College Grads: How to Dress for your Interview

By Steve p Brady

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Graduation day- the beginning of adult life, responsibilities, college loan payments, actual housekeeping and you actually have to dress like a grown up now. This is especially important when it comes to a job interview. Competition is tough right now, so if you are lucky enough to get some face time with a potential employer you’ll want to be appropriately dressed for the occasion.

So, you ask, what should I wear? Well, it depends. Lets go step by step through the possibilities.

First up: the Professional interview

If you are interviewing for a professional position or even a post-grad internship at a professional organization, then business attire will be required. For men this means a suit and tie with matching dress shoes. For women this means a suit, closed toe shoes and moderate accessories. Remember that you want to look professional, but you do not want to call attention to your attire. You want what you say and do to be the lasting impression.

Next up: the Non-professional interview

If you are applying for summer jobs, positions in retail or the hospitality industry you’ll be able to get away with a more casual outfit. Sometimes this style of dress is referred to as business casual attire. Here the rules are similar for both men and women. Collared shirts, cotton pants, casual shoes. Most variations of this will be fine.

If you are unsure how to dress for your interview it is always a safe bet to overdress a bit. Better to have a coat and tie and not need it, than to be underdressed and look unprofessional.

What not to wear

Sometimes it is easier to explain what not to do, and attire for an interview is one of those times. Look over the following list and be sure you are not guilty of any of these interview-killing offenses.

  • Do not bring a backpack, cinchsack, or worst of all- a fannypack. Briefcases and portfolios only!
  • No sunglasses, headphones, ipods or other traveling gear. Remove these once you get there and put them in your briefcase.
  • No short skirts. Everything should be knee length.
  • Ditch the novelty tie. This may be OK at the holiday party- after you are hired.
  • Too bright colors. Remember, you do not want your clothes to leave an impression.
  • Women: go easy on the makeup. I have to say anything here?
  • Jewelry: less is more on women, and men should have nothing but a watch and wedding ring.
  • Miscellaneous accessories such as nail color, hair color or tattoos should all be conservative or hidden.
  • Women should keep to neutral color hosiery that matches their suit.
  • Men whose socks don't match their shoes are a turn off- both in dating and job interviews.
  • Strong aftershaves, perfumes or colognes are a definite no-no. If the interviewer starts sneezing as soon as you walk in the room it is a bad sign.
  • Finally, if you have bought a brand new outfit for your first big interview, do not forget to remove the tags. 


Steve P Brady has over 10 years experience resume writing and publishes a weekly newsletter on career development for teachers.

Image courtesy of Ambro /

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