What NOT to wear to an interview : 5 tips for the perfect outfit

A tenth of a second.

That’s how long you have to make the right impression on your future boss.

There are few things they can judge you by in such a short amount of time, but fortunately, you have control over at least one thing: your wardrobe.

Both men and women should follow specific interview dress tips , but you don’t have to sacrifice your own personal style and creativity.

Here are 5 tips for what to not wear to an interview:

#1 Ill-fitting clothes, especially blazers

A traditional staple of a job interview, the blazer works well for everyone to add structure to your polished look. The trouble is, many interview candidates aren’t wearing a properly-fitted blazer.

Luckily, it’s pretty simple to ensure fit, just follow these 3 steps:

  • Check the seam to see if it hits in the correct place, right at the edge of your shoulder.

  • Determine how tight your jacket is by sliding a flat hand between the fabric and your shirt underneath. You should be able to do this easily, but there shouldn’t be a ton of extra room between your hand and the blazer.

  • Finally, check the length by figuring out if your top button is above the belly button (if not, your blazer may be too long for your torso). There should be no pulling across the chest of the blazer, and you should be able to move your arms freely enough to use whatever animated gestures you want to during your interview.

Other typical ill-fitting culprits include button-down shirts that pull across the chest and sleeves that don’t hit at the proper point on your wrist (either they are too short or too long).

#2 Overly sexy or inappropriate items

Both men and women should check interview outfits for extremely tight or revealing pieces.

While dress pants can and should be well-fitted, that does not mean skin-tight. Remember that fitted does not mean skin-tight, but flattering the body instead.

Women should avoid low-cut tops, but that doesn’t mean they need to avoid V-necks and scoop style shirts altogether.

No midriff should be showing either (ensure your shirt will cover the stomach entirely even if you were to reach up high). Skirts should hit just above or at the knee.

Basically, it’s your high school dress code rules all grown up.

Certain types of pantyhose, such as fishnet, also carry an “evening” vibe and are typically not appropriate for the workplace.

While tights and pantyhose have made quite a comeback, stick with semi-opaque black or nude, matte colors for formal settings like an interview.

#3 A sloppy tie

A tie can really make or break an outfit for men wondering what to wear to an interview, but how they tie the tie is equally important.

Many men are wearing a tie that’s riding too high or low in length; the tie should end in the middle of your belt, not up by the belly button and not down below the belt.

Either of these errors indicates inattention to detail, which isn’t a trait you want on display through your interview clothes.

Often men are also imprecise in cinching the knot all the way up, with the top button fastened underneath. This isn’t a time to be showing a “bit of chest hair.”

For a powerful and put-together look, tie your tie with a “dimple,” which is a small indent just below the tie knot. This will show future employers that you take the time to ensure small details are done well.

#4 Fearing color, or overdoing it

When you think of what you should wear to an interview, a black suit with a white button-down may come to mind.

But there are actually quite a few colors that can make you stand out in this setting.

Men in formal, traditional offices should wear dark blue or gray with a core color underneath for the shirt. Ties should communicate sophistication and a subtle style that isn’t distracting.

No pattern on either a male or female should be loud or distracting from the business at hand.

Don’t be the candidate wearing a neon-colored top or an overpowering suit- mixing bold or bright colors.

Save your creativity for shoes, accessories, or maybe even a fun lipstick shade, within reason.

#5 Not considering your work environment

Some workplaces have less of a dress code than others.

Interviewing to be a lawyer at a traditional firm can require a much different outfit than a graphic designer looking to land a position in an up-and-coming startup. Both dressing too casually or too “stuffy” can signal to the employer that you really haven’t done your homework on the vibe and environment of the workplace.

However, when you are deciding what to wear in a workplace, lean towards the most professional version of a member of that office, rather than emulating someone who has been there for ten years and is flirting with the line on how casual “Casual Friday” can get.

In other words, you can show you’d fit in without dressing down too much, even in a creative setting.

No matter how “chill” you think your new workplace may be, there’s no situation in leggings that will always fall under the category of what not to wear to an interview (unless they are under a dress, in which case you should consider tights instead).

Consider the traits your future employer would value most, and then reflect those in your wardrobe choices, to display your own personal brand.

For example, a creative entrepreneur needs to be seen as unique and sometimes quirky, while a finance director may need to be seen as precise.

If you show up to an interview as a kindergarten teacher wearing nothing interesting or fun at all, your principal may second guess how interesting and fun you’ll be in the classroom.

Next Level Wardrobe offers image consulting, personal styling services, and online styling services to men and women. Contact us if you’re interested in perfecting your personal style.

Picture of Cassandra Sethi

Cassandra Sethi is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. After working over 15 years in the Fashion Industry, most recently as a Senior Buyer for Equinox, she created her business, Next Level Wardrobe – a luxury personal shopping service for successful professionals. Cassandra’s been featured in Greatist, Livestrong and NY Mag.


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