The thrill of receiving your invitation to a job interview can be exciting! However, when you realise the amount of preparations to come in the next few days or weeks you might start feeling overwhelmed by the endless number of tasks left to do. Suddenly you may find yourself lost in your research of the company and your practice of anticipated questions and leaving all the other “minor” arrangements at the bottom of your priority list, such as what … or better what NOT to wear on an interview.
I have decided to write this article to share my experience and my insights on what not to wear to interview. During your research you may have come across multiple sites and how-to articles telling you what is the most appropriate interview outfit, but when you have a limited amount of time to prepare for an interview, you will most definitely struggle to squeeze in a shopping trip to the nearest mall, or even to dress-hunt online. Instead, you may have to rely on what you already have in your wardrobe. So start uncovering those hidden gems and let’s do this together!
I have spent the last 5 years working in the corporate world in the finance industry in Central London and I am here to share some of my tips that I have collected during the interviews I was given and the ones that I have conducted. I would say that the rules on what you need to wear for an interview are stricter than what you would usually wear to work on an everyday basis. So let’s see why!
Comfort, comfort and comfort
A rule of thumb on what not to wear on an interview is uncomfortable clothes. Itchy fabric such as pure wool or rough and unbreathable fibres should be avoided to reduce your distractions! Man-made fabrics, such as polyester or nylon tend to resist the oil your body produces and this will cause an unpleasant odour and extensive sweating. Try to avoid them if you can, or pick garments where synthetic are blended with natural fibres, such as cotton or silk.
Some sorts of headwear, like beanies and hats may also jeopardise your attention and stir your train of thoughts away from the interviewer. Headwear for religious and cultural reasons are of course exceptions to this.
Don’t wear overly casual clothes.
It is a no-brainer that you must put aside your casual go-tos that you would usually wear to the supermarket, to the gym, or even to meet your friends during the weekend. This entails common garments that most of us have laying around in the closet, e.g. jeans, T-shirts, hoodies and yoga pants etc.
Summer dresses, tank tops and crop tops also fall into this category, as they also can convey you aren’t professional, didn’t put much effort into the meeting with the interviewees and that simply you are uninterested.
However, I must say that avoiding casual clothes does NOT mean that you cannot choose unique or outstanding outfits for your big day. On the contrary, I encourage you to do so, and here it is why…
Avoid dull clothes if you can.
It seems to be a popular opinion across the internet that strong patterns and bright colours are amongst items on the list of what not to wear on an interview? I personally don’t agree with this. A lively coloured pencil dress combined with a plain blazer over it, or an eye-catching busy patterned blouse with a plain coloured pencil skirt can go a long way.
You may ask why?
The reason behind this is that you are most likely not the only applicant for the position. Memorable first impression. That’s the key word to describe the interview outfit you should be aiming to pick. Your interviewers probably have seen many other candidates before you (and will after you) and you want to grab every opportunity for them to remember you when it comes for them to make a decision. Of course, this by no means entails that your performance and professional achievements can be overshadowed by a less impressive set of clothing, but it may add positively to the big picture.
Trust me, I’ve been there…
During my time at my current workplace, I have conducted several face-to-face interviews where the candidate would be questioned by a couple of us for one hour, 4 couples in total. However, the decision-making calendar event with HR and all the interviewers would only take place days or weeks afterwards. This might sound surreal, but when multiple candidates are interviewed for different job roles – especially when most of the time they aren’t even direct candidates to the interviewer’s team – those first impressions might fade a little with time.
It is scientifically proven…
A 2014 psychology study delivered by University of Iowa suggested that human beings don’t remember things that they hear nearly as well as they see or touch. They conducted an experiment where 100 students were chosen to listen to sounds, look at images and hold objects at varying frequency between 1 and 32 seconds. They were then asked to recall them after an hour, a day and a week. The conclusion of the experiment was that the auditory recollection came last, far behind their visual memory. While in general the students’ memory has gotten worse as time elapsed, it was very clear that visual memory surpassed auditory.
It is yet another opportunity to shine…
It is no secret that apart from your technical skills and achievements, your potential employers want to see your uniqueness too. They want to get a feel of what makes you different from the hundreds or even thousands of other applicants. So why not take advantage of this opportunity as well? Show them your personality not only in your professional and personal experience, but in your appearance too. Individuality and originality is key.
