We are currently in the job market we’ve been dreaming about. Not only is there a surge in hiring, but companies are also offering everything from sign-on bonuses to extras that include paid time off within the first six months and more. If you’ve dusted off your resume and are job hunting, or if you’re entering the job market for the first time, we’re here to help you dress for that dream job.
“I think when you have an interview, you should strive to look your best — whatever that means for the individual, “advises celebrity stylist Eric Archibald. “One should look clean and fresh, well put-together, wearing something that they feel confident and powerful in. If that means dressing chic in all black, if that means wearing your favorite pair of shoes, if that means a Givenchy blazer, wear it. Be yourself, but be your best self, your elevated self.”
Eric Archibald is one of the fashion experts we asked for the best advice on what to wear to a first interview. Archibald is the lead creative on HBO Max’s “Legendary” and “Power Book II: Ghost” and has created costumes for various award shows, including the Oscars. Archibald is also the creative director of Diplomacy, a black-owned premium streetwear brand, and has had fashion editorials in magazines such as GQ and Vogue.
Our other fashion expert was Kobe Bryant’s stylist for five years and constantly makes athletes look the very best. Victoria Trilling is a celebrity stylist who has also worked with Emmanuel Acho, Troy Aikman, Big Papi, and more. Trilling is also Michael Strahan’s personal stylist and the creative director for The Michael Strahan Collection and the Head Wardrobe Stylist at Fox Sports. In addition to dressing stars for the Oscars, Trilling has been the head stylist on various game shows, including American Ninja and many, Fox shows including their eight previous Fox Superbowl shows.
This article will discuss:
- How to prep for your interview
- Determining a company’s dress code
- Job interview wardrobe must-haves for every type of job
- Should you wear on-trend items in a job interview
- What to wear to a first job interview in a business casual environment
- What to wear to a first job interview when over Zoom
- Which accessories make a good impression on a first job interview
- First job interview outfits curated by experts
First Things First: Prep Your Mind
You probably know this, but before your interview, research the company and the person who’ll be holding the interview.
Here is an essential list of interview dos:
- Do have a friend practice interview questions with you a few times so that by the time you click on the Zoom link or walk into the room, you’re prepared and confident.
- Do remember to expressly state to the interviewer why you’re interested in the role and the company. Don’t be afraid to drill down on how the role and its place in the company excite you.
- Do take some time to create a list of questions that you’ll ask the interviewer, and yes, it’s okay to take the written list with you.
- Do anticipate tough questions. If you’ve had a job gap, prepare an answer or two to explain why you weren’t working; and yes, stating that the pandemic caused layoffs within your company is an acceptable answer.
- Do make eye contact with your interviewer(s) during the meeting.
- Do follow up. After your interview, send whomever you spoke with a thank you email.
Here is an essential list of interview don’ts:
- Don’t speak negatively about your past supervisor, co-workers or company.
- Don’t be arrogant or entitled. Instead, be humble but confident.
- Don’t underplay your accomplishments. Instead, highlight relevant ones; if you saved your department money, created an excellent handbook still in use, or were an employee of the month. Let the interviewer know about the great stuff you’ve done.
- Don’t assume the person(s) interviewing you will have your résumé in front of them. Instead, print multiple copies of your résumé and take them with you to the interview. If you’re interviewing via Skype or Zoom, keep a copy close for quick reference.
- Don’t expect the office to have pens or pencils for you to use. Instead, take at least two with you. If your favorite pen has a team bobblehead or feathery eraser, leave that one at home.
- Don’t slouch or sit like you’re going to fall off the chair. Instead, look engaged and display good posture. If you must, practice body language before your interview.
Now: Prep Your Outfit
“[Your] clothes should be well-fitting and clean. Nothing too tight, and it should be wrinkle-free,” says Archibald of the most important thing to remember regarding your job interview outfit. “You should have a good belt and a good pair of shoes that match.” If you have an outfit that’s been your go-to, try it on to make sure it fits and if it needs a button replaced or your hem fixed.
