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INTERVIEWS: How to Dress for an Interview

Written by Judith Hart, Employment Specialist with Next-Steps Employment Centre – Mississauga Meadowvale


How many times have you heard “Dress to Impress”? It’s a common piece of advice when you have a job interview, but what does it mean? Do you need to wear your most elegant, 3-piece suit or evening gowns? Definitely not! The key concept with dressing for an interview is to keep it simple, professional and relevant to the industry you are interviewing for. Follow these tips to make sure you impress all the right people at your next interview:

Pre-Interview – Research Phase

  • How formal is the organization? What type of clothes do employees wear to work? These questions can help you identify what would be appropriate in the interview. Look at the company website and company social media accounts to gain information. The website brand imaging can give you useful information about the organization. For example, notice the difference between Zara for Men and Tip Top Tailors. Both are great brands/companies, but have an entirely
    different look and feel.
  • Try on your interview outfit the day before to make sure you are happy with how it looks and fits.
  • If you need assistance in purchasing interview clothing, ask your Employment Advisor about Dress for Success, Dress your Best, or client supports that might be available.
  • Always get a second opinion! Do a “dress rehearsal” and get feedback from a trusted source.

Interview Phase – What to wear

  • Remember the 20/80 rule: the first 20 seconds’ impression makes up 80% of the total impression about you!
  • Jewellery – limit to only 2-3 pieces, otherwise it may draw too much attention and be distracting
  • You want your hair to be clean, neat and tidy. If possible, get your hair cut + styled before your interview. You will feel renewed and more confident!
  • Many companies have “scent-free environments”. You never know if your future employer will be sensitive to smells. To be on the safe side, wear deodorant and avoid any perfume or cologne
  • Cover tattoos (if any), and nail polish should be clear or a neutral tone.
  • Many employers notice shoes! It is recommended that your footwear is a low heel, polished, closed toe and comfortable. Running shoes or converse are never acceptable.
  • Try to avoid big patterns or harsh, overly bright colours. These can be distracting to the employer, and may give a negative impression.
  • The general rule of thumb is to dress more formal for the interview than you would at work in the company. If employees are wearing casual clothes to work, you would want to wear business casual to the interview. Business casual at work, then you will want business in the interview.
  • You no longer need to wear a white button up shirt with black suit; it is fine to inject colour into your outfit. Try to pick colours that are conservative (ie. pastels, gray, blue, beige, etc), and a style that is more modern.
  • Be mindful of what kind of accessories you carry with you or wear! For example, never ever wear any accessories, or carry branded notebooks, pens or other items from the interviewing company’s competitors in the market.
  • Carry a professional bag for your laptop/device or your portfolio. Alternatively, carry a professional folder with extra copies of your Resume, your References and work samples, if applicable.

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