If there are only a handful of times in a year that call for you to put some thought into what you’re wearing, then a job interview should definitely be one of them. You have all of one or two hours to make a good impression with your potential employer, and part of making it count is dressing well. And while the importance of wearing a good outfit on the big day isn’t lost on most guys, doing it right is an entirely different thing. So make sure that your choice of clothes sends the right message, and it may just land you a new gig.
The Foolproof Suit
The ideal outfit for any white-collar job interview is and always will be a suit. You can’t go wrong, regardless of how low or high up the ladder you are. A suit looks professional, and because most other guys would be worried about being overdressed, it’ll give you an edge. Wearing a suit shows your potential employer that, unlike these other schmucks, you actually give a damn.
But before you decide to ring in a new purchase (“It’s an investment,” you’ll tell yourself), remember that simple works best. This is a job interview, after all, and now is not the time to get creative. Your interviewer doesn’t need to know about your penchant for floral prints, or that you think you can pull off a double-breasted jacket (You can’t. Not today, at least).
So for the big day, you’re going to want to avoid the kinds of suits and shirts with affectations and unnecessary designs. Go for the most reliable kind: navy blue two-button suit jacket with medium-width notch lapels and matching suit trousers. Pick a solid, light-colored button-down shirt to wear underneath, and pair it with a solid tie. Finish it off with a good pair of dress shoes and a belt to match. If you have a good watch, wear it. Simple, inoffensive, effective.
The Smart Shirt-and-Jacket Combo
The thing about wearing a suit to a job interview, though, is that at the start, it’s sort of a Catch 22. Suits can be pretty damn expensive, so you’d need a good job to be able to afford a decent one in the first place. The best way around it is to opt for something more laid-back, but just as smart. Take a nice sportcoat or blazer (any of the fast-fashion outlets like Uniqlo and H&M should have some good choices, or even one from an ukay should do), and throw it on top of your best button-down shirt, tucked into a pair of simple, straightforward chinos or jeans—no fades or washes. If you’re on a tight budget, feel free to skip the tie. Slip into some nice brown dress shoes with a belt to match, and you should be good to go.
With this outfit, the same general rules apply. The difference, of course, is that this isn’t a full suit—your jacket and pants are separate, so it’s a lot more casual, right off the bat. That’s why it’s important to avoid unnecessary designs and stick to subtle, solid colors and textures. It also helps to have your jacket tailored, so it’s that much more sharp, without really breaking the bank.
Okay, so maybe the office you’re applying to is way casual, and you’d like to dress down a notch. Or perhaps it was a last-minute interview schedule and you don’t exactly have a lot of time to get your shit together. Maybe your coat’s in the wash, or maybe you’re too broke to get your hands on a decent coat at all. Not to worry—the classic shirt-and-tie combination should suffice for a sharp look. Pick out a nice oxford cotton shirt (this works best on its own, compared to the smooth, dressy fabrics that aren’t meant to go without a jacket) and iron it out before your interview. Tuck them into some nice clean pants and give it your best shot. Simple enough. But there are a few non-negotiables: make sure to tuck your shirt in, wear dress shoes, not boots or sneakers, and try not to skip out on the tie—it’ll be the last vestige of formality in your outfit, and the only thing left that can tell your employer that you mean business.