Interview: What NOT to Wear for a Job Interview

Interview: What NOT to Wear for a Job Interviews

Today my office director came to me, and asked me if I could interview a bunch of candidates for a interpreter position in the company, to which I promptly said yes, in spite of hating to interview (I am very anti social for starters πŸ˜› but I have to keep my job anyways πŸ˜€ )

I never had a formal training to be a recruiter and by profession the only knowledge that I am currently applying while doing it, is of being a multilingual speaker and the openings being for speakers of those languages.

But after a while you start to understand the so called β€˜interview common sense β€˜ and on my little experience on the field, the best advice I could ever give to anyone looking for a job is to know what not to wear on your job interview.

interview attire
interview attire

Nowadays the telephonic interviews are the first step for getting you through into negotiation; but it’s still the good old in-person interview that will allow you to land an offer.

So why do companies conduct phone interviews? Phone interviews give the company a chance to get a feel for your skill-set, interests, desired compensation etc., and see if there is a match between their needs and your strengths. If there is enough common ground, then the phone interviews are almost always followed-up by an in-person interview.

If you survived the initial phone interview, the next step is probably an in-person interview. Every company has their own way of conducting these interviews. Some prefer to have “panel-like” interviews, while others prefer one-to-one interviews.

interview attire
interview attire

So if you are looking for a job, well then let’s get serious about it. People need to know you mean business.
When it comes to women, not only a good portfolio in hand or knowing the answers to the tough questions that count, because you will always be judged by you cover too.

Always remember the little poem:

Never too short, never too bright, never too low, never too tight.

Firstly don’t wear a salwaar-kameez or a sari for an interview if you are always wearing western attire and vice versa.
A good rule of thumb is not to wear anything that would be viewed as a distraction. Tight or form-fitting clothing, for example, is inappropriate. While these slim fits may be en vogue for both women AND men, they don’t belong in the office.

Pants Although pants may be appropriate for work at many companies, they can be perceived by interviewers in different ways as overly casual, sexy, masculine or even rebellious. In any case, they don’t reflect the image you want to present right away.

A cotton shirt The cotton shirt is now seen as something that only entry-level women, coached by college placement counselors, would think of wearing. Select shirts with silky cotton or a cotton-and-wool blend.

Short skirt Test your skirt sitting down as well as standing up. It’s unprofessional and inappropriate to sit with four inches of thigh showing; equally uncomfortable is tugging at your hem while trying to enumerate your qualifications.

Glitzy shoes The theory is that in an interview, you want the interviewer to focus on your head (brains – but go slow with head gears); patterned shoes draw attention to the opposite end of your body. This is not to say that you must only wear standard shoes to job interviews. Just be sure that your legs and feet are not distracting.

Anything brand-new Brand-new means something you are wearing for the first time in the morning of your interview. Interviews sometimes demand new clothes, but if you have bought something new, try to wear it for at least an hour even around the house before the big day.

Why, you must ask, it’s because in an interview you don’t want to be conscious of your clothes. And you certainly do not want to find out too late that the buttons tend to pop, that the skirt waistband can be itchy, or that the back of the skirt has a tendency to slip around to the front. The best interviews clothes are those you have worn before, things that make you feel terrific.

Anything sloppy No woman would show up for a job interview with shoes that are scuffed, a shirt with bottoms missing or a stained shawl.
Anything sexy Now you might roll your eyes on what some interviewers would label as sexy (sheer blouse over a tank, sleeveless tops or dresses etc..) but as what is sexy is of course, subjective it’s better to play safe on the most conservative opinion. So choose a neutral color than, say red, long sleeves are better than short; a skirt with no slit is better than one with it.

Lastly, the best advice is to wear what suits your style and makes you feel confident.

Some more tips for your interview:


interview attire


Do not arrive late: Coming late to the interview almost always turns the interviewer off. If you are unavoidably delayed, phone the interviewer and let him or her know you will be late, or better still, ask for another appointment.
Stop jabbering: Once you have made your point wait for the response. Too many people talk so much that they lose the attention of the listener. If your new job depends upon your ability to listen, you had better train yourself to listen and not talk.

