Handshake after a job interview offer

What not to wear to a job interview is a tricky question for many job seekers. There are some tell-tale signs, such as wearing loud makeup, sporting a colourful flip-flop, and wearing a fragrance or cologne that’s too strong, among others, which make your chances of bagging that job dip.

Why? Because interviewers believe such fashion faux pas indicates you actually don’t want to get hired, even if the reality may be starkly different.

Once you have got in the door by impressing hiring managers and bagging that job interview, you need to get your job interview attire right. Find more about your potential employers, research the company culture, and plan your physical presentation well so that it’s on par with your professional experience.

Whether you are a male or female, knowing what not to wear to an interview is just as important as identifying the hard skills that have put you in the running to start with. Though you may wish that the hiring manager recruits you based on your work experience and ingenuity alone, your interview outfit can spoil your chances of bagging that target job before you even take a seat. But there’s nothing to feel angry, frustrated, or fearful about.

You just need to follow these interview outfit rules to improve your chances of being called back for round two of the job interview. Ready to get started?

What Men Shouldn’t Wear to an Interview

A well-dressed man’s job interview in progress

1.      Dress Too Casual

Choosing an interview outfit that’s too casual is a strict no-no even when the location of your interview is an informal setting. A casual interview attire that makes your hiring manager feel like you are ready to attend a backyard barbecue is a fashion faux pas that’s best avoided.

Interview attire that’s always inappropriate for a job interview also includes shorts or ripped jeans, flip flops, and athletic clothing like yoga pants and sneakers. Your casual dress may indicate your lack of seriousness in dressing the part for the job you seek. This could make your potential employer prefer other professionally dressed candidates over you, which will be a big blow to your career dream.

It’s a good idea to err on the side of overdressing. For instance, you can choose accessories like a tie or jacket to create a good impression, but if you find out after arriving at the location that it’s too much, you can always take them off.

2.      Choose Ill-Fitting, Wrinkled, or Wrinkle-Prone Clothes

If your shirt, pants, and jackets don’t fit properly, they will make you look sloppy. Whether they are too tight to take a breath freely or too loose to make you appear you are swimming in them, you need to avoid them at all costs. Period.

Choosing appropriate interview attire is simply non-negotiable. If the clothes you want to don on D-Day are wrinkled and unclean, get them cleaned and ironed. If they are ill-fitting, you can get them fixed by taking the help of your local tailor.

It also pays to avoid wrinkle-prone clothes that will look messy by the time you step inside that interview room as it could mean starting off on the wrong foot with clothing that doesn’t make you look presentable.

3.      Wear Light-Coloured Clothes

If you are taking public transportation to reach your job interview location and tend to spill coffee or tea that you grab or drop food particles you decide to munch on during your commute, it pays to avoid wearing light-coloured clothes. Be it your shirt or pant, choose darker shades that go well with each other and are least likely to show stains and spills.

In case you tend to sweat a lot and your interview is scheduled during summer, it’s again wise to avoid wearing interview outfits in light colours. Remember – dirty clothing with stains, sweat spots, and spill marks are the ultimate no-go for job interview looks.

4.      Opt for Bizarre Colours and Crazy Patterns

You may love orange or neon colour but when picking your interview attire – be it shirts, dress pants, or jackets, it’s advisable to lean towards neutral or quiet colours, such as black, navy, brown, grey, etc. When choosing the colour of your tie, our in-house experts suggest safer options like navy, gray, or a pattern of these shades.

When answering “what men shouldn’t wear to an interview,” our experts also advise avoiding clothes and accessories with crazy patterns. For instance, ties with elegant paisley or subdued stripes are good to wear, but not tacky ties with teddy bear motifs, crazy rainbow colours, or black cat patterns. 

5.      Have Headphones or Wireless Earbuds

During your commute, it’s fine to listen to music, a podcast, or something else you love on your headphones or wireless earbuds. However, they should go into your bag before you reach the reception area of your interview location.

Entering the interview room to face your hiring manager with your headphones or earbuds on indicates you are distracted and unfocused. And you definitely won’t like to fumble with wireless earbuds or tangled cords while meeting your future employers and shaking hands with them. 

6.      Wear Sneakers, Sandals, and Open-Toe Shoes

All these are best avoided unless you already know the company culture where even the CEOs dress in such footwear. If you are anxious about comfort and support, you just need to do some research online to find plenty of interview-appropriate shoes that are almost as comfortable as sandals and sneakers.

