Instead of doing another hunt for interview suits, this week I thought we’d ask the question: what is the best interview attire for different types of jobs? I’ve always approached our various suit roundups from the perspective of Interview Attire for a Very Conservative Office, but I think there’s a fun discussion to be had about what to wear for interview attire for a business casual office, or a creative casual office, or an Office So Casual People Wear Hoodies and Jeans.
Warning: my advice for a lot of these positions is still going to be “wear a suit,” both because it shows you’re taking the interview seriously, it is going to be so much easier than almost all of the other stuff we’ll discuss, and — even if you’re interviewing in a place where people wear hoodies and jeans — if you’re hired in a position of authority (lawyer, say) then you’re being vetted and interviewed to be the grown up in the room.
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But let’s discuss! What do you think is the best interview attire for different types of jobs? Here are some of my thoughts, below…
The Best Interview Attire for a Conservative Office
Go formal, all the way: wear a dark suit in a seasonless wool. Cut your vents. A matched dress and blazer is fine, as well. If you are very junior and interviewing with very senior people (such as, say, that crusty old partner emeritus they trot out for interviews) then a skirt suit is still probably your best advice, but pants suits have come so far that I’ll say wear whatever you feel the best in. Do the mirror check if you’re wearing a skirt. If you need a blouse or a top for under your suit, a collared shirt still looks crisp and stylish; a no-button blouse like Everlane or J.Crew Factory also works; you can also go for a silk sweater or an elevated t-shirt in a very traditional color (think pastels, whites). (See also our entire Guide to Interview Suits.)
The Best Interview Attire for a Business Casual Office
This depends a lot on what position you’re interviewing for, and it’s where things start to get difficult because it depends on the office, the region, and who you’re interviewing with. My $.02: if you are interviewing for a role of authority, you should have a blazer on, unless you are such a rockstar that you are interviewing for CEO. It can be really tough to know what to wear for these interviews, though, so I would err on the side of being overly conservative rather than overly casual, and if you don’t plan on wearing a blazer, at least bring one with you. If you look at the company’s social media presence or pictures of staffers on their websites you might get an idea of how they present themselves to potential clients — but it’s hard to believe you’re going to go wrong to show up in a suit because it is, after all, an interview. This kind of look might also work for one of those fun “is it an interview?” situations where you’re meeting someone with hiring input for coffee, or as an informational interview where there is no job. (See also our entire Guide to Business Casual.)
Interview attire that might be appropriate for a business casual office:
- the same dark wool suit you’d wear to a conservative office interview, but with a bit more personality in the outfit — a brooch, a necklace, fun shoes, a patterned blouse you love — if the conservative office interview attire is plain vanilla, think “butter pecan” here — still dependable and pretty basic.
- (first photo above) — suiting separates, so long as they clearly are non-matching — a blazer worn on top of a sheath dress, for example, in a different color or with a different texture
- (gray blazer image) — the column of color look where you have a solid column of color with your blouse and pants but a “fun” blazer on top. Think Elizabeth Warren!
- (pink and red outfit) — nontraditional suiting separates, like a collarless blazer, a knit sweater jacket or jardigan, a pleated skirt instead of a . The look is very formal and would still look dressed up and polished, but in my humble opinion, this has to be very close to your personal style — it’s hard to play dress up and look confident in a look like this otherwise.
- (white blazer outfit) — a matched color on top with a different color on the bottom. This works nicely with a light blue blazer, blue top, and black pants, but you can also go for basic black on the top and then a clearly non-matching pant or skirt on the bottom.
- not pictured, but still an option for some casual roles at casual offices: a sleeved dress with pockets, maybe with a blazer carried with you that layers nicely.
- not pictured, but possibly an option for more conservative roles at more conservative offices: a slightly fun suit — I probably wouldn’t advise wearing a bright red suit to an interview but a light gray suit, a black and white gingham suit, a dark suit with an unusual pattern
The Best Interview Attire for a Casual Office
TREAD VERY CAREFULLY HERE. If you are interviewing for a role that is creative, maaaaaybe you can consider a bright red suit or something a television show might tell you was interview attire. But interview attire for a casual office is hugely dependent on what typical wear is for the office, what you wear most of the time, what you feel the most confident in, and how you really want to present yourself. For my money, I would still stick with interview attire for a conservative office, but go for fun accessories — bags, shoes, scarves, necklaces, brooches, rings. (Watch out for bracelets that clang or earrings that catch the light and distract from what you’re saying.) Most times you’re still going to want to go for a more traditional “interview” outfit (dark colors) but go in with the theory that there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll want to remove your jacket as soon as you enter the room. A sleeved dress with pockets (in a dark color) is another great option, like this one from MM.LaFleur — it gives you a great base to have fun with accessories while still being the grown up in the room.
In addition to the interview attire for business casual offices, consider wearing:
- Separates that are more dressed up than what you would regularly wear — if you expect to be in jeans for most of your time as an employee, wear pants, or jeans with heels and a blazer
- a statement dress
- a basic sheath dress — but only go sleeveless after some serious thought, social media investigation, or with a back-up blazer or cardigan with you
- a nontraditional jacket or topper, like a moto jacket — but really, proceed carefully!
Readers, what did you wear to your last interview? Did you feel like your interview attire hit the mark for the type of job, was too casual, or too formal? Readers who interview frequently, what are your thoughts on these outfits — do you think they’re the best interview attire for different types of jobs?