First impressions play one of the most important factors of an interviewer’s determination of your character. Knowing what to wear to an interview will definitely give you a professional appearance, and it can actually give you more confidence as well.
When you are actively searching for a job, it’s even more important to look the part and make the perception that you are likeable, hard-working, trustworthy, and of course, the perfect candidate for the job.
That’s why we consulted with a number of stylists, tailors, haberdashers, barbers, and more to put together the ultimate guide for men on what to wear to a job interview. It’s all here in this 4,000+ word guide.
Importance of Appearance in the Job Interview
Don’t underestimate the importance of appearance. A 2006 Job Outlook study by NACE found that employers were most influenced by a candidate’s overall grooming and how they dress. When deciding how to dress for your next job interview, it’s important to take note of how the hiring manager might feel about your choices as well.
What to Wear to an Interview
Deciding what to wear is a big decision – a decision that can impact if you get the job or not. Typically, my advice is to always dress up for the interview, whether that be a shirt and tie or a suit.
My reasoning for this is twofold. I always want to establish a sense of confidence and accomplishment when I enter an interview, but even if you’ve overdressed, the hiring manager is bound to respect you because it looks like you are taking this job interview seriously.
Assess the Company’s Culture Before the Interview
With this said, company culture plays a huge role in determining what you should wear to a job interview as well. If you show up in a suit to an interview and everyone is wearing flip flops and shorts, you could possibly lose out on the job because they won’t think you will fit in with their company culture.
Before deciding on what you are going to wear for your new job, it might be a good idea to see what others wear day to day within the company. Are they always in a suit and tie? Is it a more casual office with your potential coworkers wearing jeans and polos? It might not be a good idea to show up in a suit and tie to a company that wears shorts and flip flops or even workout gear like the guys at Beachbody.
What should I wear to my job interview?
- Chick-Fil-A – Shirt and tie.
- Bank – Suit and tie
- Life is Good – Probably one of their T-shirts
- Gym – Depends on culture. Gym clothes, shirt and tie, or suit and tie
Typically, you will want to dress one level higher than the everyday dress at the place of work. If they wear slacks and a button down shirt, wear a suit or shirt and tie. If the office is more casual, it would be smart to dress in business casual.
Your hair says a lot about you. No matter if it’s short, long, or non-existent, when it’s time for your interview you should try to tidy it up a little bit.
Choosing the Right Hairstyle for the Interview
Short, well styled hair just screams business man, and that’s probably why they named it the businessman’s haircut.
A short taper cut is the most recommended haircut for job interviews, but it’s not 100% necessary to follow the standard advice. Many of the stylist we talked to recommended finding the right cut for your face shape. And hell, if longer hair makes you feel more confident, then go for it!
The main goal of an interview is to look professional. If you plan on rocking long hair, make sure that it is clean and styled neatly. You want to “look” like a reliable employee.
Most career experts agree that the clean shaven look is the best option for an interview, and they have a good point. It shows that you are serious about the interview. Beards can make you look lazy if they are unkept, even if you’re an all-star. Going the clean shaven route is definitely the safer option.
While the experts mostly agree on this one, keep your beard short and well groomed with clean lines if you just don’t want to part with your manliness. Personally, I went the bearded route for my last interview. I have a baby face, and I wanted to appear slightly older to ensure that my young looks didn’t trump my experience. It worked, because I did get the job!
Most guys I know only wear suits for special occasions – weddings, funerals, and the occasional job interview. Remember to keep your suit versatile so that you can wear the same suit for many different occasions.
Choosing Your Interview Suit
When it comes time to buy a suit, you should focus on three things: fit, style, and fabric.
Fit is one of the most important aspects of choosing a suit. Suit manufacturers have taken a one size fits all approach in order to save money, which means that most are big and boxy to accommodate all different body types.
Of course you will want to make sure that the suit hangs right, that it is easy to wear, and that it is comfortable, but it’s the fit that really makes you look sharp. Most people think a tailor is expensive, but you might be surprised. Anytime you purchase a suit, you should consider finding a tailor to make some adjustments to make the suit fit you. You don’t want the suit to wear you. You want to look good and be confident.
The jacket should fit you snugly around the chest and arms. Ensure that you have freedom to move your arms, and that the shoulder pads end right at the taper of your shoulders. The sleeves of the jacket should show approximately 1/2″ of your shirt cuffs and be long enough to cover your rear end; although, it should not extend past your knuckles when your arms are relaxed near your sides.
How do you know a suit works for you? There are two main things to check.
