Careers and Employability Service

How to dress for interviews


The first rule of dressing for interviews is:


Whatever the job, you want the interviewer to remember you for your personality and performance: not as "the one with the garish tie/short skirt/nose stud ....". Once you have the job, you can wear whatever the employer approves of. But you need to get the job first - so play safe! If you look really smart it will give a big boost to your confidence.

A study by the University of Texas and Sonoma State University found that levels of extroversion, self-esteem, and how religious you are can be judged from your physical appearance. (Vol 35, p 1661, Bulletin of Personality and Social Psychology)

A survey conducted by management careers company found for senior male and female executives conducting interviews 37% had decided against hiring a candidate due to the way they were dressed. Traditional formal interview dress is the most likely to impress them whereas the biggest turnoffs involved casual dress.

Good grooming accounted for more favourable hiring decisions than qualifications.

A managerial style for women: shorter, simpler hairstyles, hair away from face & lacking adornments, moderate facial cosmetics, tailored blouses & jackets, & simple gold jewelry, was favoured. 
Females dressed in blazers or short belted jackets or tailored suits were rated more favourably than than the same women dressed in a beige dress with a small rounded collar, & gathered, long sleeves.

A male wearing a blue jacket was seen as more competent & properly dressed than those wearing red or no jacket

People wearing glasses were judged as more intelligent, hardworking, & successful, but also, not as active, outgoing, attractive, popular, & athletic.

Prof. Richard Ilkka

"The way you dress at work demonstrates your professionalism and enhances the image of the business"


36% felt co-ordination of colours and styles was an important indicator of the candidate’s personality whilst 75% wanted clothes appropriate for the circumstances. 33% considered whether the candidate’s style suited their organisation.

Orange was the worst colour to wear at interview (95%) of executives felt it unacceptable, with red 84% and pink 83% also thought inappropriate. Stains and dirty marks turned off 59% of executives.

“Stick to safe corporate colours navy, black. Wear a suit or dress and jacket. Keep heels elegant rather than teeteringly high. A skirt suit is more feminine than trousers. Keep make up soft, do not wear too much jewellery. Beware of showing too much flesh, cleavage or leg and of dressing too casually. Aim to be well groomed, elegant and professional, you will have more confidence and this will come across to the interviewer.”

Gabrielle Teare - Fashion Stylist


Where can I buy a suit for an interview?

Marks and Spencer's sell suits for about £60 which look smart. They have a machine washable range at around £110. They are good for both advice and assistance too! Next and Burtons are sell suits at around £110, Asda sell suits for about £40 minimum and Tesco sell smart suits for about £50. Matalan and Primark also sell very cheap suits. A very cheap suit may be a false economy as you may not be able to wear it many times before it goes out of shape.

Senior executives conducting interviews.

Male candidates

Female candidates


  • black socks 77%
  • black leather shoes 56%
  • tailored navy single breasted suit 51%
  • white or blue long sleeved shirt 48%
  • cufflinks 37%
  • low key tie 35%
  • no handkerchief showing 35%
  • tights 94%
  • high heels 69%
  • mid-length black skirt or dress 64%
  • pearls 56%
  • long sleeved and collared shirt or blouse 42%


  • no tie 52% no jacket 50%
  • chinos 50%
  • polo shirts 66%
  • jeans 82%
  • T shirts 88%
  • leather jackets 70%
  • dangling jewellery 99%
  • big shoulder pads 97%
  • low necklines 95%
  • bare legs 94%
  • sports shoes 91%
  • short skirt 60%

The basics for interview dress for men and women are:

Move your mouse over the figures to find out what not to do:

Move your mouse over the figures above.


And what you should look like .....


  • Conventional dark-coloured suit (black, navy or charcoal grey are good) with a conservative shirt:plain pastel shades or modest stripes and dark polished shoes.
  • Wear a belt and dark coloured tie.
  • Don't wear light coloured socks or too much aftershave!


  • Conventional suit or coordinating jacket and knee-length skirt. Dark colours suggest authority but bright can work with care.
  • Wear tights.
  • Don't wear lots of frills, trousers unless smart, low cut tops, or lots of make-up, perfume or jewellery.
  • Make sure your hair is neat and tidy.
  • Very high heels are not wise - it's important to feel comfortable in what you are wearing.


