What to Wear to Your First Interview (For Men)

what to wear to your first interview
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So you’ve managed to wrangle yourself a few job interviews that offer promising futures.

Knowing that these interviews could mark the start of your career, you want to make a great impression and show your potential employers just how valuable to their organization you can be. First interviews can be daunting. It’s easy to overthink every bit of your resume, as well as your appearance.

You want to look your best without overdoing it. Looking polished sounds easy, doesn’t it? When you’re under the pressure of an interview, the details can be ovewhelming. That’s why I’m going to do my best to walk you through how to dress for an interview.

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The suit pictured is a great example of a nice suit you can pick up for under $700 from SuitSupply.

Keep it Understated & Elegant

Unless you’re interviewing in a known casual environment (like interviewing for a programmer role in a relaxed startup office in San Francisco), you must wear a suit and a tie. As uncomfortable as that sounds after years of wearing sweatpants without showering and heading to class, it’s non-negotiable.

If you choose to show up in something less than that, I can pretty much guarantee that you will be leaving that interview without a call back. There are plenty of inexpensive, handsome suits out there right now from fast-fashion giants.

My advice here is to buy or wear, should you already own, a suit in a solid, neutral colour (navy blue, black, or grey).

You want something versatile that will work with any shirt or tie that you happen to own (it’s always good to save a few bucks where you can).

And, when dressing for interviews, you want to keep your look understated and elegant.

I understand the temptation to dress in a way that will get you noticed and help you to stand out from the other candidates, but this tends to backfire. You want the interviewer and your potential boss to take note of your personality and qualifications, not your brightly colored shirt and tie.

Once you have the job, by all means, dress in a way that makes you happy. For an interview, though, keep things simple and understated: a solid neutral suit, white or light blue shirt, and a dark, neutral tie (a patterned tie is okay, just keep it muted).

With that in mind, it’s okay to add a little of yourself to your look. This doesn’t mean bright colors or wildly patterned anything; it means a little something that lets you be you. A pocket square or a tie-bar are great ways to achieve this and can be found for little money.

Comfort

The second piece of advice I have is to wear clothes that are comfortable.

Like I said, in the interview you want your potential boss to notice your personality and value.

By keeping your clothing simple and comfortable it allows you to focus on what’s important, not your shirt being too tight or the fact that your tie is choking you (a little secret here is to buy a shirt a half neck size bigger than you normally would. Allows you to breathe and look good).

You should be certain your look is on-point when you leave your home, and that’s the last time you should pay any mind to it.

The Devil is in the Details

The third piece of advice I would like to offer is be certain that your details are spot-on. Take care of the little things, including:

  • Be certain your suit is clean and devoid of stains; give it a once over before you put it on;
  • Your shirt should be pressed and crisp. Don’t even consider taking the easy way out. Take it to the dry cleaners or ask your parents if you need help with this;
  • Shine your shoes. People will notice if you show up with scuffed, beat up dress shoes. It can be as simple as a wet cloth to clean off the dirt;
  • Shave (or trim, if you have facial hair), and comb or style your hair. Non-negotiable grooming habits.

People notice these things. It’s easy to overlook certain details or assume no one will notice. You should assume people will notice. Go the extra mile and put in the extra effort.

The Proper Fit

When I worked as a recruiter, the most common misstep I saw were clothes that didn’t fit. Here are a few places most new grads fall short:

Dress Shirt

  • The sleeves should rest at the base of your wrist. They should extend a ½ past the suit jacket sleeves.
  • When you tuck your shirt in, there shouldn’t be loose fabric ballooning out.

Jackets

  • When you button up the top button, it shouldn’t stretch the fabric or hang loosely off of your body.
  • The jacket should fall past the waist, but it shouldn’t be so long that it covers your rear end.

Pants

  • Your trousers should rest at the top of your shoe, with a slight wrinkle in the fabric.

Dressing well can be the difference between landing the job and continuing to spend hours each day hunting for opportunities. I’d encourage you to think of proper interview attire as an investment, as opposed to just another expense.

Behn Watson formerly worked as a recruiter & in retail at a high end men’s fashion store. Today he’s a digital marketer and runs the men’s fashion blog ducksoupstyle.com. If you’re looking for more interview attire inspiration follow him on instagram @behn_watson.

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