Speaking of clean and wrinkle-free, if your suit, pants, shirt, or tie needs to be ironed or dry cleaned, do it when you hear you have a job interview scheduled. Putting it off runs you the risk of either not having everything ready on time or paying a rush fee to get it the day you need it. Anything that needs to be ironed should be at least two days before the interview (you don’t want to rush around the day of), and then hang it on the back of your closet door so the items won’t get crushed and wrinkly again. Don’t have an iron? Some products can make mild to moderate wrinkles vanish.
The Laundress Crease Release
For items only mildly creased, spritzing on The Laundress’ Crease Release spray will help relax those lines out of existence. You can also use the spray to, as they say, “freshen up” items that you’d dry clean like a blazer or suit jacket. It has a clean, gender-neutral fragrance that smells like clean laundry.
When it comes to shoes, make sure they look neat and clean, not rundown and worn out. It takes a few seconds to polish them and help make shoes look almost like new. If the shoes you have are not in good condition, get a replacement. Small details like clean nails and polished shoes signal interviewers that you’re aware of and can take care of even the most minor things to get the job done.
KIWI Express Shine Instant Shine Sponge Neutral
You can use neutral shoe polish to clean up and brighten any color leather shoes and sneakers. While available in colors for any dress shoe you can imagine, we recommend always having a clear express shine-style sponge on hand. This fast-drying liquid will make shoes look brand new and scuff-free.
Find out the company’s dress code
After scoring the interview, take the time to determine if the business you’re interviewing with has a dress code. Trilling suggests that if you know someone working there to reach out to them and get the lowdown.
“My go-to is to be more formal and traditional,” she says if there is no one you can ask advice from directly. “Once you are in the interview and get the job, and the dress code is much more casual, then let them tell you that. I think there is something to be said having gravitas and looking really sharp. It gives you confidence, and it shows that you are ready to win and get this job.”
Job Interview wardrobe must-haves for every type of job
There are certain items that a guy should always have in his closet for job interviews. Trilling feels that every guy should own a beautiful classic navy or black suit. Suppose you’re in a profession where suits are required daily; spice it up with a tie bar or pocket square. Wear a suit in a classic fit for more formal jobs, not a tight or trendy style. To further dress up a suit, you could also wear a pocket square in a subdued pattern or a pair of simple cufflinks.
“If (the interview) is a little more casual, you can take that jacket from the suit and make it into a sport coat and pair it with a white dress shirt with an open collar worn with either the suit’s pants or a dark wash jean,” explains Trilling. “If you want to spice it up or get more serious, you can add a tie. But a suit and a white dress shirt will take you really far.”
John Varvatos Star USA Basic Slim Fit Suit Separates
You could never go wrong with a tailored navy suit. Varvatos’ modern take on the classic style lightweight wool suit features a fully lined jacket. The tailored suit pants are unhemmed so that they can be easily tailored to your specifications. It also comes in charcoal and black.
Should you wear trendy items in a job interview?
If you’re in a field where it’s important to be on top of fashion trends, then yes, incorporate one or two items in your first job interview outfit. Otherwise, please don’t do it. “A great interview outfit shouldn’t stand out at all, really,” explains Archibald. “That way, the interviewer notices the person, not the outfit. You don’t want to be known as ‘the guy with the checkered pants.'”
Trilling concurs, adding, “If you are uncertain (about what to wear) or it’s a more serious (type of profession), air on the side of caution and go more traditional and polished.”
Both stylists agree that when it comes to jewelry, less is more. Both agree it’s best to wear a good watch and either a school or wedding ring for a first job interview.
What to wear to the first interview in a profession whose dress code is “biz cas”
Most corporations out there, and we’re lumping startups in that group, have a relaxed dress code. “Biz cas,” AKA business casual, incorporates dark jeans, chinos or khakis, button-up shirts, or short sleeve polos when it’s warm out with either a blazer or a sweater to finish off the look. We have great style tips on what to wear after you get the job in our What to Wear When Going Back Into the Office article.
However, as tempting as it is to wear a button-up and chinos to a job interview in one of these fields, as stated earlier by our experts, it’s better to level up for that first job interview. Archibald likes the classic blazer and chinos outfit for those types of meetings, and Trilling concurs. “Yes, I think it’s still a great idea to wear a blazer. I love a blazer, dress shirt, tie with chinos or jeans, or even a jogger is a great look depending on formality. “
Collection by Michael Strahan Black Classic-Fit Suit Separates Coat
This classically cut suit jacket features wool with a dose of stretch; so, the jacket moves with you and doesn’t constrict movement. The fully lined, single-breasted style has notched lapels, an inner, and two outer pockets.
