How to Dress for a Job Interview

Job Interview
Items listed at end of post

When you’re going for a new job, the first impression you make is extremely important and a few things contribute to this. The first thing you do, the first thing you say and, often the most important part of a first impression, how you look.

It may at first seem superficial to worry about how you look at a job interview, but the details and care taken when it comes to putting together your look says a lot more than you think it might. So no matter how much or little style or fashion matter to you, to pays to put in some effort.

The job, company and industry you’re applying to has to be taken into consideration when putting together your job interview look, you wouldn’t wear stilettos to an interview as a nurse, for example, but there are a few things that are universal. Here are my top tips for looking your best at a job interview.

1. Wash and blow dry your hair

Whether your hair is worn out or up, clean, well-maintained hair will immediately give a better impression. Shiny hair is also a sign of health, and speaks volumes about how you look after yourself and, by extension, your work.

A lot of people will tell you to tie your hair back for job interviews but, unless you’re applying to work in an industry where you need your hair tied back (food, health, etc), I generally think it’s more flattering to have it out, well styled, neat and brushed. Maybe don’t wear it in an afro, but beyond that it should be indicative of how you look.

And if you dye your hair for the love of employment don’t show up for an interview with regrowth. It’s not a great look.

2. Dress professionally

The clothes you select will say a lot about how you see yourself. A lot of advice I’ve read indicates dressing for the level of job (e.g. a receptionist would wear something different to a CEO) but I don’t agree with that. I’ve often subscribed to the theory “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. Within reason, of course – probably don’t apply for a job at McDonalds dressed in scrubs.

My favourite outfit for job interviews is a pair of well-tailored trousers (I’m always more comfortable in trousers than a skirt) and a white collared shirt. It may seem plain and boring, but it’s professional, classic, I can appear neat and well organised and no matter how corporate or relaxed the environment, I will fit in. Other clothing items I would recommend are:

  • Suits
  • Pencil skirts (ensure they reach your knee)
  • Blazers
  • Sweaters (in winter) or cardigans that are professional (read: don’t have flowers and bows or are oversized or too tight)

Don’t be afraid to inject some colour if that’s you (it’s not me). You want to provide the best impression of yourself but remember – it does need to reflect you. You also want to stand out. A good friend of mine (who is very successful) recommends a grey suit (black or navy is too predictable) with a black shirt and red shoes.

3. Let’s talk shoes

If you do a little bit of thinking about the business you’re applying to, this will give you a better indication of the shoes you should wear. Is it a young, fashionable company, or an established, conservative place? Will you be on your feet all day, or sitting at a desk? Personally, for a job interview, I always lean towards heels. For two reasons:

  1. I prefer to be as tall as possible when I’m in a position of vulnerability.
  2. Conservative is often better.

Whether you choose flats or heels, the type of shoe should align with the company’s style. If it’s a fun, fashionable company, you may want to be a little more adventurous with your shoes (particularly if the rest of your outfit is very tame). If it’s conservative, stick with a black pump. But it is the safest way to inject some colour and personality into your outfit, especially in a classic colour like red. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could go for something like this:

Pink Smarties by Shoe Envy

Pink Smarties by Shoe Envy

4. Makeup

Personally, I think it’s always a good idea to wear subtle makeup to a job interview. Now probably isn’t the time to do winged eyeliner or bust out the reddest lipstick you own. You want to look polished, neat, professional, and your best. So while some makeup will enhance your features, too much will distract from what you have to say.

If you have the time or money to get your makeup matched to your skin well, this will do you in good stead for the future. It’s especially important to do this with foundation. Your skin should look flawless, not like it’s covered in powder or a different colour to your neck/ears.

I would recommend subtle black eyeliner, skin coloured eyeshadow with some subtle contouring in a darker neutral tone (a slate is my personal favourite), mascara, foundation and the world’s tiniest bit of blush.

5. Watch the details

Is your makeup smudged? Are your nails neatly trimmed, clean and free from nail polish or is your nail polish free from chips? Are your clothes clean, pressed, and free from hair or fluff?

If you’re claiming “attention to detail” on that resume, you need to prove this in more than words.


Confidence is key. Smile, laugh, and appear at ease. Even if you’re not 😉

What tips would you give for dressing for a job interview? Do you agree with mine?

Items in the top picture are: Cue Mini Check Pant $229 / Cue Shaped Waist Pencil Skirt $195 / Country Road Washed Silk Pocket Shirt $149 / Saba Kelly Jacket $299 / Saba Kylie Skirt in cream $149 / Country Road Double Cloth Pant $129 / Wittner Beaker Heels $129.95 / Country Road Letitia Ballet $99 / Country Road Nubuck Letitia Ballet $99 / Shoe Envy Endless Legs $129

  • Monique Fischle

    Good advice. I generally wear flats to job interviews because that is what I always wear. Because I’m so used to flats, I can’t walk overly confidently in heels, I would be terrified to accidentally stumble. But you definitely should be polished :)

    • Tamsin Howse

      I’ve actually worn both to job interviews, but flats only when I knew the people who were interviewing me (positions at my current work). I can walk enough in heels to get through an interview but I still travel to/from in flats 😉

      • Monique Fischle

        I always wear outfits that look appropriate with flats. It would be silly to wear an outfit that was clearly meant for heels with flats.

    • Melissa Savage

      I wear flats almost all the time, but I do heels for an interview because they make me feel polished. I’m wearing them today for instance because I needed to give myself a bit of a confidence boost.

