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Interview dress code, what recruiters really think

interview dress code

Looks great without making a statement

Interview Dress Code:

Because every company is a little different, there really is no “single” dress code for job interviews.  My advice is to be mindful of the dress code and wear what is appropriate for the company you are interviewing with.  If you get nothing out of this post, remember, it is OK to ask the recruiter about the interview dress code.  I am representing the candidate and I don’t want them embarrassing me.  There is nothing worse than introducing a candidate that is under or overdressed when everyone in the company is following a specific dress code.  Before I make recommendations, remember:

For a job interview, clothes do NOT have to be expensive to look good.  They just need to fit well.  

There is no “single” dress code for all job interviews.  My advice is to wear what is APPROPRIATE FOR THE COMPANY CULTURE you are interviewing with.    It is perfectly acceptable to ask your recruiter about the interview dress code.  They are representing you, so contrary to popular belief; they are on your side!   Remember, most recruiters consider themselves as the face of the company so they are conscious of their own appearance, this, in turn, makes them conscious of yours.  When the dress code requires a blazer and a candidate shows up in jeans, the candidate is not only embarrassing himself or herself, they are embarrassing me the recruiter!  I put my name on the candidate and recommended that the hiring manager take the time out of their day to conduct the interview.  If I don’t bring solid candidates, the hiring manager will find another recruiter.

Clothes do NOT have to be expensive, but they should be fit well.  Ill-fitting clothes will be noticed and you don’t want to be noticed or remembered for the wrong image.

Interview Dress Code rules:

For 90% of the jobs out there, you cannot go wrong with a pair of cotton khakis and a professionally laundered, solid colored button down shirt, black dress shoes, and a black belt that buckles in the third hole.  If you are interviewing for a senior position, wear wool slacks and add a blazer. Research the company culture and if in doubt ASK THE RECRUITER. After your first meeting, if appropriate, the recruiter may let you know you can step it down a notch. Most people will think the below is too conservative but that is the point.  No one wants to be noticed for anything negative in an interview.  The below guidelines will NOT send up any yellow flags.  Again, this isn’t a date on Saturday night; this is a paying gig between 9-5.  Decision makers are usually of an older generation.  They are usually more conservative than their younger counterparts. I am NOT hiring you for your sense of fashion, but you are going to be a representative of the company and hopefully a role model to others.  There are a lot of great classics to wear, below are a couple of easy, universally accepted, and most importantly business appropriate ensembles. We will most likely be in a small interview room small office when we talk.  Crush some breath mints before you meet me, not just one, “some”.

Interview dress code for Men:

  • Make sure your pants and sleeves are the correct lengths.  If you are stepping on your pants or finding yourself holding your shirtsleeves between your fingertips and palms, they are too long.  Spend the money to get all youre clothes the correct length.
  • No cologne.  No cologne, no cologne.  Most men won’t appreciate another man’s cologne and this isn’t a meeting where we may be cruising chicks.  Regardless of how little you apply, it will be too much to someone.
  • Press your pants and have your shirt professionally laundered.  Don’t forget collar stays.  Please, no tie clips, and no clip on suspenders.
  • This is a personal rant, but if you have a mustache, I would consider losing it till you land a job.  Very few men can pull it off.
  • If you have earrings, piercings, or tattoos, do what you can to cover them up or remove them.
  • The only “safe” jewelry is your watch and your wedding ring.

Interview dress code for women:

  • Regardless of the position, a 2 piece pantsuit can’t be beaten.  Dark blue or black suit with a solid white blouse or French blue shirt will be both professional, conservative and present a clean image.  If you want to sex it up, add a silk scarf.
  • Closed toe shoes.  You won’t offend anyone with tasteful heels or flats.  Boots, stilettos, open toes, sandals regardless of brand or cost have the potential to send up a yellow flag.
  • Make sure everything fits.  There is nothing worse than seeing a female candidate in the lobby with sleeves that are too long or a skirt that is too short.  It may be great on Saturday night, but this is 9-5.
  • I would skip the perfume at this stage.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum.  Wedding ring, a single earring in each ear, and a watch will never send any flags.
  • Ankle jewelry, tattoos, piercings and exotic dyed hair have potential to send up flags.

Interview dress code for men and women:

  • Turn your cell phone off or put it into vibrate mode BEFORE you arrive.  Not after you have met me.  It’s awkward and you knew you were going to need to turn it off.  I don’t know how many times a week candidates get texts or phone calls during interviews.
  • Don’t wear your sunglasses on your head.  I am not hiring cool, I am hiring a skill set and a personality.
  • This isn’t a date, please don’t dress like it is one.  If I wanted a date, I would have posted the position on
  • If you have had the same haircut or prescription glasses for 5 years, have a professional give you a second opinion.  Go to a salon vs. a barber.  Glasses don’t have to be expensive, but they should reflect the times.
  • Please don’t show up with a cup of coffee or a newspaper.  I didn’t invite you for coffee; I invited you here for business.  If you want to read, then read our company literature.
  • Make sure your shoes are clean and polished.  Regardless of their cost, avoid athletic shoes.

Are your clothes, glasses, and haircut an indication of your skill set?  Absolutely not, but we all make snap judgments within the first 20 seconds, (let’s be realistic, the first 3 seconds) of meeting someone and if I make a decision about you that is below the norm, you are only digging yourself out of a hole.  If I see someone who is presenting himself or herself in the current year and can represent the culture of the company, then I don’t think about it.  There is “an absence” of a negative impression.  My radar has not gone off so it is a “non-issue”.   As a recruiter, my job is to sell you to the hiring manager.  I am not just thinking about MY yellow flags, but ANY potential yellow flag that all of the interviewers may have.  As the person responsible for putting a candidate through an interview loop, the candidate shortfalls will fall directly on me.  For some hiring managers, candidate shortfalls become my personal shortfalls.  (“Didn’t you see what that candidate dressed like???!!!”)   When it comes to candidates, everyone is a back seat quarterback.  For this reason, I am going to do EVERYTHING I can to limit my liability.  Yes, I can set expectations with the hiring manager, (“This candidate would be perfect except his hairstyle and glasses are from 1980”.) but there may be a candidate that I don’t have to make an accommodation for.

I don’t want to see someone who pays too much attention to his or her appearance but I also don’t want to see someone who DOESN’T.  You may not care how you look when meeting the CEO or a large stockholder but trust me, they do!

  • The Suit salesman that recorded the highest sales at Nordstrom said he didn’t wear expensive suits.  He wore modest conservative suits so that EVERYONE could relate to him.  He didn’t want to stand out.   He made sure they fit him perfectly.
  • Really expensive clothes that are ill-fitting can look cheap.  Modest, well-fitting clothes will never go out of style.

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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