First, check the shoulders, the end of the shoulder pad should be just above the end of your shoulder.
Second, check the fit around the waist. When closed the jacket shouldn’t allow you to fit more than a fist between your torso and the jacket. Everything else can be altered, in particular the length of the sleeve which has a great visual impact.
Now, how do you find one ? You’ll have to try at least three of them, preferably in different price ranges. This way you’ll get a feel of what a well built suit feels like.
– Nicolas Richard, Men’s style expert at Kinowear.com
Your Suit’s Style
What’s in style today, may not be in style tomorrow. Luckily, the classic suit is still a timeless piece that has stood the test of time. We recommend something both classic and versatile enough to wear for different occasions.
Opt for a single breasted two or three button suit jacket with a notched lapel and regular flap pockets. Depending on your frame, you will need to choose a single or double back vent. Larger guys should go with a double back vent to allow for greater movement while skinnier guys may want to go with the single back vent. Skinny lapels also seem to be in at the moment. This looks fine on most men, but can look rather silly on bigger guys.
Two or Three Button Suit?
Two and three button suits are the most common styles you’ll find. Two-button suits are a classic style that works on almost everyone. Three-button works suits work best on taller guys with longer torsos. Unless your really tall, the two button suit is a good choice.
Your Suit’s Fabric
Weave, color, and pattern are the most important factors when selecting your suit’s fabric. Natural fibers such as wool are best, and if you’re choosing something that is hybrid or blend, make sure the synthetic fiber make-up is 40% or less. Wool is the most popular and versatile fabric, and allows for some breathing in the summer, and is a little warmer in the winter.
What Color Suit?
Like a dinner jacket, aka “tuxedo,” every man looks great in a navy suit. More than any other suit, the navy is perhaps the most powerful and versatile asset in any man’s arsenal – even more than charcoal, which can create a really monochrome palette on a fair skinned guy with light or gray hair and eyebrows. The navy adds just enough of a contrasting pop of color.
– George Hahn, Men’s style expert at GeorgeHahn.com
If this is your first suit, choose a classic dark blue or navy. This is the most versatile color you can choose and can be worn for many occasions. If this is your second suit, choose a classic gray or charcoal. Pinstripes are okay, but make sure they don’t make you stand out too much.
For the interview, special attention should be taken to match the color of your shirt to the suit you plan on wearing. Solid white or blue will work with almost any suit, but you can also pull of a light green shirt if you want to have a little spunk.
You can go with a oxford or herringbone if you want to snazz up the texture a little bit and make the colors pop. Avoid lavender, pink, yellow, etc, as they do not look as professional. Consider wearing stripes only if you understand how the patterns fit together, and if not, get a recommendation from your local haberdashery.
When choosing a collar, the type is normally chosen based on facial type. Round faces fit better with point collars. Thin, long faces typically look better with spread collars.
My top tip for picking the right shirt is to make sure the collar is right height for your neck. Men’s necks vary greatly in length and a man with a longer neck needs a taller collar. Once that is correct, the arm length just to be right and you’re good to go. The body of the shirt can easily be altered by a tailor if you want it slimmer.
– Simon Crompton | Freelance Style Journalist for Several International Magazines & Founder of PermanentStyle.co.uk
Just like a good suit, your shirt should fit your body type as well. You do not want your shirt to be all bunched up when tucking it in, and you don’t want it too short to come untucked when moving around. The shirt should be well-fitted, but still allow full range of movement. Your collar should be loose enough to fit two fingers in between the buttoned collar and your neck. There is nothing worse than a tight collar and tie to distract you from the task at hand (Getting that money, son!). Your shirt cuffs should show about 1/2 inch below your jacket and reach right before the start of the palm of your hand. While the cuff shouldn’t be too tight, you’ll want it to be tight enough to have to unbutton it to remove your hand.
Have you ever noticed that one of the first things someone says when your dressed up is, “Nice tie!”? The tie is one of the first things people notice so it’s important to pick something classy and stylish, not something that clashes with your outfit. It’s clearly important, and you should put some thought into choosing the right tie for the occasion.
Choosing the Perfect Tie
The tie is your chance to have a little fun, but remember that ties chosen for the interview should be more conservative if you don’t want to scare off your interviewer with your odd fashion choices. A solid silk tie is the best choice for the non-fashion inclined. Really, there are a number of colors and patterns that will work if you have an eye for fashion. Just make sure that your tie does not clash with the rest of your outfit. Keep it simple and professional. Or, ask your girlfriend or wife. They’re typically much better at the whole matching thing.