Of course don’t exaggerate it…
In Hungarian we have an expression that says “someone has fallen on the other side of the horse”. This implies that the intentions were right but the action was so exaggerated that now we find ourselves yet in another pickle. Please try to avoid this mistake and don’t over exaggerate your interview outfit too much, try to stay away from the list of clothes of what not to wear on an interview mentioned above. But for more clarity, I have decided to go through my own wardrobe and pick out a few suggestions that might inspire you…
Complete the classic look with a funky sleeveless shirt
It is always a smart choice to layer your outfits, but it is extra wise to do so for an important day like this. You can never know what the air conditioning situation might be like on the day, so it is better to come prepared for all scenarios. Hence my choice of sleeveless shirt, which I always seem to have laying around in my wardrobe – even if it is borrowed from my summer collection. If you are going for a funkier look, you can always choose the fabric style of the shirt to match that. For that, I would encourage you to stick to a monochromatic colour scheme. This basically means that all the colours used in the shirt’s pattern composition focus on a single one, using variations of its incorporating tins, tones and shades. Here is an example of one of our models wearing an Aya Mana shirt that was the inspiration of our very first collection to be launching soon (stay tuned for that by signing up to our newsletter). Combining this with an elegant midi single-coloured pencil skirt would look great. This can be either a darker or a lighter tone. You can layer up with a similar colour blazer over it and you’ve got yourself a funky classic look, screaming sophistication with a minimal effort!
Skinny top with wide leg trousers
Stretch long-sleeve top, made out of knit cotton fabric – a regular item I see many women wearing in the offices of London. When synchronised correctly with the rest of the work outfit it can bring out your killer creativity. Don’t forget, wearing an edgy garment can work just fine, but you will need to tone down the rest of your look. So don’t be shy to pick a more vivid shade! Or even perhaps, a more virtuose pattern for this top. Again, it is recommended to stick to monochromatic. But for the more adventurous ones, an analogous colour scheme could fit well too. This basically means that the tones you decide to go with should be pleasing to the eyes. You can achieve this when keeping the palette grounded by either siding with exclusively cool or warm sets of colours. The top in this picture was made by me during the pandemic at my mother’s request. I really love the collar, giving the entire garment a more sophisticated and professional feeling to it. The fabric used is extremely comfortable and stretchy. For this reason, I think this is a perfect choice to wear. Combine it with a wide leg or flared office trousers and a matching blazer to complete your look.
P.S. choose your colours carefully because a stretch top like this that has pyjama-style colours can easily crawl on top of the what not to wear on an interview list.
How should I accessories for a job interview
A soft necklace, ring or a pair of earrings are nice additions to complete your look, but again, don’t over do it. Try to stay away from bulky and loud accessories. Definitely do not put on any noisy bracelets, they will distract you and your interviewers and all your clothing preparations will backfire badly.
A nice scarf can be a nice touch to your outfit as well as a functional layer. Wider scarves can be used to lay on your shoulders to protect you from harsh air conditioning in the office. But please choose a colour that matches and compliments your clothes – you put in a lot of effort to come up with this great interview outfit, let’s not ruin it with a rushed decision.
Choose the right footwear
It goes without saying that trainers, slippers and gigantic high heels are a strict no.
Pick a pair of shoes that matches your outfit in colour, but more importantly that is comfortable. Depending on the industry, most office-based interviews are conducted sitting down. Although, a few can include solving logical exercises at a whiteboard. This happens quite frequently at junior position technology job interviews.
With regards to the outfits shown above of both the sleeveless shirt and the stretch top when combined with a pencil skirt, the go-to suggestion would be a pair of medium-height court heels. This combo is undeniably a confidence booster. However, a pair of flat shoes, such as a minimalist leather brogue or a pair of ballerina flats will work equally well.
I always tend to wear medium heels with my wide leg trousers, just because I am a little shorter than the average and it makes my legs feel more proportionate in length. A more comfortable choice is to wear platform heels, but as mentioned above, flats can work just as well.
I know it was a lot to taken in, but here are the key points of what NOT to wear for interview
- Your usual casual supermarket or weekend chill vibed wear
- Itchy fabric such as wool, instead substitute with something soft such as silk
- Man-made fabric such as polyester or nylon, results in making you sweaty and stuffy due to their oil resistant feature. Pick something more breathable such as cotton.
- Unnecessary headwear, or accessories that cause noise when worn or during motion. Exceptions to the headwear are religious and cultural purposes.
- Avoid dull clothes, concentrate on bringing out your uniqueness whilst still maintaining a professional outfit. Pick a statement piece of garment in your interview outfit which allows you to unleash your imagination by playing with the colours or patterns.
- The colour schemes you pick should be pleasant to look at. Choose either monochromatic or analogous colour schemes and stick to a warm or cool colour trend exclusively, don’t mix the two.
- Avoid wearing non-matching scarves, however also don’t necessarily shut them out of your interview clothing plan.
- Don’t wear shoes you cannot walk in! If you only feel at ease and confident in flats then do that! They equally look great with the outfits you have seen on our site!
Good luck with your interview outfit preparation and hope to see you again in the Aya Mana land soon!