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I can only afford one interview suit

interview suit

Can’t go wrong with the regimental stripe

Interview Suits

I recently received what I think is a great question from a reader and after answering, though it might help others to post.  His question was specific to a corporate interview where a suit and tie are required.  Again, this is specific to a Corporate Interview.  

Question:  “If I could only afford one interview suit/shirt combo for formal interviews, what would it be?”


I actually worked in a corporate (financial) environment that required a 2 piece matching suit, a white shirt, and leather soled shoes.  I have a bit of experience here.  I would say I have some expertise, but I wore yellow socks one day and my manager said that they were too “flashy” and they had “received complaints”.   Lesson learned: Make a great statement without standing out.  Unless you work at the House of Armani, work is NOT a fashion show.  Double this sentiment for interviews.

If I had one interview suit/shirt/tie combination to wear, this would be pretty easy.

Dark blue suit with a solid white or solid French/light blue long sleeve shirt.  No questions asked. You can wear this ANYWHERE. You might not be making the biggest fashion statement with this combo, but you aren’t there to make a fashion statement.  You aren’t going to stick out in a good way, or a bad way.  You aren’t going to offend anyone with this.  Below is what will show “polish”.

Make sure the interview suit fits.  I mean fits really well.  You will need to spend a few extra bucks, but make sure the sleeves are the right length, the shoulders are right, and the buttons can be buttoned and are not too tight.  (Most clothing shops will make alterations for no cost or minimal cost these days)  There is NOTHING worse than seeing anyone in an ill-fitting suit or something that looks like their father gave them, especially in an interview.  Don’t think that a 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch won’t make a difference in arm length.  It will.  The folks making the decisions will notice.  If you are constantly grabbing your cuffs on your shirt or jacket, they are TOO long.  

Last I heard, Mens Warehouse will tailor for free.  You don’t have to spend 1000.00 for a suit.  You can spend 300.00 but if it fits well, you can look like a million dollars.  Spend as much as your budget will allow.  Consider it an investment in your career and realize it can make a difference in your final offer.  Picture two equally qualified candidates standing side by side.  One in a well-fitted suit, and the other rumpled and disheveled.  Who is going to get the offer?  The higher salary?

Make sure your shirt is 100% cotton, take it to the cleaners and have it professionally laundered.  It will cost you 2 bucks but you won’t be able to do half the job no matter how much time you spend with an iron.  Any professional manager will have a pressed shirt.  Light starch is required.

Shoes are important.  Make sure they are not scuffed.  Spend 3.00 and polish them.  You can not go wrong with a pair of dress black shoes with a blue suit.

Ties:  We have a Nordstrom rack here in Seattle and they always have sales.  I would get a regimental striped tie (see picture above) because it fits anywhere and you can pick the color scheme.  (Tie selection is too personal and too complicated to try to make suggestions in a written document, but regimental stripes are safe and can be as bold or conservative as you need them to be)

Wearing this interview suit with a white shirt and NO tie also looks professional in the right environment.  I wore this to my last series of interviews (tech company).  Just make sure you don’t wear your sunglasses on your head.   

This ensemble may seem conservative, but this is not a fashion show.  You do not want to show up on the “poorly dressed radar scope”.  Look at what ANY president or CEO of a Fortune 500 wears.  Blue suit, white shirt, and a solid colored tie.  No distractions and fits perfectly.  Regardless of your thoughts on Obama, he doesn’t wear expensive suits, but they fit perfectly. 

The top suit salesman at Nordstrom makes 100K plus a year every year.  They don’t wear expensive suits but they make sure they fit.  These suits don’t make the customer feel bad or inadequate.  They don’t call attention (yellow socks) or distract.  

The shirt should be fitted to your neck and sleeve length.  Don’t try, AVOID shirts that are sized S, M, and Large.  You want something that is fitted with neck and sleeve size.  One of my arms is longer than the other, so one always gets hemmed.

Hope this helps, I tend to ramble, but trust me, folks will make a snap decision on what you look like.  You are NOT trying to win a fashion award.  You want to project the image that says “I am ready to talk to the CEO or the customer”

See you at the after party


My thoughts on what to wear to an interview

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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