What to wear to a job interview

When it comes to workplace fashion, your grandparents didn’t have as much flexibility as you do. And that cuts both ways. In today’s environment, we’re more free to express our individuality, but that freedom creates more opportunities to mess up—especially in a job interview scenario, where we’re being evaluated. 

Broadly speaking, there are at least two moving parts to account for: Fashion itself remains as dynamic as ever—what’s considered trendy today might be viewed as conservative in six months. At the same time, workplace expectations are shifting over time, with individual corporate cultures and industry-wide norms exerting their own influences on what’s okay and what’s not.

If you’re preparing for a job interview, that leaves you with conflicting fashion needs: You want to stand out from other candidates, but not too much. You want to reflect your own identity, but want to highlight only the elements that might resonate with the interviewer. 

Consider these tips for navigating the shifting landscape and looking your best at the interview.

Advance preparation

Invest a little effort on research: Learn about the company’s workplace culture, and look at norms in the wider industry. Also check out competitors to see what workers at your level are wearing.
“Business casual” means different things in different settings. Learn how it applies at the company you’ll be visiting.
Dress to impress, not to dazzle. Dress only slightly above your pay grade. Your outfit should not be the first thing people notice. 
Choose an outfit that’s appropriate for the time of year and the climate where you’ll be interviewing. If your interview will be in Boston in the winter, but the job is based in Miami, dress for the Boston winter.
Don’t hesitate to call human resources and ask directly about dress codes. It reflects well on you that you’re taking the trouble to do your research.
If you don’t own an outfit that’s suitable, take advantage of style or fashion advisors at large department stores. In a pinch, hire a consultant. 

The day of

Nothing adds to your confidence like good grooming. Have a clean and neat appearance, including good hygiene, trimmed nails and a recent haircut. 
Accessorize appropriately for the position, company and industry. If you wear makeup, use a minimalist approach; less is more.
Avoid colognes and perfumes. It’s not worth the risk of alienating someone who dislikes the fragrance or has an allergy.  
Make sure your outfit is pressed and clean, and your shoes are polished and presentable.

A lot of these tips sound more complicated than they are. With the right outfit, one that aligns with your identity and goals, you can focus on presenting yourself with confidence and poise.