What Not to Wear to an Interview

What’s the best and worst thing to wear to an interview?

We can’t get Stacy and Clinton from TLC to show up with a $5,000 gift card, but we can provide you with some guidelines. When dressing for an interview, remember that you want to project the type of image you want: professional, put together, competent and smart.

Some major fashion faux pas to avoid:

1. Carrying a backpack instead of a briefcase or portfolio; girls, leave the slouchy satchels behind as well.

2. Ladies, your skirt should be long enough to sit comfortably without thigh showing. If unsure, use The Grandma in Church Test: if grams would give you a disapproving look for wearing it in church, don’t wear it.

3. A word on ties: gents, nothing says class like a good tie. That being said, nothing looks sillier than a bad tie. Keep it conservative in pattern and color and no less three and a quarter inches wide. Have a friend help you tie it if necessary.

4. Don’t blind your interviewer with color. In most industries it’s best to stick with navy, black or gray. If the dress is business casual, it’s fine to add some color (it also shows you have a personality!) but make sure it is in a conservative way. Some creative fields like advertising and fashion may be amenable to more color; check up on the office culture beforehand to get a feel for what would be appropriate.

5. This is not Overtime Tap. Heavy makeup, low tops, tight pants or skirts and super high heels are not okay.

6. No graphic t-shirts or highly visible brand names.  One caveat: if you’re applying to a company whose apparel you may be expected to wear.

6. About the bling: women shouldn’t wear more than one set of earrings and should keep it minimal. Pearl or diamond studs, or small dangling earrings are acceptable. Men should remove all jewelry except for wedding/class rings or metal watch. Everyone should remove facial piercings.

7. Cover up any visible tattoos.

8. Make sure your clothes fit properly. It’s distracting to both you and the interviewer if you are constantly fixing your top or pants. Remember: too tight = skanky; too loose = sloppy. Spend the extra time and money to get your professional wardrobe tailored and well fitted.

9. Nails should look clean and be trimmed to short length. No bright nail polishes.

10. Hair: make sure it’s neat and out of your face. Girls, simple styles are best (I think a low ponytail is underrated). Boys, make sure it’s clean and combed.

11. Fishnets, patterned hosiery or bare legs (no matter how tan you are). Women should stick with neutral color hosiery that complements their suit.

12. Men, wear socks which match your shoes and make sure they’re long enough; it looks silly if you can see a gap of flesh when you sit.

13. No stains or wrinkles! If you spill something on yourself in Coolbeans before the interview, try to conceal it the best you can; bringing along an extra cardigan or jacket may be helpful.

14. No dirty or scoffed shoes. No sneakers. No sandals. Toes are not professional. Girls, heels are great, but don’t wear higher than you can handle. Nobody wants to walk with the girl who has to waddle down the hall. It makes you look young.

15. Skip the strong aftershaves, perfumes or colognes: Many people are allergic to certain scents.

16. Match your shoes and belt. Simple leather is best.

17. Remember to cut off the zigzag thread that keeps pockets and slits closed in a new suit!

18. Plan ahead. Lay out your clothes. Call your mom.

Bottom line: look good so that your wardrobe is not a distraction. You want them to focus on your words, not your outfit.