Overdone charm: Some people get by on charm, but if overdone, it makes you look superficial. Tasteless humor, ‘clever’ remarks, coyness, or coquettish behavior will tend to have a negative impression rather than a positive one.
Do not over- extend your interview: Take the cue from your interviewer and leave when the interview appears to be over. Don’t try and give that extra bit of information.

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107 thoughts on “Interview: What NOT to Wear for a Job Interview

  1. No cotton shirts?! You seriously got to be kidding. Never heard of the must have crisp cotton well ironed shirt?

    Don’t wear pants but wear a long skirt as it may exude masculinity and rebelliousness? I wonder where did you do your gender studies.

    Skirt with no slit? Never been to a good quality tailor have you? Actually hold on, you just need a little bit of common sense to understand no slit skirts will rip right through when sitting.

    Not to wear anything brand new coz the buttons might pop and waistband might get itchy? Where do you shop woman!?!?

    No glitzy shoes coz they might distract the interviewer? I am scared to think of the interviewers you have been to. Classy dressing sense is empirically proven to have a strong bias in any hiring decisions if you had done your research.

    Nothing form fitting? Why don’t I rock up in my baggy track pants? Its not form fitting, its conservative, its not new, its not glitzy, its not cotton, its not a short skirt and its not sloppy coz its Nike πŸ™‚

    In my very limited but well researched opinion, self claimed unsocial people shouldn’t be parading as experts on personnel decisions.

    1. Prateeksha, with all my due respect this is not a gender war, but some tips to help people that goes through the head hunting process.

      You have the right not to agree with the opinion expressed in the article, but i would request you to keep you not to cross the line of good taste.

      I will restrain myself from replying on your accusations and very rude remarks towards me.
      .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

    1. Poutmati??? She must be :yawn: :yawn: :ZZZ: :ZZZ: has to naaa…she seems to be only eating all the time…and claims nobody lets her do any work…oh soooo what can she do..she has to spend time with her friends…eat shop…has to think up stuff to do…. :teeth: :teeth: :teeth: :teeth: :teeth:

        1. Hehehehee…she has now become Poshmati??? I have a feeling its going to be :bomb: :bomb: :bomb: :bomb: :knife: :knife: :knife: for me when she gets back and starts reading the comments :evilgrin:

          1. Poshmati!!! Lovit!!! :-* :-* :-* :-* :-* :-* :-* :-*

            Ohhh dont worry about the :bomb: :bomb: :bomb: :bomb: :knife: :knife: :knife: :knife: :thunder: :thunder: :thunder: :thunder: you are the spice on her subji :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
            .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

  2. what do i wear?!lol but its a great article Deb! and very very well written:):) i have seen the new clothes thing happening all the time!:P

    1. ik sweeties, that sure is a tricky question πŸ˜›
      The problem also is that after you go the job, you have to follow a stupid dress coding, and here in my office it looks like a catwalk…women come on through fierce competition πŸ˜€ :giggle: :giggle: :giggle: :giggle: :giggle: :giggle: I rather say we get out and open our own business :cute: :shy: :shy: :shy: :shy: :shy: :shy: :shy:
      .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

  3. Hi Deb,

    A good article to read. However I would like to know a little more specifics about the appropriate attire in Indian and Western style for interview in India. For instance – can you give some ensembles/images of the shirts/tops in cotton + silk or cotton wool blend and suggest where i can buy them from? Similary, women in many cities in India might not be comfortable wearing skirts/dresses for interview; Pants may be the only alternative when chosing western attire. So what kind of pants would be the best? It would be great if you could put together realistic images/pictures that will suit Indian Women – especially if it is something from your wardrobe that you would use.
    In Indian attire, it has become common now to use Kurti and pajamas/leggings to office – however I dont think this is an appropriate attire for interview. What kind of Salwar Kameezs/Kurtis would you suggest for an interview?
    Again a lot of it varies with industry and cities in India, for instance if you are in Consulting/Finance/IT you will probably choose more western attire as opposed to say manufacturing sector. Similarly a younger girl going for campus interview would dress differently as opposed to say a lady with 10 years experience.
    It would be great if either you or any of the IMBB members could do a more specific article on interview attire.


