Job Interview Etiquette (Part 1): What to Wear?

When you walk into a job interview, you have to look the part. Learn how to properly dress for a job interview with these 3 easy tips.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #163

Properly handling yourself at an interview is key to landing the job.  In the next three weeks, I will address every aspect of the interview process so you always make the best impression. To start off, let’s discuss dress code.

Last week I ran into a friend at lunch. He was dripping in sweat, even showing through his blazer.  He was on his way to a job interview but thought he needed to get a workout in before and didn’t shower afterwards. His hair was a mess, he overused cologne to cover up the stench, and he was sweating like he was on trial. I wished him luck, but knew he had no chance.

How to Dress for a Job Interview

Now, I’m not trying you say you need to rock a $5,000 suit to a job interview, but showing proper office attire is essential. Hitting the gym beforehand is fine, if you shower, shave (whichever parts require it), and style your hair afterwards. Not doing so shows your future boss that you don’t care and is a huge blinking warning signal that you’re not the right person for the job.

So with that, here are my three easy tips on how to nail your job interview in style.

Tip #1:  Dress Like the CEO

Looking like the main person in charge is a quick way to show that you are there to make a statement.  Every industry has its own unique style and paying proper attention to that is one surefire way to show respect your future employer. However, when it comes to the job interview, you have to go all the way to the top! That’s right, look like the boss and chances are, you will connect with them on that level.

When an employer interviews a potential candidate – regardless of their qualifications – they want to know that this person will fit in with the other employees. I’m not trying to say you need to be superficial but in all honesty, representing your employer at a meeting or at the job every day, is an essential aspect of what you have to offer. So, before walking into a job interview, do a little recon. Recon? That’s right, recon.  Scope out the office before your interview and just watch as people walk in, either from your car or by just walking by. Take notes on what they wear. If they wear a blazer and casual slacks, then you wear a sharp suit. If they carry a messenger bag, bring in a briefcase.  If you can spot the CEO well, that is your ticket, but if not, check out your future lunch mates and step it up a notch!

Tip #2: Don’t Overdo the Cologne or Perfume

For this one, I’ll turn to the ladies. Remember that date when your would-be-suitor approached you wearing enough cologne to last a month? And remember how much of a turnoff that was? Same thing goes for the proper amount of “smell good” you should wear to a job interview.  You want to overwhelm the room with your qualifications, not your scent. Nothing should distract the boss from your résumé. The minute you walk in smelling like you took a Calvin Klein bath, that’s the only thing your potential employer will notice and they’ll think “I can’t send this person to a client meeting” or “I am going to have to smell this person every day.” It shows the employer that you don’t have the etiquette needed to represent the company.

[[AdMiddle]My friend from my lunch I mentioned earlier was a shining example of what not to do. And guess what? He didn’t get the job. I’m not sure the exact reason but I can guess.  When it comes to scents, it’s simple: stick to two sprays of cologne or perfume. I’d even say spritz the second one into the air and then walk into it. When an employer opens that door for you, they will remember their first impression. Was the person well dressed? Well groomed? And even if you have all of those down, all will be lost in the world of office etiquette if when they open the door, your air of confidence is overwhelmed by your air of Chanel!  

Tip #3: Iron Out the Details

One guy I worked with took looking disheveled to an art form. I mean it wasn’t just what he wore, or how he smelled – which were both not good – but his lack for proper office attire went beyond the elements of your everyday wrinkles. This guy was consistently wrinkled to a point that it looked like his clothes were made out of tissue paper and balled up into the fists of a very mad person who used them as a stress ball.  Look, wrinkles happen – especially in the car, or the train, or even just carrying a shoulder bag – but if you start out looking crisp and creased, your future boss will at least know you tried.

As I said before, the minute you walk into the room you are being evaluated, from head to toe. Your boss wants to know that you have the look it takes to represent the company and properly dressing the part is key. So, regardless of what kind of shirt you have or how inexpensive your suit is, you always impress your employer by at least looking ironed, creased, and pristine. So, send that outfit to the cleaners and get a good press. This will demonstrate that you have respect for the office. Manners go far beyond what you say and how you act, it’s also a visual technique. So when it comes to that job interview – whether it’s how you dress, smell, or comb your hair – always sweat the small stuff.

Do you have a great story about how you handled looking the part for a job interview? Post all the details in Comments below.  As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Check out my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips.