional settings are navy or charcoal grey.

how to wear navy blue suit and white dress shirt

Black is borderline in terms of acceptability. It may be seen as too formal.

While you want to convey your seriousness, you also don’t want to overdo it. If you can, wear a different color.

how to wear charcoal grey suit with a white dress shirt

You absolutely want to stay away from lighter shade suits. Light colors are too informal for a job interview.

In addition, your would-be employer may worry that you are too laid-back to take your work seriously if you are dressed too casually.

The Suit Should Look Good on You

Again, be sure your suit is a perfect fit!

Double-check all angles in your mirror to ensure your jacket’s shoulders don’t droop past your shoulder tips.

how the suit jacket shoulder should fit

Additionally, your jacket sleeves should end just at your wrist, and the shirt should be a quarter-inch visible beneath the jacket.

proper suit jacket sleeve length

Ensure your pants aren’t sagging in the back as well, and the hem gently skims the top of your dress shoe.

proper trouser break

And finally, remember when you are in the interview room, your jacket should be buttoned when standing but opened while sitting.

Wear a Solid Color Shirt

A white dress shirt is your most formal option. It goes with any suit color and always looks crisp and professional.

how to wear white dress shirt with a suit on an interview

You also could wear a light blue dress shirt, even though it is slightly less formal.

Just as with your suit, your dress shirt must be a proper fit.

Ensure that the collar isn’t too loose around your neck; you should have just enough room to insert your index finger easily. Any extra space indicates that the shirt is too large.

dress shirt collar fit

You don’t want your shirt to look baggy when you tuck it in.

To avoid that, ensure that your dress shirt’s body gently hugs around your chest and that the bottom of your shirt isn’t overly long.

dress shirt torso fit

If both of these areas are adequately proportioned to your body, you’ll avoid the embarrassing ballooning that can sometimes happen with dress shirts.

Finishing the Look

To pull your whole ensemble together, get a pair of shoes that complement your suit nicely. You can wear black, or for a trendier approach, dark brown is acceptable.

wearing brown shoes with blue suit

Oxford-style dress shoes are your best choice because they’re the most conservative, although derby shoes are close enough.

Be sure that your tie matches not only your suit but also your dress shirt.

If one of these pieces has a slight sheen to its fabric, be sure that the other doesn’t. Shiny on top of shiny will look cheap.

Accessorize with a simple dress belt that’s the same color as your dress shoes.

how to wear brown belt with brown shoes

If you wear a watch, make sure you only choose a dress watch and not your casual one with a fabric or plastic band.

What to Wear for Business Casual Interview

When you learn that your interview is more casual, that means you should follow a business casual dress code.

business-casual interview attire for men

It does not mean that you should dress in a casual outfit; you still need to be dressy. However, a business casual dress code means that you can ditch the suit jacket and perhaps even the tie.

Your shirt must be long-sleeved, either button-up or button-down.

In some cases, a polo shirt is also acceptable. Solid, neutral colors are best. Avoid patterns.

For an extra twist, you can also toss on a light, neutral color sweater.

interview casual dress code attire

Dress pants or chinos are both suitable options. However, darker pants look more professional, while chinos are slightly more casual.

Whichever style and color you choose, they must be well-fitting.

While you certainly don’t want saggy pants, you also want to avoid pants that are too skinny-fitting. Trust me; you won’t be the only uncomfortable person in that scenario.

how the suit pants seat should fit

A tie isn’t required, although it is a nice touch. However, if you are going for the dressier end of business casual, you can include a tie with your outfit. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Make sure the color isn’t flashy, no matter how relaxed the work environment is. Instead of a tie, you could wear a blazer, if you’d rather.

wearing blazer jacket style

Because black shoes are formal, you would look best wearing a pair of dark or medium brown shoes.

Of course, Oxford and derby shoes are still both excellent shoe style choices, but you could also add a pair of brogues for a stylish addition.

What to Wear for Startup Interview

Startup businesses tend to be pretty relaxed environments, and their dress code usually reflects that atmosphere.

smart-casual interview attire for men

As a result, you’ll find that most startup businesses wear smart-casual attire.