  4. Love the little poem. KISS advise πŸ™‚

    but frankly, i have been on a one-day interview duty – must have interviewed abt 15-20. after the first few, i tend to look through. forget what they are wearing lol :p

    tell me about overdone charm – esp coming from a man to a lady interviewer (with all the ma’ams emphasized!) – it puts u off i agree!

    u know what all college kids must have some short course abt it. i cant remember even a handful choosing anything other than a normal shirt (forget silky feel or a woolen mix :))

    anyways, enough of this middle-aged crap frm me. Great read!!!
    .-= Gaea´s last blog ..Lakme Aquashine Lip Color – Sangria – My views =-.

    1. Gaea great input, i fricking laughed πŸ˜€

      I hate to interview exactly for the same reason, after the 2nd i forget what it is all about in the first place πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

      I actually have never interviewed freshers so i cant say what the college kids wear, but i would ask, please girls do not come wearing chappals and socks…lose the socks please and give your feet a treat :blush: :blush: :blush: :blush: :blush:
      .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

      1. AWesome Deb!! 😯 😯 😯 😯 …How amazing!! .. I have always been so poor in languages!! :-(( :-(( :-(( ..Tried to learn French and German sometime back..All I remember is A (aa), B (Bay) C (Say) , D (Day) of German now!! πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜›

        1. Cali, since when i was a little girl i wanted to travel the whole world, even if i couldnt get into the jetsetter lifestyle πŸ˜€

          So portuguese is my mother tongue, i finished high school in chile (spanish), lived in paris and italy for 2 years ( 1 year intership paris, 1 year teaching spanish in italy, as i know fluent italian i do not have any degree in it, only a simple sort of IELTS examination tht is already expired πŸ˜€ )
          and english i learnt cause my husband was in living in UK, he is indian, so first time we met i could talk to him properly so i 20 and i studied english for 1 year straight and won a scholarship at cambridge university and moved there with a broken english so i could be with my motta πŸ˜€

          And i am still planning on learning more hindi and marathi/marwari and after some time persian maybe πŸ™‚
          .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

    1. Arrey πŸ˜›

      I am a self confessed geek re, while my friends where getting boyfriend i was learning languages, how sad no?? πŸ˜€ :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
      .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

        1. oh so then you did better than many of my friends Ikkyy πŸ˜€

          Now they have no boyfriends me for instance whenever i speak in foreigner language i sound cool 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎 a geeks consolation after all πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜›
          .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

        2. Ikky bunny than you performed better than some of my friends πŸ˜€

          They dont have the boyfriends, and i for instance sound way too cool when ppl ask me to say something in french/italian/portuguese/spanish and i ofcourse show off πŸ˜› Consolations of a geek i guess πŸ˜€ i should write a book… lol
          .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

  5. Great Article Deb!! ..A must read for all who are planning to appear in interviews!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ ..Appearance really does make a solid mark, and it is really important to be appropriately presentable!! :yes: :yes: :yes: :yes:

      1. Preachy? This is awesome. I’ve had some interviews of freshers, and girls were like straight from college, coming in jeans and t-shirt!! πŸ˜• πŸ˜• :reallyangry: .. You should also write an article on general office wear. I’ve seen girls wearing slippers and salwar-suit without dupatta, salwaar going too high over the feet, sometimes in my office, both here and at my previous employer, especially in IT field!!! :-/ :-/ :-/ :-/ ..Really puts me off!!

        People get dressed properly only when there is some client visit or important meeting!! 😐 😐 😐

        1. Cali my current employer is an IT company and its really crazy whenever a client is coming to visit the premises πŸ˜€ the managers find their suits and ties, then send out emails telling everyone on the floor to come for once in a life time to obey the dress code ‘formal’ πŸ˜€ the corporative world its all but just a tasteless joke… :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl:
          .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

          1. I agree!!!! :yes: :yes: :yes: … Dress code is nothing but on papers only.

            They should start something like “fining” people who are ridiculously and most inappropriately dressed. In my previous employer, one guy was fined because of his poor outfit. He was wearing round neck t-shirt with some crazy slogan on it, jeans and floaters!! πŸ˜› πŸ˜› .that too on Monday!….They deducted his one day’s salary as fine!! :-/ :-/ :-/

    1. Thanks Alexandra πŸ™‚ The thing is that i do not mind much a what a candidate is wearing if the office environment allows self expression.

