Dressing for success

Despite the goings on of the world around us, the age-old question that pops into anyone’s head still remains: “What do I wear for the Interview?” Here, we address the best outfits for job interviews.

First impressions count!

At Global Talent 2020, this is something I (and my colleagues) have been asked on countless occasions. We, collectively, have had to ask our client base on occasion, to clarify, to ensure our candidates turn out in the manner the client expects to mirror their culture, or business environment.

Mostly, any interview will be based on more important factors, like how well you answered the questions, the personality/skill sets shown, attitude in the interview, body language etc, but also an important (and not to be overlooked) factor is first impressions – which count for a lot.

How you ‘present’ yourself can tip the scales in the Interviewers mind more in your favour, when up against a similar matched candidate that has not paid attention to their interview appearance.

Dressing appropriately for any Interview process is important, because it says a lot about whom you are, and is an indicative barometer of your professionalism.

Set the tone in your interview

It does not matter whether you attend your interview in formal business attire, or something more casual. A well-presented outfit, no matter the interview occasion, shows that you are serious about the opportunity you are there to discuss. It also illustrates to the interviewer(s) that you appreciate and respect working to a professional standard, and that you take pride in yourself/your appearance.

This will be important to the Interviewers, who will then help them visualise you in their organisation and become a potential ambassador of their brand ethos and employee values.

This can also then indicate to a prospective employer that this pride, the detail you have afforded, and effort applied to your own personal presentation, can be indicative of your tidiness, and latent approach to your approach to  duties in the workplace.

Conversely, someone who does not take any effort in their personal presentation, including personal hygiene, may have the same ‘work attitude’ traits, and this will be potentially evident in their qualitive work output.

It will also show to the Interviewer that you have an industry understanding and are relatively attired.  With a carefully chosen outfit you can show the employer that you have a good insight, and expectancy levels of the professional norms associated with your chosen industry, you are there to interview for.

“A well-thought-out interview outfit not only proves you understand the industry, but it can also show that you identify with the hiring organisation’s company culture”

Matthew Reeves – Head of Operations, Global Talent 2020

To the Interviewer it will also show that you have researched into the company culture/look. A well-thought-out interview outfit not only proves you understand the industry, but it can also show that you identify with the hiring organisation’s company culture. For example, turning up to the interview in a full-on business outfit, when the interview panel are all in a dressed down etiquette, could give off the signals that you’ve misjudged the company’s cultures and, subsequently, aren’t the right fit for their organisation.

An important thing to also consider, the attire you choose and feel great in, can boost your confidence on the interview day. It is like a suit of armour in a way. Putting the right level of thought into what to wear can also bring a personal benefit by way of boosting your self-confidence. An outfit in which you feel both comfortable and professional in, can put you in a more positive frame of mind, empower, and help to alleviate trepidation ahead of the interview itself. Most importantly, anything that adds to the right level of self-confidence on the interview day, will go a long way towards establishing a strong first impression of yourself. Leaving a strong residual image on the Interviewer(s) mind, after you leave the room after the interview is over.

When choosing to dress for success for an interview, consider how your own physical appearance can complement your skills sets, and experience level.  This will also help to demonstrate that you are a good fit for both the role, and in the minds of the decision makers on the interview panel.

Dress professionally for an interview in varying Interview processes

Different industry verticals/sectors have varied dress code expectations when it comes to what to choose to wear for an interview.

The following outline dress codes provided are set out to give guidance on business in formal, business casual, and smart casual wear. We’ve highlighted the stereotypical roles they are usually associated with, and give interview dress code tips for each case:

Formal Business Attire – Industries such as the banking and finance world, legal profession, high-end sales and also the Human Resources sector, all fall into a more formal state of interview dress code. You’ll want a very smart outfit that presents you as ‘in-command’, authoritative, self-confident, and overtly professional.

What to wear to an interview female:

Wear a skirt or trouser suit in darker tones with a light-coloured buttoned blouse or shirt. Again, the rule of thumb applies as with male attire: stay away from plain black.  It’s more recognised for women to go without a suit jacket, but it’s a good idea to have one with you. Keep the skirt length below, or just slightly above the knee, and match with nude tights if comfortable, to do so.

