You’re graduating from college this year - congratulations! As you may glean from your internship application experience, interviewing for a full-time position is no easy task. With the job market as competitive as it is, you’re bound to have multiple interviews across multiple potential employers.
When interviewing, it’s better to air on the side of overdressed than under-dressed, but to truly put your best foot forward you want to demonstrate that you fit with the culture. In a prior post we used what we call the dress code ladder as a visual for determining what dress code to abide by when interviewing: Identify the employer’s daily dress code and dress “one rung” higher for the interview.
Easy in theory, but are you really expected to have interview outfits for all dress codes? That gets expensive...
Read on to learn how to take one professional outfit - a suit for men, a dress and blazer for women - and make it fit all dress codes.
You'll see two sets of images in this post - one showcasing women's interview outfit hacks, and one showcasing men's. Click the image to get the look and browse options for each piece of attire.
P.S. Don’t own any professional attire? Don’t bother - you can rent the outfit from us when you need it. We’re here to save you the mental and financial stress of looking the part for the interview.
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Interview outfit for women: Professional dress with blazer
1. Smart Casual
When wearing a professional dress, you don't need a blazer for smart casual. If you do wear a blazer or cardigan, keep it open - like this long vest.
Pair with a thin belt around the waist and trendy shoes. In this example we chose oxford-style slippers with gold detail which is matched by the gold hoop earrings.
2. Business Casual
You could wear a trendy blazer for business casual, but with a professional dress you don't need one. The dress is business-y enough on its own.
Pair the dress with a watercolor pattern scarf (no tassels!), and one piece of statement jewelry. Shoes should be closed-toe; in this example we chose black booties.
3. Business Professional
This is The Keynote Sable; a professional dress and blazer power outfit in a conservative color combination. Keep the blazer buttoned and pair with classic, closed-toe shoes. We chose pointed-toe, leather, Mary Jane style shoes; regular pumps or pointed-toe flats would work equally as well.
For jewelry, go classic and conservative; like these pearl drop earrings. Studs are also great for business professional dress codes.
Note: Flats are appropriate in any situation! If you are not comfortable walking in heels, or don't feel confident wearing them, then don't. Consider patent leather or pointed-toe flats for a more polished look. Round-toe flats for casual or smart casual.
Interview outfit for men: Suit
Since the above image is of the OTB Dark Slate suit, the recommended shoes and belt are black.
1. Smart Casual:
For a smart casual office environment, wear the full suit, but keep it relaxed with a bright Polo shirt. Another option is a simple T-shirt with the blazer left unbuttoned.
You can wear dress shoes or loafers for smart casual. As always, make sure the belt matches the shoes.
2. Business Casual:
Pair your suit slacks with a different color blazer or no jacket at all (like in the above example). Select a patterned button down, leather dress shoes, and a matching belt. Leave the tie at home.
3. Business Professional:
This example is of the OTB Dark Slate suit. Wear a full suit (darker is more formal), white button down, conservative tie, polished leather dress shoes and (you guessed it!) a matching belt.
We recommend keeping the second jacket button closed, and no need for cuff links. Cuff links are extremely formal and typically appropriate with professional evening wear, not interview attire.
Final tip for everyone: As a general rule, we don’t recommend dressing casually for an interview.
If you’re concerned about overdressing, ask the hiring manager, recruiter, or HR - whoever contacted you for the interview - what they recommend for dress code. You won’t lose points for asking and you will gain points for being thoughtful and prepared.
Have a favorite suggested look or your own style to share? Tell us in the comments or use #howiOTB on social!