How to decide what to wear for an interview — a graduate guide

Being in your final year of university can be daunting.  One, you’re trying to write the most important, 10,000-word essay of your life so far. Two, you’re probably holding down a part-time job too. But on top of that, you’re also having to consider where to go next, with the big wide world open ahead of you. Your degree will only get you so far in nailing that interview, sadly. And as we all know, first impressions are vital.

Try not to worry too much about what to wear for an upcoming interview. This article is your map through the important world of interview outfits, so you’ll be sure to make a great impression to a potential employer before you flaunt that hard-earned degree!

When can you dress casually?

Just because it’s labelled with ‘interview’ doesn’t mean that you must dress super formal. For unpaid internship or charity work, casual dress is fine. For these interviews, it is likely that they won’t expect you to be dressed very formally, and will be more concerned with your personality, including your punctuality. Of course, it’s always good to make a positive first impression, so still consider what you’re wearing.

For women, if you’re attending a casual interview, feel free to wear a skirt or jeans. To ensure you still look presentable, you should avoid mini-skirts with bare legs and ripped jeans. You could wear a smart dress with tights and a cardigan or a shirt-jumper combo with a smart pair of slacks or jeans.

Don’t overthink what’s on your feet either. Opt for a smart ankle boot or flat pump, and perhaps avoid trainers and high heels.

As a man, it can be harder to dress down without looking too informal. Jeans are definitely appropriate, but similar to our advice for women, steer clear of ripped jeans. You should avoid wearing joggers or tracksuit tops, as these will not give off the best impression. A safe option would be a long-sleeved top, jeans, dress shoes such as Chelsea boots or brogues, and a smart jacket.

When do you opt for business casual?

On your interview invite it might say that you’re required to dress business casual. This may be because they have this dress code in the office or it may be for an assessment day where you are expected to be there all day and recruiters want you to feel comfortable.

If you can’t decide what to wear, it’s best to go too formal than too casual.

When you’re dressing business casual as a woman, there is more flexibility to wear what you want. You could wear pinstripe or patterned dress slacks with a smart shirt tucked in.

On the other hand, a long-sleeved sweater with a collared shirt is a good option. This look gives off a formal impression, whilst not as professional as a shirt and suit jacket.

For men, wearing a smart slim fitting shirt is a good move for business-casual wear. Why not invest in a non-iron shirt? It stays free of creases and there’s no need to rush around with the iron the morning before the interview! Also, if you’re travelling by car or public transport to the interview, a normal shirt can become creased but this is avoided through the non-iron garment.

Avoid wearing polo shirts and jeans as these are a little too casual and may give off the wrong impression.

What to wear for a casual interview?

A formal interview requires you to dress professional. These interviews could be in front of directors of the company for a graduate job or an internship. You want to look your best here; your appearance certainly counts, and with the high level of competition at this stage, you don’t want to fall at any hurdles.

For women, you could wear a suit. When it comes to dressing the bottom half, go with what you feel comfortable in. If you decide to wear a skirt, wear one with a hemline just below the knee to avoid it rising and becoming too revealing. A suit doesn’t have to be boring — shop around and discover suits that are tailored in different ways — find one that suits your body shape. When it comes to footwear, heels are acceptable but make sure you can walk with confidence in them. If you don’t feel happy wearing heels, opt for pumps or shoes with a smaller heel.

For men, a smart three-piece suit would be a good option. Wear dark socks to blend in with your outfit and bring a briefcase to look professional. Brogues are a good choice of footwear — they are stylish and smart without being mundane. Choose a tailored suit that you feel represents your style, a slim leg may be best suited for you and your shape.

What to avoid?

It’s important that you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing as it’s bound to show! However, there are a few things that you should avoid:

  • Too much perfume or aftershave.
  • Too much jewellery or makeup.
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