As if job interviews weren’t stressful enough with trying to remember the right things to say and do, you also have to think about what you’re going to wear.  Whether we like it or not, job interviews are not just about your resume: how you physically present yourself matters when it comes to landing your dream job.  First impressions are especially critical because hiring managers will evaluate your appearance because they don’t know you yet and that’s all they have to go on initially.

Interviews are all about showing yourself in the best possible light, and your interview outfit is part of that process.  With that in mind, here are some tips on how to choose the best outfit for a job interview:

When in doubt, power suit

In case you’re cringing at the phrase “power suit,” keep in mind they’ve come a long way since the heavy, shoulder-padded iterations of the 1980s.  Now a slim, tapered pair of pants and a well-fitted blazer – things you’d probably wear anyway – count.  It is advised that women choose well-tailored dark pants or a skirt, while men should make sure their suit is a more modern cut.  In addition to looking professional, the power suit gives the wearer an extra boost of confidence.

Invest in a nice pair of shoes

It doesn’t matter so much what kind of shoes you choose to wear, so long as they’re professional.  For men, think loafers, Oxfords, or dress shoes instead of sneakers.  Women can wear flats or heels, and should choose darker colors over bright colors or complicated patterns.  Shoes should look clean and free of scuffs, chipped heels, worn patches, or holes.  Choose shoes you feel comfortable walking in.

Keep it simple

Once the initial introductions have been made, you want the interviewer to focus on you.  As such, bear in mind the following:

  • Avoid overpowering or distracting colors and patterns as well as pieces that show too much skin (or are too sheer).
  • Go easy on your jewelry, makeup, hairstyle, nail polish, and other accessories as you want your personality to shine more than your clothing.  However, this doesn’t mean you have to be boring: you can personalize your outfit with an accessory or two, such as a tie or silk scarf or necklace, as long as you’re careful not to overdo it.
  • Investing in a sturdy, classic handbag or briefcase that can comfortably fit your interview materials will make you look and feel both organized and stylish.
  • While looking professional is essential, ultimately your interview outfit should be one you look good and feel confident wearing.

Pay attention to the details

Don’t forget to devote some time to your physical appearance as well as your choice of interview outfit.  Comb your hair, check to make sure that none of this morning’s spinach omelet ended up in your teeth, and double-check that you didn’t miss any spots while shaving.  Give yourself an extra hour when you’re getting ready, really taking your time, and consider bringing a small grooming kit with you for any last-minute touch-ups you may need.  Clean your glasses, and don’t forget to silence your cell phone – it shouldn’t even be on vibrate!

Put the perfume and cologne away

Once you’ve showered, shaved, and applied deodorant, avoid the urge to douse yourself in cologne or perfume.  You want to be remembered for your skills, not your scent.

Have a dress rehearsal

Always try on your interview clothes in advance before the day of the interview to prevent any possible wardrobe malfunctions.  You might decide that the tie you were planning on wearing doesn’t really look as sharp and professional as you anticipated, or that the blouse you wanted to wear is a little more revealing than you remember it being.  If things don’t fit right anymore, if your go-to jacket is missing a button, or if the shirt you love is wrinkled, it gives you time to troubleshoot and either fix the issues or find something else to wear instead without having to scramble.

In the long run, no matter what job you are interviewing for, it’s much better to be a little too dressed up than too casual.  Dressing professionally shows respect for yourself, the interviewer, and the company.  You may not have to dress like this every day, but you are more likely to be taken seriously when you present yourself in a professional manner and take the time to attend to details.

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