What color suit should you wear to a job interview?
Don’t let what you wear to your interview influence a hiring manager’s decision.
You’ve practiced answering the most common interview questions, perfected your elevator pitch, and printed extra copies of your carefully edited and typo-free resume. Now you just have to make sure you know how to dress for the interview and look the part, which isn’t always as simple as it seems.
“To find out if you even need to wear a suit and tie, or maybe dress down a little, you must do your research well before the interview,” says Bill Gentry, High Point University’s director of career and professional development. He suggests looking on the company’s website and asking people you know who work there about the culture, workspace, and the dress code.
“If you find out everyone is wearing a suit, you should too. If everyone is wearing jeans and flip-flops, dress one notch above that,” Gentry says.
If you’ve determined that you do need to wear a suit to your interview, you’ll still have to narrow down the different colors, patterns, and accessories to choose from before you’re ready to make a good impression. Don’t worry. We’ve consulted experts to help you figure out exactly what to wear to your next interview.
If the dress code is strictly business
“When it comes to roles in finance and investment banking, management consulting, law, or government, the recommendation is to wear a dark-colored suit [navy, dark gray/charcoal, or black] with a white shirt,” says Julia Rock, founder of the Houston-based career-coaching firm Rock Career Development. “You can choose to incorporate some color instead of the plain white shirt, but avoid loud or overly bright colors [red or orange].”
Men should wear a tie to a formal workplace. Choose a solid color or one with a simple pattern (like stripes), not one that leaves the interviewer more focused on figuring out why your tie has bulldogs on it than what you learned in grad school.
If the dress code is business casual
“If you’re vying for a creative job, such as advertising, journalism, or fashion, you may not even need to wear a suit,” says Annette Harris, president and founder of the Washington, D.C.–based personal-brand coaching firm ShowUp!. “Wearing suit separates may do the trick. Mix trousers, skirts, and blazers to create a polished, professional look.”
Even if you’re applying to a job where the CEO always wears jeans, a T-shirt, and a hoodie—here’s looking at you, Mark Zuckerberg—you should dress a bit more formally than your boss or even your boss’s boss. And if you’re interviewing for a senior position, you should still look the part, but can push the boundaries a bit if you’re comfortable with that. “Stick with a suit, but feel free to choose edgier colors like royal blue or purple, less traditional styles, and accessories that ‘pop’ to convey your creative prowess,” says Harris.
If you want to look professional and polished
It’s not enough to nail the shirt-and-suit combo. You also have to tie it all together. Your interview outfit would be ruined in an instant if you throw on a pair of sneakers, a baseball hat, four-inch heels, or loud costume jewelry.
“Select a tie, scarf, or other accessories that fit the occasion but don’t scream, ‘Look at me!’” says Stacey Berk, founder and managing consultant of the Maryland-based human resources–strategy firm Expand HR Consulting. “Matching polished low-heel shoes with a briefcase or portfolio (resume and references inside!) pulls the look together.”
The secret to standing out
Remember: It’s not just about what you wear. After all, it’s a job interview, not a fashion show. While a spiffy appearance will certainly help you make a great first impression, the key to nailing a job interview lies mainly in your answers to a hiring manager’s questions. Want to make sure you’re buttoned up in that area? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you’ll get career advice and job search tips sent directly to your inbox so you can put your best (polished) foot forward. From “Why should we hire you?” to “Do you have any questions for us?” to whatever else they throw at you, you’ll learn how to craft sharp, meaningful answers. And then you’ll probably have to figure out what you’re going to wear to the next interview.