      The thing i can not stand and i have seen some gutsy people do…is someone showing up to an interview and like i have seen not once but around 30 times now…people showing up to the vacancy and not even speak any of the languages mentioned πŸ˜€
      .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

  6. A wonderful and tremendously well-written post Deb……it would help so many since everyone wearing cotton shirts to interviews is the only way to land job

  7. Hello Lovely Ladies !

    The article above was fairly informative but heres the thing – theres a whole lot of dont’s and everyone has been quick to mention what they dislike. As someone about to apply for jobs in the near future – I have to ask – What is the ideal outfit worn by someone looking for a job ?

    In the past Ive worked with a lot of organisations that have not had a formal dress code and therefore I’ve spent years going to work in jeans and a t-shirt or jeans and a kurta.

    So what are job interview dos ? and is it really so awful to wear a salwar kameez sans dupatta ?
    .-= Janhavi´s last blog ..Power ! – Kanye West =-.

    1. Janhavi…this was an article on what NOT to wear πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

      As far as the salwar kameez sans dupatta…I suppose you could wear a salwar kameez without dupatta if its the kind that has a bit of a collar (?)…regular round-neck, v-shaped necks without dupattas do convey a more casual appearance. Jeans are casuals…t-shirt – casual…kurta with jeans…errrr casual again. Dress codes aren’t the same in different industries…so I suppose it would depend on the place you are working πŸ™‚

      If you just go through the comments…there were some suggestions on what could be worn. Sorry about the gibberish we tend to put in between, but there are some sensible comments too there πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

      Disclaimer: Amn’t the smartest either so I could be wrong πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€
      .-= Radhika´s last blog ..Clean up the Act – Reduce- Reuse- Recycle =-.

      1. Thanks Radhika ! I was just a bit lost because someone mentioned that its bad form to wear a salwar kameez without a dupatta and I have not ever heard that before. Aye, I know the article was on what not to where – but that would imply that one knows what to wear in the first place. I was lost on what to wear in the first place no ? so i figured maybe you guys could help. You mentioned that whats appropriate also depends on which field you work in … therefore wouldn’t the same rule apply to the what not to wear list ?

        Deb – would you really not hire a woman if she was in pants ? I was just wondering though … coz I detest wearing skirts so :S
        .-= Janhavi´s last blog ..Power ! – Kanye West =-.

          1. i myself hardly ever wear any skirt…not cause i do not like them, but as the owner of a bra cup size above C, for long now i dont expect for any form of eye contact while in a conversation even with my constant shawl on, be it business or anything….So i just think of not allowing the chance of having my legs scrutinized as well 😐 😐 😐 😐
            .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

        1. Janhavi, i said that pants may be perceived by interviewers in different ways, i never said they were wrong, but its with knowledge that we can bring out the best from things, and even if the interviewed is a squared old hag from the past he will think you are just a perfect match πŸ˜€

          And i think that as long as you covered and being yourself there is no reason to worry πŸ™‚
          .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

    2. Hi Jahnvi, Your concerns are really genuine, and I feel it all depends on the company and its norms. There is no harm in going to office daily wearing salwar suit, t-shirt and jeans.

      But, when you are going for an interview for the first time, you must present somewhat a formal attitude towards the employer, as the employer’s psychology goes positively towards you by the first impression they have about you.

      In India, it is still formal in offices to wear business casuals like salwar-suit or jeans-kurta! You can wear short kurtis with leggings, which may or may not require dupatta ( depending on the fitting and the body type).
      However, I’ve seen many ladies, especially in Bangalore wearing full – three-piece salwaar suit without dupatta, which looks a bit weird and incomplete. You ask them to attend a client meeting in that outfit, and they’d definitely chicken out stating that they could have come in a better outfit, had they known about the meeting (I’ve met plenty of those). So, they also know it well, that this outfit is somewhat not good for a normal ‘corporate behavior’.

