The Job Interview: Why You Shouldn’t Dress To Impress

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...and it doesn't necessarily include a killer briefcase, but you'll definitely get bonus points for that.

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Navy suit. Check.

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White shirt and pocket square. Check.

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Dark tie....

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And dark shoes.

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Remember, the interview is about you, not what you're wearing.

What to wear to a job interview to put your best foot forward

If there’s one occasion that will pop up for most men more than once throughout their adult lives, it’s a job interview. And if there’s one occasion where our recommendation for what to wear remains the same regardless of your stage in life, it’s a job interview. I’ve (successfully) interviewed at a restaurant, a law firm, and a fashion company, all wearing the same thing: a classic navy suit, a white shirt, a conservative tie and pocket square, and oxford shoes.

mens interview attire dress code

Since the outfit is so straightforward, let’s take a minute to focus on why these pieces. Put simply, you want your interview outfit to be a blank slate. Your interviewer is coming into this without knowing much about you and the point is for them to come away from the interview with a better idea of who you are.

It’s important that that conception comes from you and that the only thing your interviewer takes away from what you’re wearing is that you’re respectful of the expectations of an interview and are a presentable human being. You want your outfit to be sharp, but not to command the focus of the room – that focus should be on you and your accomplishments, after all.

mens interview attire dress code

| BRIAN WEARS | Michael Andrews Bespoke suit, Ermengildo Zegna shirt, Drake’s tie, Garrett Leight sunglasses, Frank Clegg briefcase, Allen Edmonds shoes | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

Now let’s come back to respectful and presentable. In this case, respectful means that you need to show that the interview is worthwhile to you. If you show up dressed in jeans and a tee, even if that fully meets the dress code of the job you’re applying for, you aren’t showing a respectful amount of effort. So suit up.

Presentable hits the other notes – we all know that a suit alone doesn’t make you look good.

First, make sure that suit fits, and next, pay attention to what you’re wearing with it. Realize that “presentable” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and take the middle ground. Some folks might think it’s super cool if you come in rocking a floral shirt and a bright tie. But, on the other hand, there are definitely some folks who won’t.

mens interview attire dress code

There is literally no one will think a white shirt, dark tie and white pocket square look bad. Instead of taking a sartorial risk in order to stretch your sprezzy wings, keep it safe and save those swerves until you’ve got your foot solidly inside that door.

So here’s the formula: sharp enough to command and show respect, but otherwise as neutral as possible.

mens interview attire dress code

This show is about you, not your clothing! Navy suit. White dress shirt. Dark tie. White pocket square. Dark dress shoes and matching belt. No more, no less. That way, regardless of whether you get the offer or never hear from them again, you’ll know that it’s because of your qualifications, not your look.

mens interview attire dress code

Chime in: Share your best job interview looks and let us know if you’ve ever made a terrible sartorial mistake in one.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Adam Lehman
He Spoke Style

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Chime In

  • http://www.vipbachelorclub.com W. ADAM MANDELBAUM

    Not really in love with the pockets, the darts and the turnups. But I am not hiring today. :-)

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Haha. Thanks, as always, for the comment!

  • Albert Trevino

    I notice your Drakes tie is a fairly subdued printed tie. (Works beutifuly IMO) What colors should we stick to if we want to go with a solid tie for instance? Thanks Brian.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks, Albert! For a solid tie, I’d do a navy, burgundy or brown. Or a madder… ;)

  • Mark Johnson

    I think you could get away with your standard light blue dress shirt rather than a white without raising any eyebrows anywhere these days.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Agreed.

  • DeJuan McGuire

    I like that look for a job interview. However, in some cases a suit would be overkill. I had an interview almost four years ago for an engineering job at a factory. The recruiter told me I should leave the suit and tie at home and wear nice slacks and a dress shirt. I panicked a little at the thought of going into an interview without my favorite interview suit. I wore a light blue shirt with French cuffs because I still felt the need to dress it up a bit, gray slacks, and black oxfords. I didn’t get that job, but I repeated the outfit when I interviewed a few weeks later for the job I have now. I am much more into style and know more now than then, so I might do it a little different today. Perhaps my navy blazer, white pocket square, gray flannel trousers, white or light blue shirt, and dark brown longwings.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for the comment, DeJuan. The outfit you describe at the end sounds fantastic. Definitely HSS-approved! To a certain extent, I think it does depend on what kind of company you’re interviewing for, but as always, it’s better to be overdressed rather than underdressed. Have a great weekend.

  • Toby Luper

    A man my have brains but, you see his clothes first!

  • HN

    I interviewed high schoolers as they were seniors getting interview experience. The batch of kids that I got were mostly all honor students.

    They were all smart, but the ones that stood out most were the sharp dressed ones that had the most basic colors and best fit. Anything that was a bit flamboyant or I’ll-fitting stood out.

    You want the clothes to speak positive of yourself without the interviewer knowing why. Like in a first date, interviewing for a first job is the same.

    Grooming is also Ace important that needs to be discussed.