Collection by Michael Strahan Gramercy Dark Blue Relaxed Fit Jeans
These dark wash jeans have stretch woven in the denim and have a slim, relaxed fit. They hit at the natural waist, have five pockets and a straight leg.
What to wear to a first job interview via video conferencing
While it’s tempting to dress up from the waist up for a first job interview, don’t do it. We’ve all seen the vids of people doing that and accidentally standing up and showing off their tightie-whities.
“I would advise getting fully dressed. There is a lot of talk about how people are only getting dressed from the waist up for zoom interviews,” Archibald states. “I think that’s sloppy, and while the person on the other end may not notice your pants, the relaxed attitude can come across in other negative ways.” If the position is in a formal arena, wear a suit, and if it’s in a more relaxed profession, go for a pale blue dress shirt, tie and chinos.
J. Crew Bowery Wrinkle-Free Stretch Cotton Shirt
It’s been said that you shouldn’t wear a white shirt on camera, and that goes for video conferencing too. This light blue shade complements every skin tone and looks professional. It comes in either a slim or classic fit, and the cotton has some stretch. The material has been treated so that wrinkles quickly vanish by hanging up the shirt immediately after it comes out of the dryer or lightly ironing it.
Theory Roadster Dash Skinny Tie
Opt for a tie with a classic print during a job interview like this one from Theory. The retro dot adds a dash to your outfit without detracting attention from you in a job interview.
What to carry with you to the first job interview
We mentioned that it’s a good idea to take at least two copies of your resume with you to your first job interview. If you have an online portfolio, you’re more than likely going to carry that too. When asked if a guy should carry a messenger bag or a briefcase with them to a first job interview, Trilling replied, “I love the idea of a messenger bag or a briefcase. But do something that feels organic and comfortable while staying true to who you are and your style and not be something you’re not. But you can’t go wrong as long as it’s clean polished looking.”
Archibald points out how those items are an intelligent nonverbal way to indicate that you’re great for the job. “A nice watch or messenger bag that shows how organized you are — maybe also carry your tablet with you and have it in a nice case.”
Matein Laptop Messenger Bag
Made using water-resistant fabric, this messenger bag will protect your resume, laptop and anything else you put in it from bad weather. It has a main compartment, padded laptop compartment, four inner pockets to organize your stuff, and one outside pocket that can hold keys and items you need to grab quickly. You can detach the adjustable strap from the bag and carry it by the handle if you prefer.
Rothy’s The Laptop Portfolio
If you’re more of a minimalist, Rothy’s Laptop Portfolio has you covered. The padded interior opens flat, allowing for easy storage of not just your laptop, but your notebook, folder of résumé, two pens, and even a battery charger for your phone. There’s a small zippered outside pocket that can hold cards, a wallet, and your phone. On the opposing side is a slat pocket perfect for quick-grab items like résumé (you can never have too many at the ready).
The Classic Suit First Interview Outfit by Victoria Trilling
“Buy suit separates so that you can also wear the suit jacket as a blazer, and the pants as a casual slack,” Trilling says of the classic outfit she curated your first job interview. “Pair the suit with a classic white button-down, and you can wear it with or without a tie. If you want a fun way to make it more casual, you can do so by adding a nice clean dressy sneaker.”
Collection by Michael Strahan Gray Classic Fit Suit Bundle
This Collection by Michael Strahan suit can be purchased together or separately, ensuring you get the best fit off the rack. The suit jacket has a classic cut, is fully lined, and is made from a performance wool blend that keeps you cool and doesn’t inhibit movement. It also comes in navy and black.
Collection by Michael Strahan Active Wear Classic-Fit Dress Shirt
This classic cut dress shirt uses no iron fabric, so that’s one less thing to worry about when getting dressed for a job interview or a day at the office. It has “Active Wear” in its title as the fabric has stretch and moves with you.
