Career Advice for Job Seekers

An entry level job seeker’s guide to interview outfits

Job interview with candidate for office employment or negotiation for hiring. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Matt Krumrie AvatarMatt Krumrie
April 11, 2017


The saying you only get one chance to make a first impression really holds true in today’s job market, says Melissa Wagner, Career Services Advisor for Rasmussen College. Your interview outfit is a big part of the first impression you make at a potential employer.

“An interview is the candidate’s opportunity to sell the employer that they’re the right fit for the position,” says Wagner. “So it’s important that candidates bring their best game to the playing field.”

Dress more formally than most employees at the company

Jama Thurman,  Counseling and Career Services manager at Hodges University, agrees about making the right first impression. “Your interview attire and professional appearance can make or break you when meeting a prospective employer,” says Thurman. “First impressions are important.”

While half (50%) of senior managers surveyed by OfficeTeam said employees wear less formal clothing than they did 5 years ago, and many companies are allowing workers to dress more casually in the office, you should choose apparel that’s a couple notches up for job interviews, says Brandi Britton, District President for OfficeTeam, a staffing firm specializing in placing highly skilled professionals into administrative jobs.

Prepare by researching the organization’s culture

“Job seekers should research the firm before the interview to get a sense of what’s appropriate to wear to the meeting,” says Britton. “This may include visiting the company to observe what current employees are wearing, tapping their network for advice, looking online for articles that discuss the company’s culture, or asking the recruiter or company’s HR representative for guidance.”

Also read The Entry-Level Job Seeker’s Guide to Interviewing

Like the interview itself, dressing for success takes planning and preparation.

“If you buy something new, wear it a few times before your meeting to make sure it fits well and you feel confident in it,” says Britton. “Pay attention to the less visible – but no less important – aspects of your appearance, like your shoes, socks and accessories. Make sure your outfit is free of wrinkles and stains, your hair and nails are well-groomed, and your shoes are polished.”

Employers are not only judging how interviewees respond to questions, they also judge their professional demeanor and appearance – to make sure they are a fit for the company culture, or when meeting with clients (if applicable).

Dress more formally for a job interview“Do some research on the company and during an initial phone interview make sure to ask about the company culture and environment; including the dress code,” says Wagner. “As a representative of the company, your appearance is part of the full package when you’re out in the community, meeting clients, and working with customers.  And with competition for jobs tight, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Not only does your appearance help give you that professional polish that will impress the employer, but when you look and feel good, it can help give you additional confidence.”

To help college students and recent college grads prepare appropriate interview outfits, we’ve put together this guide breaking down how to dress for job interviews within specific industries including, finance jobs, administrative jobs, creative/marketing jobs, advertising and public relations agency jobs, legal jobs, IT jobs, trucking jobs, and for internships.

Also read: 5 interview questions every job seeker should know 

How to dress for finance job interviews

The dress code for finance and accounting departments is becoming increasingly more casual, though still business professional, according to the professionals at Robert Half. While a full suit and tie or skirt and jacket may not be necessary for a job interview, it is often better to err on the side of overdressing. “Every company has its own culture, so it’s always a good idea to do your homework as much as you can to determine the dress code for the role and company where you are interviewing,” says Britton. The general recommendation is dress slacks or a skirt with a button-down shirt and blazer. Men should wear ties.

How to dress for administrative job interviews

While you should consider a company’s personality when interviewing for an administrative position, the classic two-piece suit (a jacket paired with either slacks or a skirt) is the safest option, according to OfficeTeam. Ensembles in conservative colors, like navy, gray, beige or brown, look best. For women, shoes with conservative heels, like close-toed pumps in leather or fabric, are a good choice. Dark shoes and socks are common for men.

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How to dress for creative/marketing job interviews

Dress more formally for your job interviewNearly 7 out of 10 advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said it’s likely they’d remove a candidate from consideration if he or she wore inappropriate interview attire. While some creative departments and agencies have casual dress codes, you will not be taken seriously if you look like you just strolled in from the beach or gym. Conversely, you don’t want to come across as too stuffy or conservative for the creative work environment. One good option is to wear something classic with a twist. This could be a button-down shirt and tailored pants, with the addition of a unique tie for men or statement necklace for women.

How to dress for marketing, advertising and public relation agency job interviews

Recent college grads interviewing for marketing, advertising or public relation jobs, or within an agency setting, should follow what recruiter Elizabeth Laukka calls a “professional creative dress code.” A full on suit is too formal and conservative, says Laukka. So she recommends women wear black pants with a colorful blazer or coat, and men wear black pants with a nice dress shirt that has some color or interest. “Too conservative stands out, especially when many of the company dress codes are business casual every day where most employees are wearing jeans,” says Laukka. “If someone comes in wearing a suit, it’s too much of a chasm.”

How to dress for legal job interviews

A business suit is a good bet for men or women in this typically conservative field, say the experts at Robert Half Legal. Make sure shoes are professional and polished and keep jewelry subtle. Women should consider wearing close-toed shoes if interviewing with a more traditional firm.

How to dress for an information technology jobs interview

Tech departments are usually business casual or even casual work environments (jeans and t-shirts), but for the interview, it’s best to project a professional image. According to a Robert Half Technology survey, nearly half (46%) of CIOs said a business suit is the most appropriate attire for someone interviewing for an IT position, and 34% of respondents favored khakis and a collared shirt.

How to dress for a trucking job interview

“For a potential driver position it is acceptable to dress in jeans or comfortable clothes, as that is what you’ll be wearing on the job,” says Ellen Voie, President and CEO of Women In Trucking Association, Inc., a non-profit organization with the mission to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry. “Stay away from t-shirts with any logos or statements, as this could offend the interviewer. Wear appropriate shoes, with hard soles. No flip flops or sandals for a driving job.”

How to dress for an internship interview

When it comes to internships, the standard interview attire rules still apply, according to OfficeTeam. College students or recent college grads who don’t have interview or workplace experience may not be aware of how you should dress for meetings with employers. But that’s where doing your homework and asking others for advice comes in handy. If you come dressed too casually, it’s hard for an employer to take you seriously and envision you as part of the team. Follow the above tips for advice on how to dress for an internship interview.

As a general rule of thumb, you should dress for a position at a more senior level than the one you’re interviewing for, says Britton.

“When in doubt, err on the conservative side and wear a suit,” said Britton. “Hiring managers aren’t likely to fault you for overdressing, but they will certainly fault you for underdressing.”

And remember: “You only have one chance to make a first impression,” says Hodges. “Be prepared, arrive early, dress professionally, smile, and introduce yourself with a firm handshake.”

Dress For Success: 12 things to remember when putting together interview outfits

From Melissa Wagner, Career Services Advisor for Rasmussen College:

  1. Lean towards the conservative side
  2. Choose a classic suit versus trendy attire
  3. Make sure everything is ironed and crisp
  4. Don’t spend a fortune!
  5. Look to show personality or flair via a signature (single) item. Consider a pop of color or unique piece (scarf, necklace, watch, tie/swatch)
  6. Let your responses, what you’re saying shine through and dominate the interview versus letting anything else detract or distract the interviewer.

Your appearance does not stop at what you wear to the interview! Be sure that you:

  1. Have showered
  2. Have a neat and professional hair cut
  3. Neatly trimmed and/or manicured nails
  4. Remember less is more!
  5. Sparse makeup
  6. Go easy on perfume, cologne, or aftershave

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