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Q&A: What should I wear to a job interview?

Q&A: What should I wear to a job interview?

First, an unfortunate truth

It takes all of three seconds for an interviewer to decide how he or she feels about you. Studies have proven this in different ways: One showed that within three seconds, people labeled men in tailored suits more confident, flexible and successful than those wearing off-the-rack suits; another revealed that people wearing smart-casual clothes are presumed to have more earning and promotion potential than those dressed casually.

So what does this mean for you? 

No matter how strong your experience or how convincing your job pitch, the most important thing you can bring to an interview is a sharp (and appropriate) outfit. So Thread's style director, Shaunie Brett, teamed up with Reed—the UK's largest job site—to share advice on how to look your best for an interview. 

Here, Shaunie shares a five-step plan for dressing for any interview, plus an outfit that works on almost every occasion. 

Step 1. Find out what your interviewers will be wearing
No matter your personal style, you don't want to look out of place. If you wear a suit and everyone interviewing you wears jeans, for example, you'll probably feel uncomfortable—and it might even seem that you don't understand the company's culture.

Find out what's appropriate by looking at what employees are wearing in their LinkedIn profile photos (usually a good indication of what they consider professional) and on the company’s "About us" page.

Step 2. Don't wear a brand-new outfit
Above all, interview clothes should make you feel confident and comfortable. Which means you shouldn't wear anything you've never worn before.

Say you haven't worn a suit since your first communion, but you do your research and find that everyone at a company wears one. It's not a good idea to buy a suit and wear it for the first time to your interview because you won't feel like yourself and you don't yet know how the suit behaves on you. Does it crease? Is there an itchy label? Are your arms restricted? Is it hot?

Instead, do one of two things: 1. Wear chinos, a shirt and a jacket instead of a full suit, which is totally acceptable unless you've been explicitly told to wear a suit, or 2. Buy a suit at least a day in advance (or earlier if it might need tailoring) and wear it around the house to get used to it.

If you find that people at the company wear a variety of things—or that the dress code is casual—my advice is really simple: wear something you’ve always felt confident and comfortable in (or the failsafe outfit described below).

Step 3. Keep it cohesive

Interviewers are looking for a candidate who has it together, which means you should think about how all the small elements of your outfit add up.

Here are two tips to building a cohesive outfit:

  • Don't wear any more than two or three different colours. 
  • Remember that your bag, umbrella and socks are all part of your outfit. Make sure they're smart enough that they don't let the rest of your clothes down. 

Step 4. Layer
The room you're interviewing in could be boiling or freezing. To be prepared for either eventuality, wear two layers: a shirt and jacket. If it's warm, the shirt looks good by itself … but if the air conditioning is blasting, a blazer will look sharp and keep you warm. 

Step 5. Iron out all the details
The devil's in the details, so polish your shoes, make sure your nails are neat, iron your shirt and trousers, and keep cologne to a minimum. In the end, it's all about showing off your skills, so you should get rid of anything that distracts (or detracts) from, well, you.

Plus: The outfit that works for (almost) every interview

Photographed: Gant chinos (£100), Gant white shirt (£85), Hudson brogues (£160)

The elements: A crisp, white button-down shirt; chinos; brogues or boots; and a textured blazer in case the AC is on high or you feel too casual. Wear your smartest coat on top. 

Why they work together: By sticking to simple basics, you'll ensure your interviewer focuses on you, not your clothes. This outfit is classic and mature, and shows more personality than a suit would. 


On the job hunt? Register with Reed, the UK's #1 job site.