When dressing to follow a smart-casual dress code, you still want to convey your complete professionalism.

Your shirt should be comfortable but polished. Stick with a long-sleeve button-down to be safe.

It’s okay if your button-down shirt has a print, but be sure to keep it simple.

Smart casual attire dress code

You can incorporate some color in your shirt, branching out a bit from the more formal neutral shades.

Chinos or khakis are perfect choices for your pants. They need to be clean, of course, and wrinkle-free.

And no matter how nice your jeans are, leave them at home for your job interview. Perhaps you can wear them to the office once they’ve hired you.

You can have some fun with your shoes for this outfit. Derby shoes are always a safe bet, especially if you’re unsure how daring to be with your interview outfit.

brown derby dress shoes sample

Loafers and monk shoes are both choices bound to make a good impression as well.

Finally, skip the tie, but remember the belt.

Tips to Help You Choose the Right Attire for the Job Interview

There is no one “correct” outfit to wear to a job interview.

You only need to ensure that you follow a few basic guidelines, and you’ll be on the right track for what to wear.

Remember that simplicity is the key when you’re choosing your clothes.

In general, try to dress slightly better than you probably would if you got the position.

And make sure that whatever attire you choose to wear, they don’t make you uncomfortable.

How to Work with Colors

When deciding which colors you should wear, remember that certain colors denote a certain level of formality or casualness.

suit color formality scale

If you are making a concerted effort to stay on the more conservative and dressy end of the spectrum, stick to dark neutrals.

However, add in some lighter shades when you’re trying to take a more casual approach.

Matching the Basic Pieces

You don’t need to own a huge wardrobe to be able to pull together the perfect interview outfit.

If you have a few neutral pieces, you can combine those to make a perfect new outfit. That’s the nicest part of having a neutral color base; most pieces will fit together beautifully.

matching medium grey pants and brown shoes

For example, try building your job interview ensemble by starting with your pants and shoes.

Find one of each that looks good together. From there, you can add a dress shirt that builds off of your first two pieces.

Iron Your Clothes

Nobody will remember your super expensive Italian suit if it has some wrinkles in it; they’ll only remember the wrinkles.

So the night before your interview, lay out all the clothes you plan to wear the following day. Are they all clean and free of wrinkles?

leave your suit hanged the night before the interview

Perfectly pressed clothes add to the impression of your professionalism.

This is one of those unfortunate topics that nobody will ever notice if you do it properly, but they’ll all remember if you do it wrong. So invest in a good steamer if that makes the task easier for you!

Accessorizing the Interview Attire

Even if your pants don’t need a belt, it’s a nice detail to add. However, be sure that it matches the overall tone of your outfit.

For example, a more formal interview outfit requires a dress belt, which is thin, leather, and has a small frame buckle.

formal belt features

On the other hand, a business casual outfit can have a canvas or leather belt.

To make an excellent impression at a formal business job interview, be sure to include a pocket square.

suit accessories: the pocket square

This small detail will make you look more polished than any other accessory can.

Of course, white is always a perfect color for a pocket square. But if you are going for a splash of color, just be sure that it complements your suit.

how to wear a pocket square with a blue suit for an interview

Also, do not have an identically matching tie.

What NOT to Wear for Interview Attire

When you are dressing to look professional, stick with a full suit. Don’t try to dress up a pair of slacks and dress trousers with a blazer.

Avoid wearing a simple t-shirt as well. It’s too casual, no matter what.

You don’t need to run out and buy all-new clothing for your job interview, but you do need to avoid wearing anything old or no longer stylish.

Obviously, wearing a suit from an out-of-fashion decade would stand out, but look out for even more minor fashion updates that you may have missed.

Likewise, avoid wearing any item that looks beaten up. If your leather dress shoes have seen better days, it’s time to invest in a new pair.

Don’t go heavy on your cologne that morning. Less is more in fashion, and the same goes for your scent.

Alexander Stoicoff

Author: Alexander Stoicoff

Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.