The case with open-toe shoes is similar. Unless you are interviewing for a creative position or otherwise, and the office culture is somewhat laid-back or extremely casual, it’s best to stick to dress shoes and not experiment too much with your footwear.

7.      Use Excessive Accessories and Cologne  

When you wear a lot of accessories (headgear, a large watch, flashy earrings, whacky tie pins and cufflinks, etc.) and cologne so strong that distracts your interviewers, you will lose some points.

You surely don’t want your bright and funky accessories or heavy cologne to be the first or last thing your interviewers notice about you. So, it’s best to avoid them.

What Women Shouldn’t Wear to an Interview

A woman applicant in a job interview

Several points that apply to men apply to women too. If you are struggling to figure out “what not to wear to an interview,” the following can let you prepare well for your job interview without any interview attire mistakes and fashion faux pax.

1.      Dress Too Casual

Donning casual interview outfits such as halter tops, tank tops, strapless dresses and tops, yoga pants, ripped jeans or shorts, wedge sandals, and sneakers, etc., are best avoided unless you know for sure your potential employers are cool with such interview outfits and accessories. Even when interviewing for a summer job, you shouldn’t throw professionalism out the window to sport a sundress or casual shorts.

If your potential employer’s company culture encourages casual dresses, you can go ahead with your casual interview attire choices. Else, it’s best to shun them to increase your chances of being hired.

2.      Don Bright, Flashy Colours

When choosing clothes for an interview, you must avoid dresses with a plunging neckline and/or short hemline. It’s also wise to steer clear of bright, flashy colours (red, for instance), as they end up accentuating your attire’s unsuitability for an interview setting.

You could either opt for safer colours like black, navy blue, brown, etc. or choose other less-dramatic colours that work well for business interviews.

If you have a penchant for breaking standard rules and norms and plan to wear a daring colour anyway, you can at least ensure the overall design of your outfit acts as a counterbalance. For instance, a bright red shirt paired with a black suit would work well. If you don’t do this, your interview attire’s colours will simply distract from the substance of what you are saying during the interview.

3.      Choose Too Uncomfortable and Ill-Fitting Clothes

Wearing interview attire that’s too tight to make you miss a breath or two? Or a pair of shoes that pinch your toes? They aren’t worth the pain and trouble you subject yourself to.

Not sure why? Because when you are uncomfortable or hurt by clothes and accessories, the feeling automatically shows on your face, adversely affects your confidence level, and makes you distracted during the interview. All these will ultimately have an impact on your interview result.

The size of your clothes too matters. Dresses that are too airy to accommodate another you (perhaps!) or too tight to let you move freely are best avoided. 

4.      Wear a Strong Perfume

When you consider what women should wear to an interview and what they shouldn’t, perhaps you don’t give much thought to your perfume. But you should, because wearing a heavy perfume may distract your interviewers and could even cause problems in case they suffer from an allergy or are averse to strong scents.

At times, strong perfumes and scents could trigger unhappy memories too, which may work against you. The solution? Keep it neutral and avoid using an overwhelming spray of perfume that will be the first or last thing your interviewer notices and remembers about you.

5.      Go Overboard with Makeup

It goes without saying that you need to look your best in the interview. However, it doesn’t mean you should load on makeup. The ideal way is to hold onto your natural look by avoiding too bright or too tacky lipstick colours, dark eye shadows, excessive mascara, and a heavy foundation, among others.

To dress professionally, you just need a touch of powder, a light coat of mascara, and some tinted lip balm. You should aim to look refreshed and your best, not too done up.

6.      Wear Too Many Accessories

You should avoid wearing too many accessories. Else, they can detract your interviewers from the focal point: you, the work experience you have, and what makes you the best fit for the job. Not sure what it means?

You should avoid excess or flashy jewellery. For instance, instead of wearing large sunglasses, flashy necklaces, chandelier earrings or big hoops, and anything bedazzled, you should choose accessories like a simple watch, a pearl necklace, and a pair of classic studs, which would make you look polished and professional.  

Final Words

Wearing the right interview outfit is as important as what not to wear. To make the best impression on your interviewers, you will have to select clothes, accessories, and makeup that help you stride in with confidence, looking like a thorough professional, who’s ready to ace the interview questions and bag that coveted job on offer.

So, before your next interview, make a mental note of all these points and be ready to slay it.

Here’s wishing you good luck in your job interview!

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