A dress code in a blog for a top law firm advised male staff to avoid black suits, skinny ties and coloured shirts with white collars suggesting that the latter made employees look like an Essex estate agent. Women were advised to avoid red bras, trashy heels and short skirts. The blog said: “You have one day, or at the very most two weeks, to make an impression and you don’t want that impression to be ‘does he understand how to use an iron?’ or ‘nice to know she likes red bras’.”

Casual Dress

Occasionally, you will be asked to wear "smart casual dress" for an interview, workshop or other event. This is actually harder than being asked to wear formal business attire, as it's hard to know how casual to be! Ernst and Young give some excellent advice to candidates on what they view as "business casual" dress and you wouldn't go far wrong if you followed their advice, if asked to wear smart casual clothing for an event. The specialist tie firm Tie Rack is closing in 2013 having diminished since the 1990s as men’s fashion has become less formal with open collar shirts becoming the norm. More companies have adopted a smart casual dress code especially in the creative industries.

The suit is dead!

A survey of 1,000 professionals found that 48% believe the age of the suit is over with ‘smart-casual’ attire replacing it. 34% no longer wear a suit for work unless they are meeting with clients or have an important conference to attend. 72% think you can wear 'smart casual' and still look smart in chinos or jeans, and a jacket and T-shirt combination. 64% said what they wear had no influence on their productivity at work. Many traditional firms in industries such as banking, insurance and law still require staff to dress formally but technology and media no longer have rigid dress codes

James Dunworth of who carried out the survey said: “Ask most employers and they will tell you that the suit is dying fast in the business world. I don't think casual wear makes someone less productive or reduces the quality of their work. I have found you get the most out of a happy and respected workforce and if that means letting people wear jeans and a T-shirt to work, so be it. I can see the occasions where wearing a suit is appropriate such as in job interviews and meetings, but they are the exception. We have a very relaxed dress code. Our staff come to work in jeans and a t-shirt - it just suits the culture of the company.”

What is business casual dress?

Clean, pressed clothes in good condition

Jacket or blazer 
Open necked shirts (with collar) or polo shirts 
Cords, moleskin, twill, chinos, woollen, linen or cotton trousers
Belts (trousers with belt loops) 
Socks and shoes

Trousers or skirts
Dresses but not sundresses
Any fabric except evening fabrics like satin, lace or chiffon
Covered backs, midriffs and cleavages
Socks and shoes

What is not business casual?

Fleeces (indoors)
Anything see through
Sportswear/gym wear, e.g., leggings, trainers, vest tops
T-shirts with slogans

Sportswear, including trainers, rugby or football shirts
T-shirts without collars
White socks

Sun tops/strappy tops
Flip-flops or other beach-type sandals


Also see

Richard Branson: lose the tie!
You’ll never find me in suit or a tie while working. Why? Because, suits and ties have given business people a bad reputation for decades. They are a redundant legacy left over from big, monopolistic companies where creativity takes a back seat to tradition.

Body Language

While you don't need to book an appointment in the beauty parlour the day before the interview, it is a good idea to:

  • Have your hair cut and styled.
  • Make sure your nails are trimmed and clean (for that first handshake ...)
  • Avoid heavy perfume or aftershave
  • Hide any piercings or tattoos.
    "His socks compelled one's attention without losing one's respect" Saki
  • Keep make up light and unobtrusive (this is often seen as looking more businesslike than no make-up); don't overdo it.
  • See also our body language quiz
  • First Impressions Count 20-minute on-line video by the University of Bedfordshire to help students with the first stages of interview preparation. Features 4 students getting ready for graduate job interviews. An image consultant offers advice on how to dress appropriately to create a good first impression also voice training, body language and confidence boosting exercises.
  • Excel at Graduate Interviews


Unusual statements made at interview

  • I have no difficulty in starting or holding my bowel movements.
  • My legs are really hairy
  • I think I'm going to throw up
  • I feel uneasy indoors
  • Sometimes I feel like smashing things
  • In a previous life I was Genghis Khan
  • Women should not be allowed to drink in cocktail bars
  • I get excited very easily
  • Once a week I feel hot all over
  • I am fascinated by fire
  • I like tall women
  • People are always watching me
  • I NEVER get hungry
  • I would have been more successful if nobody had snitched on me


Careers and Employability Service - © University of Kent

The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7ND, T: +44 (0)1227 764000 ext. 3299

Last Updated: 12/09/2017