Job interview jitters are the worst. We could totally live without the sweaty palms, butterfly-filled stomachs and pounding hearts. Worse than the first handshake is knowing everyone in the building is sizing you up the second you walk in the room—that first impression matters, and we all know it. So how do you decide what to wear? Or, more importantly, how do you know what not to wear? Choosing the wrong outfit could mean losing chance for a good first impression before introductions are even completed. To avoid pre-interview pandemonium and to keep you looking your best, we asked experts to weigh in on what looks to avoid for job interviews—and what choices are sure to leave your interviewer impressed. Here's what they recommended doing before you settle on an interview outfit.
Don't Ignore The Industry Dress Code
Bankers will no doubt show up to work dressed differently than architects or artists, so know your industry. Before you go in, look up the company you're interviewing with, search their website for a company dress code, check out their social media—do whatever you can to get a feel for what the company culture is like.
"Dress code is dependent on industry," says Chissy Hopkins, HR analyst and staff writer for Fit Small Business. "I've seen people with green hair and visible tattoos get hired [in creative fields], but if you are in a conservative field like law or banking, the receptionist might even send you home if you arrive sporting green hair and tattoos."
Keep this in mind as you ready your interview outfit. Industry matters, so don't just waltz into your interview without exercising due diligence.
Avoid Anything Too Casual
Regardless of the industry you're going into, it's important to look put together at an interview. Whether you're wearing a business suit or a flowy cardigan, you should look like you're putting your best foot forward. A wrinkly t-shirt grabbed from your drawer last minute won't ever cut it.
"The way you look needs to reflect the job you are going after," says Lauren MacArthur, partner at recruiting company Winter Wyman. "Appearance reflects who you are and who you want to be."
If you want to sit in the corner office one day, dress like the women you see there, and remember—it's always better to dress up than to dress down. The boss is usually the best dressed person at a company, so aim to be at a similar caliber, if you can.
Don't Wear Anything Revealing
"Generally, speaking, keep your heels low, your v-necks high and your skirts mid-knee," says Lisa Rangel, executive resume writer at Chamelon Resumes. "If you think the interviewers will talk more about your outfit after the interview than your qualifications, change your outfit."
Your interview outfit can help you make a good impression, but you don't want your wardrobe to make the only impression, or even the main one. You're sitting in that office because of your qualifications, so while your outfit can help you look professional and educated on industry standards, it shouldn't be in the driver's seat when it comes to making lasting impressions—you should be.
Avoid Bright Colors And Patterns
The colors you wear will send definite messages to your interviewer, so choose wisely. Gina Argento, CEO and president of Broadway Stages recommends avoiding bright and flashy colors in a traditional interview setting.
"I always suggest a more subdued color palette—white, black, navy, gray, etc.," she says. "You want to make sure the interviewer is focused on you and your capabilities rather than your clothes."
Likewise, interviewees should probably avoid wearing loud and bold patterns. Rangel says it comes down to being tasteful and appropriate—so if older friends or relatives have ever sneered at the top you want to wear to your interview, it might be a good idea to reconsider.
Keep Accessories To A Minimum
Clothing makes a big statement as it is, but jewelry and makeup can make a statement that's even bolder—for better or worse. MacArthur says when it comes to makeup and jewelry, less is more.
"Non-dangling earrings are ideal and all alternative jewelry—nose, eyebrow or tongue piercings—should be removed."
Again, standards can vary from industry to industry—fashion designers, rock on—but generally speaking, this advice is pretty universal outside of über-creative fields. MacArthur says hair should also be cut, colored, and styled in a way that looks professional, and manicured nails should be painted in a natural color.
There's a lot at stake when it comes to job interviews, so the last thing you need to be worrying about is whether or not your outfit is appropriate. These tips will guide you in the right direction and give you plenty of time to worry about more important things, like handshakes, smiles, and thoughtful and eloquent interview answers.