      • Monique Fischle

        That’s fair!

  • Gary

    As someone who is often on the other side of an interview I agree wholeheartedly with your advice. Most of all be and appear professional.

  • John James

    It’s over 12 years since I had a job interview…I wouldn’t know what to wear – I don’t even own a suit or a tie anymore…

    • Melissa Savage

      My husband doesn’t really do suits either. Because he’s in the tech/design industry he wears jeans (shorts at this time of year), tshirts (with a hoodie in winter), sneakers and often a hat every day, to every job and meeting and interview.

      • John James

        Yep – that sounds like me too… :)

    • Detachable Princess

      Remember to wash and blowdry your hair, JJ!

      • John James


        • iamevilcupcake

          I would love to attack your hair with a GHD JJ …

          • John James

            I have no idea what that is…is that a sex thing?

  • Carly Findlay

    I had an interview the other day. It was hot outside. I wore a black pencil skirt and floral peplum top, with my t bar ruffle heels and nude stockings.
    I hope I get the job.
    Great tips T.

    • Tamsin Howse

      Fingers crossed!! Let me know.

  • Detachable Princess

    While I agree with all the advice given, there is not a single article of clothing from those pictures that I would find acceptable to wear for a job interview. Coming from corporate law means the blue skirt, untucked shirt, see-through top and pink shoes are completely out of the question – and frankly the rest of it doesn’t do much for me either.

    • Kris2040

      I think conservative is the way to go for most work clothes, particularly at interviews. Once you’ve got the job, go nuts.

      You need stuff that is comfortable, that you’re comfortable in, and that looks good. So proper collared shirt, decent pants, plain shoes. I can’t remember ever wearing heels to a job interview – I don’t wear them.
      The pink shoes wouldn’t be appreciated at any places I’ve worked before.

      I think there must be interviews happening in town at the moment, the last couple of days I’ve seen a few young girls in the White shirt/black pencil skirt/hair in a blowdried ponytail get-up. Their ponytails were all schmick, but the rest of their hair was bumpy. All three of them. Unless that’s a thing now.
      I always have my hair in a bun, because it’s so full on with the curls, I feel like it’s kind of overwhelming. Same deal with tops – nothing booby or that vaguely attracts attention to boobs – they’re big enough to do that on their own!

      • Tamsin Howse

        I should have put that in the article: NO CLEAVAGE!!!

        • John James

          What!? You’re no fun :(

        • Kris2040

          Dude, the amount of people that I’ve come across that don’t understand what I (and you. And most people) would regard as commonsense continues to astound me.
          People getting sent home from teaching prac for inappropriate clothes – see through tops, gaping tops, thongs, boardies… We did a science fair at the end of the year, and one girl had this rocker look thing going on – tight (tight, like sprayed on tight) jeans, boots and singlet top. On which the armholes reached her waist. With a white bra underneath. At a primary school. Nice.

          They actually had to tell us every few months in the Navy – only white or skin coloured bras and undies under uniforms. Er no, it really isn’t a good look to be showing off your fluoro love heart bra under your white shirt.

    • Tamsin Howse

      What see-through top?

      I’m a little surprised you wouldn’t consider black trousers, a white shirt (it’s the same shirt shown both untucked and tucked, with sleeves rolled up or down, both images included as I’d recommend tucked and sleeves down), a black blazer or black shoes acceptable for a job interview. What would you recommend?

      • Kris2040

        I’d totally recommend this pendant – on a silver chain rather than the leather though. It’s cool!

      • Detachable Princess

        Top left, you can see the pattern on the skirt through the untucked blouse. The blazer is alright, but having a long top untucked underneath a jacket is one of my pet *hates* – sloppy. Yes, the pants I would consider, but not in such a skinny-leg style.

        Wow, I’ve just shat on the whole thing, sorry.

      • Detachable Princess

        On to a more positive note, what would I recommend? For a job in law, only ever skirts in an interview. Nude stockings, closed-toe court shoes, pencil skirt, block-colour collared shirt, jacket that’s part of the skirt-suit-set. Hair back smoothly and neatly. Once I *had* the job I could tone it down a bit – even bring out the Docs if it’s going to be a slow day – but for the interview it’s conservative/buttoned up/straightlaced all the way.

        • Tamsin Howse

          Snort! Love your turn of phrase. The pic in the middle was for the blazer, not the shirt. Personally I would wear that top, but not to an interview 😉

          Thanks for your tips!

  • Maree Talidu

    I haven’t gone for an interview since I left uni and got my job teaching, but I wore a black pencil skirt, white collared shirt with 3/4 sleeves and minimal black and grey stripes with black flats. I even toned down my nail polish. I felt really weird, because all these years later, the school I teach at is a lot more flexible with their dress code. I can do skinny jeans, flats, and a nice top. I think the most important thing (and you covered it) is to be polished, to take pride in your appearance.

  • Dee

    Funny you mentioned not to wear you hair in an afro. I’m going to assume you’re referencing Black people. Sad that one’s hair cannot be worn in it’s natural state for fear of being seen as unkempt. I’d implore you and anyone else as small minded to educate yourself on Black women’s hair and re-think your ideals on what polished may mean across racial/ethnic lines.

    • Dee

      *your hair

    • Tamsin Howse

      Sorry, I wasn’t actually referencing a race at all, I was thinking of a friend of mine. No offense was intended but in retrospect I can see how it was read. My apologies.