What not to wear at interview

Written by
Changeboard Team

16 Jan 2015

16 Jan 2015 • by Changeboard Team

Dress to impress

Whether it's how to look good naked, how to look younger or how to look stylish in an old sack, it seems these days you can't turn around without a fashionista offering advice on what to wear. So as the HR talent pool becomes stronger and competition for jobs intensifies, how should you dress for interview to ensure you're noticed? How much thought should you put into choosing the perfect attire?

We all know that clothes create an impression, so how important is the outfit you wear? We've got some top tips to help you prepare, so you're remembered for theright reasons. 

Do your research

Planning your outfit is key. Firstly, find out what the dress code is. Phone ahead and ask what you will be expected to wear.

When you've established what the dress code is, take it one step up. This way, you'll never be too dressed up or down. For example, if the dress code is a suit and no tie, wear a tie. If it's jeans, go in smart chinos. And if it's smart casual, wear a jacket and no tie.

Decide what you're going to wear well in advance. You shouldn't have to think about your outfit on the day; everything should be planned so you and your interviewer can focus on those all important competency questions.

The outfit

If you're wearing a new suit, remove all labels and extra buttons. And don't forget to unpick that annoying bit of cotton that keeps the pockets shut too.

Wear the right size - that skirt that fitted eighteen months ago might have looked great back then, but your waistline might need something a bit more generous now. Similarly, shirts that bulge over your chest are not a good look - keep that new Bravissimo number to yourself.

Ladies: Skirts need to cover your thighs when you're seated. Guys: avoid skirts at all costs.

Patterns and garish colours are a no no. Your interviewer shouldn't be distracted by trying out their magic eye technique on your jumper. Keep it plain and demure.

The outerwear

The first thing your interviewer will see. A shell suit top or a ski hat teamed with a suit is simply not appropriate. Harmonise your clothes to create your look. 

Be remembered for what you bring in rather than what you've got on. We met a senior Comp and Bens professional recently who arrived wearing a suit and a pink sparkly pashmina. He did remove it during the interview, but by then it was too late. In fact, when I first saw him I didn't even see his face; I was totally transfixed by the pashmina.

Tip: Don't let your outfit eclipse your abilities by wearing something that will distract your interviewer.


Comedy ties: Just don't do it. In fact, anything that you term as being 'fun' or 'innovative' is not 'fun' for interview. Be remembered for your professional expertise not the cartoon on your tie.

Jewellery: Don't deafen your interviewer by dripping yourself in jangly beads and bells. If you're an accessoriser, this is not a time to show off your range. Go for minimal.

Sunglasses: Another potential distraction. One candidate who interviewed with us arrived with sunglasses on, put them on her head, then took them off and fiddled with them throughout the interview. Don't wear items that are unnecessary; keep things simple. Put accessories away before the interview begins, especially if you're inclined to fiddle when nervous. 

Bag: Backpacks, bumbags, bags with logos are out. Choose a bag that is compact, sedate and compliments your outfit.


If you want to walk tall, make sure you can actually walk. One of the worst faux pas is wearing heels when you can't walk in them. To stand proud, wear polished, closed toe shoes that co ordinate with your outfit. Heels are fine if you can manage them, but avoid the spikes/studs/bells/pom poms.

Important: if you're wearing new shoes, score them or wear them beforehand to avoid any unnecessary tripping disasters! And remove those labels; you might be overjoyed that you managed to make a credit crunch busting investment, but the 'Now Half Price' sticker is not something you want to be flashing to your interviewer as you cross your legs.

Hair & makeup

Ensure your hair is freshly washed and looks neat. If you're a twiddler, grip your hair back or put it up. This way, you won't be tempted to play with it when you should be concentrating on how you're going to implement a new ER strategy. Oh, and zany colours are definitely out.

Your make up should be subtle enough to look like you're not wearing any. Apply soft, natural tones that blend with your outfit avoid bright colours that make it look like you're heading for a night on the town afterwards.

Refrain from bright nail polish - and make sure it's not chipped.

Guys - shave. We've all drooled over him, but an interview's not the time to show off your George Clooney designer stubble.

The interview

On the day, arrive well in advance so you have time to freshen up.

Make sure you're clean and presentable:

  • check the print from the newspaper you were reading on the tube/train hasn't accidentally made its way onto your face
  • remove any stray bits of lunch from your teeth
  • change into a clean shirt if you're prone to sweating.

Don't over scent yourself - you don't want your interviewer to be distracted by coughing rather than hearing about that project you ran recently.

Be comfortable

Comfort is key - for both you and your interviewer. As soon as you do something to make your interviewer feel uncomfortable, you've created a barrier. The last thing you want is for your clothes to do that for you.

If you're female, wearing a low cut top could not only be distracting but down right offensive. The interviewer is there to assess your talent not your bra size. If you're male, your interviewer does not want to see your chest wig; you want them to focus on you and what you have to say. If you've got to hold your tummy in the whole way through, you'll distract yourself from giving the best answers.

Whilst many celebrities deliberately wear outfits to ensure they're remembered, a job interview for an HR Manager is hardly the place to debut your new little black number. In fact, you need to ensure what you wear isn't even noticed, whilst making sure you definitely are noticed. Give yourself the best chance to prove your worth, fit and ability through what you say, not what you are wearing.

Harsh world

Despite a number of legislations that have been introduced insisting that interviewers cannot discriminate, we still live in an ultimately judgemental world - it's human nature. Some of our clients make up their minds within the first five minutes of interview; not giving enough thought to your outfit could stand against you on the day.

Strive for crisp, clean and professional. Your outfit is what your interviewer sees first - get just one bit wrong and they could make up their mind without you even having to utter a word.