– Nicolas Richard, Men’s style expert at Kinowear.com
How to Tie a Tie
Tying a tie is an art that every man from the boardroom to the shop floor should learn, and you shouldn’t wait until your first job interview to start teaching yourself (By the way, this is coming from a Cajun from South Louisiana who didn’t learn how to tie a tie until he was 22). From weddings to your daughter’s tea parties, it’s a good skill to perfect.
Get your big boy pants on because it’s time to learn how to tie a tie if you don’t know how to already.
Four in Hand
The Four in Hand knot is one of the most basic knots it your tie tying arsenal and for good reason. It’s simple. It’s classic. The knot is not too big or too small. The Four in Hand knot is the perfect knot for a day at the office or a night on the town. Do you need to learn how to tie a tie for your job interview? Here’s a handy little video to show you how.
Remember that the length of the tie should fall right at your belt for the proper fit. Anything else looks silly.
Choosing a pair of dress pants for the job interview comes down to one thing. Fit.
If the pants are too loose, you’ll look sloppy. If the pants are too tight, they can highlight something other than your compensation package.
A nice pair of black, navy, or charcoal dress pants will not only look great, but they will also go with a variety of dress shirts.
Getting the Right Size Pants
Remember, comfort is key when choosing a pair of work pants. It’s difficult to think on your feet and feel confident if you’re wearing an uncomfortable pair of pants, but having the right fit will make you look a lot better than you think.
Your pant size is generally the size in inches of your waist; although, you will see a slight difference in sizing from different manufacturers. Find a pair that fits your form, but not uncomfortably. You should be able to easily button your pants, but you need to ensure that they do fit and are not falling off your arse.
Rise is measured from the top of the waistband to the seam of the crotch. This is what affects comfort the most, and can audibly alter a man’s voice from sexy baritone to Mickey Mouse.
Typically, there are three types:
- Low-rise: sits at or below your hips, a few inches below your belly button (Typically skinny guys)
- Mid-rise: sits at the hips or slightly above (Guys with a little meat on their bones)
- High-rise: anything that sits at your true waist and hits your belly button (Guys with tree trunks for thighs)
You may have to experiment to find the right “rise” in order to find the most comfortable pair of pants.
Break relates to the length of the pants and how the end of the pants leg falls over the shoe. For business pants, it is common for the break to form an almost horizontal line where the pant leg falls just over the laces of the shoe and angles slightly lower to the back of the shoe.
Let’s be honest. Most people overlook the belt. It’s an afterthought really. Black belt? Check. Brown belt? Check. We’re good! Until I realized that the buckle was ripping off the leather on the black belt, and my brown belt looked like it was an antique that should have been stored in the Smithsonian.
Choosing the Right Belt
Choosing the right belt is easier than you think. You’ll need to consider style, the buckle, color, and length.
There are typically four different types of dress belts:
- Tongue Buckles: the tongue buckle consists of a belt that slides trough a metal ring, and then the “tongue” is slipped through a open hole in the belt itself to hold the belt.
- Hook Buckles:: the hook buckle consists of a belt that is attached by a flat metal plate attached by hooking the “hook” on the back of the belt to the front of the belt.
- Sliding Latch Buckles: the sliding latch buckle consists of a belt that slides through a metal plate which has a latch that presses the belt into place when fastened.
- Braided belts: consists of a braided woven leather rather than a flat piece of leather. Braided belts use a typical “tongue” that slides through the strands of the braided belt.
The Belt Buckle
There are a number of different buckle types based on the styles listed above.
Which type of belt is best for a job interview?
Really any of the four can work as long as you stay with a nice clean look. Bigger buckles are more casual so it’s best to stay with a smaller buckler for the interview.
When choosing the color of your belt buckle, you should consider any jewelry you would wear (Such as watches / wedding rings). Try your best to match your buckle color to your accessories.
Your belt should match your shoes. Period.
A more refined gentleman would probably say that all leathers should match.
Brown Shoes = Brown Belt
Black Shoes = Black Belt
If you have a high gloss shoe shine, then your belt should have a glossy finish as well. The opposite is true as well. If you have a matte finish on your shoes, go for the same in the belt.
You will want your belt to have a few inches of leather remaining once the belt is fastened completely. If it’s too long and wraps around your side, you tend to look like a moron. Don’t do that.
When purchasing a belt from a department store, buy something 2 to three sizes larger than your pants size.
I have to admit that I enjoy wearing fun socks as it gives a look of, “Hey, I’m all business up here, but there’s a party going on underneath the exterior.”