If possible, wear a tapered heeled shoe of no more than three inches in heel. Do not go into an interview on heels you cannot walk normally in or could potentially cause you to lose control of your stride. If you are not in favour of heels, opt for smart flats. Avoid open toes or slingbacks type shoes, no matter the weather. Again, make sure they are polished, clean, and in a good state of shoe health.

Complete the assemble with a smart business bag, that complements your outfit (not looks out of place). Any jewellery worn on the day, should only extend to a simple bracelet watch, small single stud earrings, engagement/wedding bands. Do not wear, or over accessorise with cheap jewellery, as it will harm your professional aurora you are trying to impress on the interviewer. If you do not have anything jewellery wise that is conservative, it is best to simply go without for the purpose of the process.

What to wear to an interview men:

Stick to pressed, clean tailored suit with the jacket buttoned up, a plain, light-coloured, (white or light blue), ironed shirt and a matched tie. Avoid plain black as this can appear overly austere. Grey suits and dark blues offer a much more inviting personable veneer.

With the tie, simple is best. Avoid loud patterns, bright colours and (at all costs) novelty ties!  Colour match it to your suit palate or choose pastel tones to complement. You do not want the tie to distract the eye, but offer enough to show you are co-ordinated, clean, and neat as an overall cohesive look.

Compliment with polished smart leather shoes. A leather black belt for your trousers, without an over ornate belt buckle. Compliment the overall appearance, if you wear one, with a nice watch (not blingy), and avoid any other jewellery besides a wedding band.

Business Casual look –

Examples of this are the Information Technology, some Education sector, Marketing, and some lifestyle Hospitality brands, where a smarter relaxed attire is welcomed and encouraged. These are sectors where you may be prudent to really research the individual companies style and ethos of its employee base. This style of dress has a wide bandwidth in that what one company may find acceptable, another will not.

What to wear to an interview female:

Smart trouser suits, as well as chinos, khakis, and knee-length skirt all work well for this type of business dress code. Co-ordinate with a nice blouse, or shirts, a smart top, and a casual blazer over the top. Again, lighter tones are best. Ladies can get away with short sleeves, in this situation.

A two-piece outfit usually gives a more professional look. however, a nice smart dress is also par for the course. As above, choose a suitable high heel, but not ones that are uncomfortable or opened at the toes.   Again, chose a matching bag – tote style is a good baseline.

What to wear to an interview men:

Smart suit-like trousers or chinos are good examples of this style of dress code for men. Accessorise the trousers with a blend of business with casual. For example, a button-down shirt with an open blazer or sports jacket. Use a colour palate of lighter tones for business casual look, but remember to keep them neutral, not too jazzy, or distracting in nature – so you don’t overly standout, or look at odds.

Again, as previously outlined, finish the look with a co-ordinated belt and smart casual shoes. Examples of shoes are leather brogues or Oxfords, and maybe a smart satchel or messenger bag. 

Smart Casual look – Most associated with the creative industries and/or start-up business cultures. Usually, this is where individuals can be less conformist and present more of their personality through their chosen attire. As in these industries, flair/artistic freedoms/expression is encouraged and can be reflected in the individuals aesthetic.

What to wear to an interview female:

The female version of smart casual is in essence a step down from the above ‘Business Casual’ outlined above. Be more adventurous in replacing the trousers or skirts for skinny or tailored jeans (in a dark denim). Add a simple complementary patterned top to your top half , or plain if you are more comfortable like this.

Flat shoes, pumps, in some cases plain trainers, or boots are more in keeping for a smart casual look.

What to wear to an interview men:

V-neck sweaters, relaxed fit tops, a plain t-shirt, or button-down type shirts are best for the top half. Either plain, or in simple check, with a blazer combination are all in keeping for the smart casual interview type process/organisation. As outlined previously, keep your clothing colours as neutral as possible and coordinated with the rest of your ensemble. With gents, it is best to stick to full-length sleeves, as they generally give men a smarter overall appearance.

For the men’s trousers – wear khaki effect, or chinos type trousers or, well fitted dark jeans. As previously mentioned, ensure you co-ordinate your choice of trouser against your choice of top.
Stick to shoes such as brogues. Suede shoes are acceptable for this level of dress code, or loafer type shoes, and (in some cases) some plain trainers.

