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Generally, you only get one chance to make a first impression—a fact that becomes particularly important if you’re about to face an interview panel for your dream job. That’s why it’s key to put your best foot forward and look the part, even if your wardrobe consists mostly of hoodies and sweatpants (as might be the case for anyone in tech).
Here are a few guidelines on what not to wear in an interview.
Short skirts or dresses
A short skirt is not the best choice for an interview. In fact, it’s a poor choice under all circumstances. Wearing a short skirt to an interview shows that you’re either not prepared or don’t know what constitutes a professional work environment. And if you choose to wear a short skirt, your interviewer will be distracted by your outfit instead of focusing on what you say and do during the interview.
In addition to distracting the interviewer, wearing a short skirt creates other problems during an interview:
- If you wear a short skirt, you’ll spend the entire time worrying about sitting in such as way as to avoid revealing too much leg.
- If you’re constantly adjusting your position and clothing, it shows that you are nervous about the interview — which is understandable for anyone — but this added anxiety might cause you to stumble over important answers or seem overly flustered during the meeting.
Instead of wearing a short skirt, opt for pants or knee-length skirts and dresses with closed-toe shoes (preferably heels).
Jeans are not appropriate for job interviews. At most, they could be acceptable for an interview at a company that has a very casual dress code. Even so, it’s better to err on the side of professionalism than to assume you can dress down for your interview.
Whether you’re interviewing for an office job, business position or corporate title, jeans are too informal for this setting.
Leggings are not appropriate for the workplace. While they may be “comfortable” or “breathable,” they are simply too casual to wear during an interview. They also tend to be extremely revealing and explicit, which could lead a hiring manager to form negative assumptions about your judgement and character.
If you can’t help but wear leggings, at least pair them with a sweater dress that falls below the knees. If you decide to go with a tunic instead, keep in mind that it will have more of a frumpy look than fashion-savvy one if it comes down past your knees. This is why picking pants over leggings is often more flattering on many different body types.
Flip flops are not appropriate interview attire. They are extremely casual and do not look professional. In addition, they can be both uncomfortable and hard to walk in, so you might look awkward when you walk into the room for your interview. If you think that flip flops would be a good choice for an interview because they match your outfit, think again: it is hard to match them with work-appropriate clothing that still looks stylish.
While flip flops should not be worn during an interview, there are other shoes that are appropriate. You can wear leather shoes or loafers if you want something classy or dressy, and pumps work well if you want to go with heels. If you really want a fashion-forward look with interesting colors or patterns on the shoes, consider wearing mules instead of pumps; however, make sure that the rest of your outfit matches with the style of your shoe choice!
Anything too tight fitting
Clothing is meant to be comfortable, so choose clothing that allows you to move freely and sit comfortably. If your outfit is too tight, you won’t be able to relax as much as you need to in order for your personality shine through.
Remember: It’s less about the fit of the clothing itself and more about the way you carry yourself. If you are constantly pulling on your shirt or skirt because it’s too tight, then your interviewers will notice this, and it will detract from what you are saying.
Loud colours and patterns
Loud colours and patterns are attention-grabbing, but in a job interview, you want to be remembered for your intelligence, your enthusiasm, and your ability to add value to the team. Loud colours and patterns are distracting—they draw attention away from what matters most in an interview.
If you want to make a great impression during your interview without being too loud or overpowering, stick with neutral colours like black, navy blue, and grey. These colours are more understated than bright reds or yellows. You can still wear colourful clothing if you prefer it—just make sure the colour is muted enough that it doesn’t steal the show from what’s actually important: your personality and skillset!
Dressing appropriately for an interview is important.
You can be sure that the interviewer will immediately notice how you are dressed and, whether it is fair or not, make assumptions about your level of professionalism and competence. This first impression can make or break an interview.
If you are interviewing for a job in an industry with a formal dress code, you should follow it regardless of the company’s dress policy. So if you want to work in finance or sales, wear a suit to the interview (even if all of your co-workers wear jeans). If you are in a more creative field where the company has very casual dress code, then go ahead and show off your style. On average though, most people will be wearing business casual clothing – so dress up! For men this means slacks or khakis with a collared shirt (tie optional), while women can opt for pants or skirts paired a blouse and cardigan/jacket.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “There are no dumb questions.” This is also true in the interview room.
So if you feel uncomfortable or unsure about something, ask! After all, you would rather know beforehand than be surprised by something later on. Don’t worry about appearing or sounding silly; everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes. Asking questions shows that you are engaged and interested in the position. It will also help relieve some of the anxiety surrounding your new job and work environment.
Keep in mind that sometimes interviewers may not think to share information with you until it comes up in conversation, so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on things like paid time off or details about health insurance plans/options (Hint: this is an especially good question if they wait until after you are hired to give you this information).
And if it turns out that there were some red flags regarding your new employer that you missed during your research—or worse yet, during training—don’t beat yourself up over it! Take a deep breath and try to get some perspective before making any rash decisions. Seek out professional advice from a therapist or trusted friend; they may have insights that can help calm your fears and guide you through this stressful process. After all, finding a career fit is never easy; however finding one in which both sides benefit is worth working toward!