While this is my preference, I do recommend wearing a traditional sock that matches your slacks or shoes. Stick with darker tones when wearing navy, black, or gray.
Once you’ve got the job, you can have a little more fun with your choices, but it’s typically better to be a little conservative when interviewing for a job. Your socks should almost blend in with your pants to show a seamless transition between the shoe and pant leg. Needless to say, white socks are a big no-no.
Your shoes are quite literally the foundation of your business attire. Also, women notice shoes. Just saying…
Too many guys give shoes secondary consideration. Big mistake. There are discerning men who notice shoes, and there is a good chance your prospective employer is one of them.
Don’t make a statement with the shoes, but make a smart choice.
Go with a simple but well-made shoe like a plain oxford, a cap-toe or a wingtip in black with a rounded toe. Make sure they have a good shine and a well-tended heel and sole. Any shoes with squared toes or weird stitching along the side or super-thick Kenneth Cole Reaction/Herman Munster soles should be burned.
– George Hahn, Men’s style expert at GeorgeHahn.com
Shoes for a job interview should be a dark and well polished Oxford shoe. Black shoes are typically considered dressier than brown; although, a nice pair of brown shoes can go really well with a navy suit.
There are six parts of a shoe that you should be aware of:
- Shoe Color – Black shoes are the traditional job search attire, but brown lace-ups look good with a navy suit.
- The Material – Leather with a high gloss will pull of a great shine and compliment your outfit quite nicely.
- The Laces – Although slip-on shoes are both comfortable and a breeze to put on, lace-up shoes just look better. Opt for a pair of lace up shoes.
- The vast majority of all the fashion experts we interviewed for this post agree that an elongated toe looks much more professional than a squared off toe. Personally, I go with the squared off toe because my foot is so wide that I would have to jump up three sizes to fit into a pair with elongated toe. It may not look as classy, but either will work.
- The Sole – You don’t want to wear platform shoes, but a thick sole is the hallmark of a good shoe. Look for a leather sole with at least 1/4 thickness of the sole.
- The Broguing – The decorative stitching, or broguing, on a shoe makes the shoe look more casual. The less decorations the better.
I guess my one tip, assuming the man wants one pair of shoes to rule them all, is to find a half-brogue in a medium to dark brown leather.
Brown adds a richness to the look that black leather can’t always give. Half-brogue styles are more visually interesting than a plain shoe, but not as bold or casual as a full brogue, which isn’t always appropriate for formal situations.
That style lends itself nicely to any situation, and practically any suit (other than black, but guys need charcoal and navy suits, not black).
– Barron Cuadro, Men’s style expert at EffortlessGent.com
Accessories can finish off an outfit as long as they are not overdone. Things such as jewelry or a nice briefcase offer a nice polish that can really bring your look together.
A wedding ring, if you’re married, and a nice watch are typically the only jewelry you need on your interview.
In the US, it is okay to wear a class ring to the interview. As I’ve learned in Houston, some schools have a very strong ties with fellow alumni, and this connection could actually help you get the job (Texas A&M grads, I’m talking about you).
Stay away from cufflinks unless you are interviewing for an executive position.
A nice leather briefcase or messenger bag that matches either your black or brown shoes is an excellent choice. If you don’t have one, a leather binder or notebook will work quite well. You’ll need something to carry your materials and of course some paper to take notes.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Should Interview Clothing be Dry Cleaned?
As long as everything looks good and smells clean, you shouldn’t have to get it professionally dry cleaned. Just make sure it was washed sometime in the last 3 months.
Steaming your suit is the best way to remove wrinkles. Your shirt should most definitely be ironed and your shoes freshly polished.
Can I Wear Cologne to my Interview?
After interviewing hundreds of HR Reps, one of the number one complaints heard was that the candidate was wearing too much cologne or perfume. Because of this, it is recommended to not wear cologne on your interviews, but I go against the grain on this one. I typically wear much less as to not be overbearing, but I still want to smell nice. If you are going to wear cologne, just dab a small amount your chest at the base of your throat. This will allow the cologne to commingle with your pheromones for the perfect smell.
Research has proven that the way you dress affects the interviewers perception of you at job interviews.
Our expert’s ultimate recommendation is to wear a navy suit, white or light blue shirt, and a solid colored tie. You’ll want to pair that with matching black or brown shoes and belt. Lastly, get a professional haircut, and a clean shave, and you should be good to go. Rock that interview with the confidence of a well dressed man.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, and we can add to this resource!