Men have it easy when it comes to figuring out what to wear to a job interview, right? Just throw on a suit and tie and you’re good to go. Not really.
If you’re applying to a job at a startup where everyone’s wearing jeans and hoodies, you don’t want to show up looking like you’re ready to become the next wolf of Wall Street. Not quite, anyway.
Lois Krause, with the human resources consulting firm, Kardas Larson, says the key is to “know your audience.” “When in doubt, always err on the side of being overdressed, rather than underdressed,” she adds.
So how do you know if you should channel Justin Timberlake and wear a Suit & Tie or Mark Zuckerberg with jeans and a T-shirt? Monster spoke with career experts for essential tips to prepare you for any dress code so you’ll know exactly what to wear to your next job interview.
Do your research
“Check out the company’s social media pages and website for photos or videos of what people might be wearing in the office to get a better idea of the overall dress code,” says Andrew Tillery, a marketing director at MAP Communications.
Wear a button down and nice pants if the office looks casual and a pressed dress shirt and tie if it looks business casual or formal, he says. “Try to dress one step above what the company’s dress code is,” Tillery explains.
Can’t find any evidence? Take into consideration the industry because some skew more or less formal.
Wear a suit if you’re applying to jobs in finance, law, government, consulting, medicine, or real estate.
You may be able to get away with chinos and a dress shirt if you work in marketing, public relations, media, technology, manufacturing, sports, education, or something with a more casual vibe.
When you’re interviewing to be the boss, dress like the boss
Whenever you’re interviewing for an executive position, wear a suit even if you know the rest of the office will be rocking T-shirts and jeans.
This shows that you’re respectful of the company and understand that, as a senior-level team member, you have to be more buttoned-up (literally and figurateively) because people look to you as a leader of the organization.
“I had a candidate come for a CFO position once who thought because it was a small manufacturing company that he would dress in a pullover sweater and sports coat with the patches on the elbows,” says Krause.
“He totally turned off the entire interview group. They felt he didn’t take them or the organization seriously, because he didn’t wear a suit and tie.”
Moral of the story: Take into consideration the industry, what people wear at the specific company, and your seniority level.
Wear something classic and simple
Whatever position you’re interviewing for, you want your interviewer to be focused on you and your accomplishments…not your outfit.
“Avoid being too flashy. This includes crazy colored socks, headwear like fedoras, or printed shirts,” says Anthony Ukaogo Jr., founder of the men’s lifestyle collective Laidback Allure.
To that same point, he suggests wearing no more than three accessories like a watch, ring, lapel pin, tie clip, or pocket square.
If you’re interviewing at a formal company and need to wear a suit, he recommends grey or navy with a white dress shirt and a tie. “With ties, you want to be subtle. Avoid crazy patterns if you’re interviewing for a more reserved job,” says Ukaogo. “If the job allows you to be a little more eccentric, then you can wear a tie with more patterns,” he adds.
Focus on the fit and wrinkles
You’ve chosen what to wear and now you have to zero in on how your outfit looks. Try your outfit on a few days before the interview to make sure it fits and isn’t wrinkled or stained.
Now you’ll have time to take your outfit to the dry cleaner, iron it, or buy something new if your outfit is too tight or too big.
“The more wrinkles you have, the less likely you’ll be taken seriously, says Ralph Collins, a Los Angeles–based fashion and editorial photographer. “When the clothes fit you properly, you feel comfortable, which makes you feel confident, which makes you perform better in the interview,” he says.
Show you’re best suited for the job
There’s no doubt that it is important to look polished and professional for your job interview. But even 007 wouldn’t land the job if he couldn’t show he was qualified. Could you use some help brushing up your appeal? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you’ll get interview insights, career advice, and job search tips delivered straight to your inbox. Whether you need help setting up a mock interview, practicing your answers to interview questions, or just squashing your nerves, Monster’s experts can help make you look good, no matter what industry you’re in.