Pronto Uomo Platinum Narrow Tie, Burgundy & Blue Diamond
Formal suit ties in subtle prints are always a winner when creating a job interview outfit. This Pronto Uomo Platinum tie is handmade and has a narrow silhouette.
Florsheim Francisco Black Cap-Toe Oxfords
Shoes are strong indicators of competence, meticulousness, and, yes, power. When interviewing for a job that incorporates many responsibilities, choose a dress shoe that quietly announces you’re in charge. Florsheim’s Francisco is sleekly designed and looks like it carries a heavy price tag.
The Creative Profession First Job Interview Look Curated by Eric Archibald
If you’re interviewing for an AD position at an ag agency or going for a managerial role in marketing, branding, publishing, or a related creative field, try an outfit like this curated by Eric Archibald.
“You can never go wrong with black,” he exclaims. “A clean black jacket with a cool T-shirt and casual black pants is always a great option. Pair this with a nice black boot and bag, which speaks loud and clear about how confident you are when you walk into any interview. Whether it’s designer price point or affordable and stylish option, it’s all about how you put it all together.”
H&M Skinny Fit Suit
This skinny-cut suit is an excellent example of what to wear when you’re interviewing for a position in a creative field. You have leeway to choose “personality” clothing, i.e., professionally styled separates and suits that are well-tailored but also reflect who you are and subliminally let people know you’re an expert in your field. These viscose-blend separates have stretch for ease of movement and also come in five other colors.
Diplomacy Rockaway Tee
Throw on a blazer over a white tee and pair it with anything, and you’ve got a great look that’ll take you from a job interview to a night out. Diplomacy’s white tees are made from terrycloth; it has a plush feel and will stay looking great all day and night.
Thursday Boot Cavalier Chelsea Boot
We’ve always been big fans of Thursday Boots. The brand offers premium style, quality craftsmanship and sophisticated details at a wallet-friendly price. Its boots are known for their style and how they stand up to anything. We also admire its transparent manufacturing chain and community efforts. The Chelsea boots come in a wide range of sizes from six to 16. Each pair is lined in soft glove leather, feature a Goodyear welt, a shock absorbing insole, and cork bed midsoles that conform to your feet.
Kenneth Cole Reaction Travelier Vegan Messenger Bag
This vegan leather messenger bag lets everyone know that you’re on your way to the C-Suite. Sleek, handsome and consciously made, this messenger bag has a padded laptop pocket that will fit a 14-inch laptop and has elastic webbing that keeps it in place. There’s also another large pocket with pen organizers and two open pockets to keep everything neat and easy to grab.
The Business Casual First Job Interview for Video Conferencing or Face-to-Face
Let’s use Archibald’s advice and get dressed head-to-toe for your first job interview via video conferencing. When you wear clothing that looks polished and professional, it does uplift your mood and even the way you move. You could also wear this outfit for a first job interview in an office setting.
J. Crew Ludlow Slim Fit Suit Jacket in Wool-Cotton Blend
J.Crew’s navy blazer has a slim cut, so it’s easy to pair with suit pants, jeans, chinos and even (or especially) tweed trousers. This polished suit separate will elevate the look of whatever you pair it with. Made with a lighter weight wool blend and partially lined, the jacket keeps its shape wear after wear.
Lauren Ralph Lauren Regular Fit Wrinkle Free Stretch Dress Shirt
A pale blue dress shirt looks great when paired with a navy blazer. If you have a grey suit jacket at home, pair it with a light blue shirt and see how terrific the two look together. This regular-fit, button-down collar dress shirt is made with performance stretch fabric that won’t wrinkle.
Bonobos All Season Jeans in Dark Wash
Bonobos built its clothing empire making supremely comfortable pants and jeans. For a job interview, you want to look neat and professional. You also want to be able to breathe and feel comfortable. The brands All Season jeans let you have the best of both worlds. Made from denim with a hint of stretch, you can pick either tailored, slim, or athletic cut, depending on what suits you best.
Allen Edmonds Plymouth Single Monk Strap
These classic monk strap shoes are handsome with a touch of edge; they’re a shoe unicorn (a shoenicorn?) as you can wear them with both jeans and a suit.