What to Wear to an Interview?

What to Wear to an Interview?The 2008 Super Bowl featured a funny and memorable commercial, the Tide Talking Stain ad. The spot depicts a hapless job seeker who arrives at an interview with a large stain on his shirt. As he responds to the interviewer’s questions, his answers are drowned out by the “talking” stain, and the interviewer is unable to pay attention to what the man is saying.

Choose Attire to Enhance Your Professional Image

At best, poorly chosen interview clothes can be a distraction, much like the talking stain. At worst, inappropriate attire and accessories can make you appear unprofessional and poorly qualified for your desired position. Job interviews are opportunities to showcase your interpersonal skills, creative thinking, communication skills, experience, and wisdom. Select your interview outfit carefully to project a positive, professional demeanor.

A Basic Rule of Thumb

Before your interview, determine the company’s dress code (when in doubt, call the main phone number and ask the operator/receptionist). Plan to dress at that level or slightly above. It is far better to be slightly overdressed than to be underdressed. The objective is to present yourself in a way that shows respect for the people with whom you are interviewing.

What Does “Business Casual” Mean?

In specific industries, such as banking and finance, formal business attire is still the norm. However, many Silicon Valley startups and other companies in the San Francisco Bay Area are more relaxed in their dress codes.

Business casual is loosely defined. For men, a business casual outfit might consist of a collared shirt, khakis or slacks, and dress shoes. For women, a simple blouse with a modest skirt or pants could suffice. Both men and women can benefit from a blue, gray, or black blazer, which immediately dresses up any outfit.

The following items are considered too casual for a formal business environment, especially for interview purposes: jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, flip flops, and non-religious headwear of any kind.

What Not to Wear

At no time should any of the following be worn to a job interview:

  • Excessive jewelry or makeup
  • Clothing with athletic logos
  • Shirts or blouses that do not cover the midsection
  • Skirts or dresses with hems that do not reach the knee area
  • Shorts
  • Shoes with heels higher than four inches

Additional Guidelines

When interviewing at Menlo Partners client companies, we recommend that candidates remove all visible piercings except for women’s earrings worn in the earlobes. It is also helpful to select clothes that will cover up noticeable tattoos.

What if I’m Overdressed?

If you arrive early for an interview and notice that everyone dressed much more casually than you are, here are some suggestions.

  • Leave your jacket in the car.
  • Remove your necktie and roll up your sleeves.
  • Bring a second pair of shoes. Casual flats can be worn in place of formal interview shoes to look more relaxed.

Need More Tips and Advice?

The staffing experts at Menlo Partners offer a range of services to qualified job seekers, including coaching, to help you prepare for interviews.


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