Unsure of the Interview Dress Code?

At Global Talent 2020 – we are strong believers in the approach of being best prepared, rather than under prepared. This extends to candidates’ appearance at interview. The old adage of, “Fail to prepare – prepare to fail”, extends to dress.

If you are not informed, it is always best to be smart and overdressed, rather than turn up under-dressed. Below are a few basic tips to check on a business’s style, dress code, and ethos:

  • Check out the company’s website or social media accounts beforehand. These will reveal actual people working in the workplace, and give you a barometer of what the dress code appears to be
  • If using a good Recruiter/Recruitment Agency/Consultant – they should advise you (If not they are not doing their job thoroughly!)
  • Check any correspondence you may have from the company, or the advert you applied through, and assess the language used in describing the opportunity – is it very corporate, or has a relaxed cadence?
  • Know someone who works there? Ask them beforehand
  • As a last resort, you could always stop by and watch people come and go at start/lunch/finish times – get a litmus of what they all wear to the workplace
  • Failing all of the above, ring the HR department of the company and ask them

What not to wear for an interview

As covered earlier in this blog, it is important you get the attire right, as you are representing yourself. You do not want your attire to let your experience detract from your actual in-interview performance on the day. What you feel is comfortable outside of the workplace does not translate to what is acceptable in it.

At Global Talent 2020, I do not want to come across as a droning fashionista, or imparting advice like someone of the next supermodel TV show, but dressing for the interview appropriately is important. It is part of the whole of preparing diligently for the process.

Outlined above are guides, they are not set in stone. It is OK to show some personality through your appearance – but in moderation. It is more important that your individuality is represented in your personality and exuded through projection of your skills and experience in the interview in your answers, and handling of the setting of the process.

Quick tips:

  • Do not be tempted to wear anything that shows too much flesh or is too risqué, low cut or overly tight. This extends to short skirts
  • In hot weather, stay away from shorts, flip flops, open toed footwear, and (generally at any time of the year) sportswear
  • Don’t be a slave to any trends like ripped jeans, distressed styles, or oversizing of garments – it maybe ‘street’, but to a potential employer, it maybe ‘scruffy’
  • Remove any piercings like nose rings, multiple earrings, lots of bangles/bracelets, rings, huge nails or blingy watches. Keep it simple or don’t wear any. Cover tattoos for the Interview that maybe highly visible: they are OK to exhibit once you have the job, but best to be conservative about this. Jewellery that is jangling and overly shifting about whilst you talk, or gesture, will be a noticeable distraction to a good, trained Interviewer
  • Do not wear garish colours, overly branded garments, offensive slogans or political ones. Keep colours neutral or muted/pastel shades
  • If you are wearing make-up, then use it lightly. This will detract from the Interviewer making eye contact, and cause unwanted breaking of the rapport you are trying to establish
  • Make sure everything is clean, pressed, and in the case of shoes either polished, or wiped free of marks. Do this the night/day before the Interview. Not the morning/day of the process.
  • Rule of thumb – you want to wear garments that will hold their shape and form, so that it looks like you have stepped from your home, straight into the interview
  • Have a dry run of your outfit the day(s), before the actual process. Get a friend, loved one, or family member to assess it or take a selfie! See how you appear to someone else
  • Wear clothing that is comfortable, and in line with the weather on the day of the interview. Remember you can always take layers off, or carry a jacket, if it is warm in the interview environment
  • Make sure your hair is washed, tidy and (if long) tied up or not required to be constantly kept at bay. Same with nails, Make sure they are free of grime/dirt, and are manicured, neat, and not overly long or covered in garish polish. This extends to beards/facial hair, make sure it is tidy and trimmed
  • Do not smoke in the clothing prior to the interview
  • Take a mask for Covid-19 measures – just in case the interviewer’s premises do not have any, or have certain protocols on site that you may have to follow at the interview on the day


Being aware of how to dress for an interview is an important part of the preparation process. It’s a chance for you to project yourself as the best candidate for the opportunity. To discuss our vacancies and appropriate interview attire, contact our team.

Best of luck with the finished ensemble!