Menswear: What to Wear to Any Job Interview

By Liza Corsillo

The good news is you landed an interview for your dream job. The bad news is you have to figure out what to wear on the big day. Dressing for an important job interview can throw anyone for a loop—from the most experienced style enthusiast to the guy who’s never owned a suit in his life. But while intimidating for sure, this particular menswear challenge comes with a set of (more or less) straightforward rules. Lucky for you they favor simplicity over bold statement pieces, even if you’re applying for a creative position and, yes, even if you’re applying to work in fashion.

To make the process even easier for you, we’re breaking things down by industry and talking to the people who actually do the hiring across each one. You’ll find solid advice on everything from blazers and ties to dressed-up jeans and sneakers, plus a few hacks on grooming and what to do if you spill coffee on your shirt right before you meet the boss.

Rule 1: Know Your Audience

The best way to impress prospective employers is by showing up fully prepared. And we mean fully. So on top of your talking points and anecdotes of success, you’ll want to plan your fit according to the job you want. Set your sights on a few notches dressier than what you’ll end up wearing if and when you get hired.

“You always want to be aspirational in how you dress, so going in with your best foot forward and dressing for the job you want instead of the job you have is advice that I would give to my clients and candidates,” says Nicole Balsam, Executive Search Consultant, Stephen-Bradford Search

Rule 2: Stay True to You

Don’t forget to let your individual personality shine through. In formal settings that might mean wearing a monogrammed pocket square or patterned socks. But in creative and casual environments it could mean rocking your favorite sneakers—just make sure they’re clean.


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If you’re interviewing in finance or a law firm:

“The hedge fund world is the most standardized; you should wear a suit to your interview and it should fit. That’s pretty much it. The minute you get hired they’ll tell you can wear business casual.” —Daniel H. Gallancy, CEO of a Cryptography and Capital Markets Startup


Rule 3: Make Sure Your Clothes Fit

In 2018, there is no excuse for wearing a suit that doesn’t fit. If your pants or sleeves are too long you can always have a tailor hem them. The key to a stylish and flattering suit is in the shoulders, so start there. If you’re starting your suit wardrobe from scratch the first thing you’ll need is a slim-fit navy kit. This will serve as your go-to piece of tailoring and can be worn with almost any shirt, tie, or shoes. Find one with a touch of stretch and you’ll feel almost as comfortable as you would in sweats. When it comes to the rest of your interview outfit, we’re not ashamed to say play it safe. A pair of sleek brown lace-ups, a light blue or white shirt, and a tonal tie (one shade darker than your suit) will ensure you ace the style side of things.


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If you’re interviewing in tech or at a start-up:

The tech world is casual to a clichéd degree. So, while it’s true that the baseline uniform in Silicon Valley is hooded-sweatshirt centric, that’s not what we’d recommend you interview in.


Rule 4: Don’t Be Sloppy

“What we’re looking for is intellect, we’re looking for smarts. But it definitely shows if somebody is obviously not taking care of themselves. [Dressing] casual because you’re cognizant of the environment is totally fine, but not if it’s because you’re lazy. Showing a degree of self-awareness is important because it translates to how an employee will act in the workplace.” explains Gallancy.

By all means, rock your best denim. Just make sure it’s not ripped, stretched out, or too light a wash (i.e. put your dad jeans away). Dark denim is both slimming and more professional looking. Pair that with a breathable button-down, leather sneakers, and a crisp spring trench in black or navy blue. If you get nervous at any point or you’re running late—God forbid—the combination of breezy fabrics and a dark second layer will hide any embarrassing pit stains.


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If you’re interviewing in a creative field

In some cases wearing a suit won’t win you the job, it’ll just make you look out of touch. “Within the creative industries overdressing can definitely be just as bad as underdressing.” says Maude Standish, Vice President of Fullscreen Media “Because overdressing can imply that you don’t actually know what job you are interviewing for. If possible do your research; Most creative agencies these days have a Facebook page or an Instagram so you can see what employees are wearing to work and what image they are trying to project,” says Standish.


Rule 5: Do Your Research

Show that you’re more creative than jeans and a T-shirt by pulling on a pair of wool trousers in a subtle plaid. Now mix it up with a dark denim jacket and a lightweight crewneck sweater layered over a soft white tee. Some interviews can last hours and take you through several different office environments. Layers look cool, but they’re also practical in case of unpredictable A/C or stuffy conference rooms. Top your look off with a cool pair of monk strap dress shoes and a simple belt. Some guys think dressing for a creative job means wearing something flashy, but you’re better off keeping things simple and letting the flashy stuff happen in your portfolio rather than your outfit.


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If you’re interviewing in Hospitality or Retail

Working with customers in a hotel, restaurant, or high-end boutique means you need to be presentable at all times, most importantly while interviewing for said job. “There’s a different expectation for someone who is going to work behind the scenes than for someone who is going to be working with clients all day,” says Balsam.


Rule 6: Keep an Eye on the Details

Your first priority should be neatness and cleanliness, so don’t skimp on ironing, a fresh haircut and shave, or the tuck of your shirt. Why not get your shoes polished the day before? All these little details up the ante on how pulled together you look, plus they’ll make you feel more confident going in. You can’t go wrong in black chinos, a gray button-down shirt, and a pair of sleek black shoes. But if the lack of swag gets you down, feel free to add a pop of color in your socks or play up your personality with a vintage watch or an understated silver cuff bracelet.  

Since you’ll be working directly with clients, pay close attention to your grooming. Make sure your breath and your deodorant are fresh, but watch out for heavy colognes. “You don’t know who you are meeting with or if they have allergies. You definitely don’t want to overpower them,” says Balsam.


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If you’re interviewing for a job that keeps you on your feet

“A guy showed up in sandals to an interview with me once. I think the shoes people wear are a little more elevated on the East coast but here [in Los Angeles] skate shoes are the staple. Sneakers would have been fine, but having to see his toes felt aggressive,” says Standish.


Rule 7: Comfort with a Side of Respect

If the job you’re trying to get is one where you seldom sit (teaching for example), comfort is key. But there’s a way to do it without crossing the line of what’s professional. These days marrying comfort with pulled together style is easier than ever before. You may be applying for a job that’s physically active, but that doesn’t mean your only choice of clothing is “active wear.” Our double knit blazer in gray has just enough flexibility to keep you comfortable no matter how much running around you do. Pair it with black stretch denim, a crisp white button down, and these black perforated high tops for all-day ease on your feet.  

Rule 8: Accept Your Weaknesses and Plan for them

No one is a style superhero all the time. Even truly stylish men learn to work with their flaws. If you’re prone to dandruff, for example, try wearing lighter colors to hide it. Or if you know you sweat under stress, stick to dark colored shirts and sweaters.

“If you’re like me, you spill coffee on yourself literally every day. So if I’m going to something important I try to wear something that if I spill coffee down it you maybe wouldn’t be able to tell. I’ve learned over time that there’s a reason people wear black and other dark colors,” says Standish.