What to Wear to a Job Interview (Online & IRL)

We’d like to remove all the stress out of job interviews. But since we can’t do that, we’ve aimed to simplify the outfit component.

Dress for the job you want

Your choice of clothes matters on two levels: How it makes you feel and what it will say to your prospective employer. ‘Dress for success’ isn’t just a fun rhyme, it’s good advice. Strong physical presentation is one way to subtly signal that you are right for the role.

Show your independence... by independently dressing

A lot of guides recommend that if you’re unsure about the office dress code, you should reach out to the HR department at the company. Here’s an alternative viewpoint: Your employer wants to know you are capable, have initiative and above all, can problem-solve.

While collaborative skills are great to evidence in a job interview, you can probably figure out the right attire simply by: looking online at the company’s website and social media accounts, viewing some of the current staff’s profiles on LinkedIn and adhering to the guidelines below. Help-seeking is certainly a valuable trait in many contexts, however, reaching out for this sort of information can come across like… you don’t know how to dress yourself. Not really the poised and professional image you want to project.

Make first impressions work in your favour

First impressions are formed incredibly quickly, even before you open your mouth. Although the exact time it takes to form said judgement varies from study to study, research consistently shows that there are various elements about your physical presentation that can lead to more positive outcomes. A 2014 Yale study saw those that were well dressed negotiated more successfully. A 2015 study found formal business attire increased abstract thinking. A co-author of the study said this was likely because clothes “self-reinforce, they reverberate”. In short, the right workwear can make you feel powerful.

Of course, dressing impeccably can be a balancing act. You want to strike the right blend of professional and personable and also nail the required level of formality. It’s a lot of pressure - especially when you need to prepare for the contents of the actual interview.

women in job interview workwear

To demystify dressing for your job interview, here are some tips on what to wear and what to avoid. The following style advice is suitable for virtually any office based role, particularly corporate workplaces. But even if the job you’re after is in hospital administration, a production company or tech start up – the key principles are pretty universal.

1. Better to over dress than under dress

Sure, you don’t want to wear a ball gown on a first date. But in a professional context, it’s usually safer to err slightly on the side of formal. If you’re interviewing at a workplace that is renowned for its casual dress code, you might be worried that your button up shirt could appear over the top. Even in this instance, it’s still preferable to look slightly too dressed up at your job interview and even perhaps the first few days/weeks in the office, until you get a proper sense of the dress code. Anything is better than rocking up to the job looking like you put in zero effort. Plus there are plenty of way to dress down a look and still project a sophisticated image. Along with tip #2, you might opt for flat shoes over heels, clear nails, minimal jewellery and neatly rolled up sleeves if it feels right.   

2. Pay attention to detail

Almost every job requires “attention to detail” and the way you dress can communicate your acute observational skills. This means wearing a crease-free shirt, polishing your shoes and making sure your clothes are clean, stain-free, hair-free and with no loose threads. Make sure your outfit of choice is well-fitted, so you’re not swimming in your shirt. 

3. Be comfortable

If you can’t move around confidently in eight inch stilettos, then lose them. Regardless of the role you’re applying for, an employer or hiring manager is looking for someone who is competent and capable. If you need to constantly adjust your skirt or find your blazer elbows too tight to move in, then it may be more difficult for your hiring manager to envision you doing the role well. Choose polished and professional attire that is still highly functional. Ergonaut clothing was designed specifically for working women. The entire collection is ludicrously soft with a touch of stretch. Read more about the Ergonaut garment features here.

4. Take a conservative approach

Your skills should ideally dominate the conversation, not your workwear. At least for your first meeting. Unless you’re interviewing at a fashion magazine, your bolder looks are best reserved for future wear. Keep colours neutral (black, white, beige, grey, navy), perfume and jewellery subtle (not jangling with every hand gesture) and if you opt for painted nails, make sure they’re neat and manicured. A lot of HR professionals recommend you don’t flash too much skin, which is probably rooted in some awful outdated notions, but is still sound sartorial workplace advice. 

Once you’ve decided on your outfit (Ergonaut) lay it out the night before as part of your pre-interview prep. Keep it polished and professional with some of the looks below:

perfect outfits for job interview