  8. Wooow Deb that was a wonderful post and totally impressed with your language knowledge :yes: :yes:

    We will take ur help in our fights whenever we need πŸ™‚

  9. Hey Deb!
    I’m so glad that someone did a post on work/job interview attire and thanks for the interview tips.
    I’ll have to agree with some comments above that NOT wearing pants to the office due to the fear of being perceived as “too masculine” amongst other things, is a little odd.
    The last thing a workplace needs is reinforcements of gender stereotypes, especially ones that have been used to oppress women for years.
    We live in an age where women aren’t just restricted to pink collar jobs, so it’s ok to wear pants, even if a man feels threatened by it.
    Also, I find your comment about cotton being restricted to “entry level women” very condescending. I always wear cotton in the summer and so does all my family to work in hot Delhi summers!
    I don’t mean to go an femnazi on you, but I just found these things disconcerting in an otherwise well meaning article!

    I also got an opportunity to see your blog.I’m a big fan of street style blogs and love the idea. Hope to see lots of women in pants there πŸ˜› πŸ˜›

    1. Devie, I regret that my article allowed room for misinterpretation, and that thank you for pointing out what might have come out sounding wrongly. I added those two more lets say ‘controversial’ pants, because by experience i have seen those judgment happen.

      For instance one of my peers once told me that she was denied a visit to the clients site, because she was not dressed accordingly…she was wearing a pant suit, the other managers informed they would gladly wait for her to change into a sari then go for the visit.

      The other was my mistake only i meant cotton t-shirt πŸ˜€ :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: next time i will add…white see through cotton t-shirt with red/black bra :silly: :silly: :silly:
      .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

      1. :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: good you clarified though…Deb…and I need to dress better when I go to Forum…there is a photographer on prowl there πŸ˜› πŸ˜›

            1. No we didnt πŸ˜€

              They were from Thailand, we walk around and spot someone, this girl we stopped because the shwal she was wearing was so stunning, the pic really didnt pay justice to it… :-(( :-(( :-(( :-(( :-(( :-(( :-(( :-(( :-(( :-((
              .-= deb´s last blog ..Aint they looking great =-.

              1. Love the concept though..kind of like the sartorialist πŸ˜€ I was having problems getting updates though..did you change the address? Maybe I should add again or something… ?:-)

      2. HAW !!! No way ! I would have been livid if someone refused to let me go somewhere because I was in a pantsuit and not sari !!! Thats horrid, despicable, simply ghastly. Women haven’t been fighting this past century for equal rights just to be pushed right back down !!! *speechless*
        .-= Janhavi´s last blog ..Power ! – Kanye West =-.

  10. I guess thats just how it is for women πŸ™ :-(( , especially women trying to make good in what men consider their domain.
    But we have to keep on fighting, for whats right and our rights – including the right to wear pants ! πŸ˜›
    .-= Janhavi´s last blog ..Power ! – Kanye West =-.

  11. There we go: I absolutely hate do’s and dont’s and I actually read them just to follow up with the dont’s =D

    I think I am glitzy by nature, maybe I am a drag queen stuck in a woman’s body. So I find it very hard to follow these austere rules. Thank God I never had to look for some austere job in my life. That would be a disaster, I guess. Because I like playing with colors. Even if I am in full black attire, I will always, ALWAYS find some ultra-colorful accessory to break the seriousness. And that includes, uh….glitzy shoes.

    One thing I fail to understand in the so-called ICC (haha, that stands for Indian Corporate Culture) is: why on earth people consider salwar suits and sarees to be formal, rather than ethnic? Is it the personification of ICHC (Indian CHauvinistic Culture)? If a guy wears a kurta suit to office, he is in ethnic attire. If a woman does the same…well, she is formal. Crazy =D
    .-= Flavia´s last blog .. =-.

    1. Welcome to the Great Indian Double Standard – Its annoying but in a way I won’t complain only because I think international formal wear is just uncomfy (personally) – blazers , skirts and the high heels. I had to do that for a while in Melbourne and I just craved the days when I could rock up to work in India in Kurta (freedom of movement and all that πŸ˜› ). Now I just like the fact that I work in a place where I can turn up in my running shoes – although don’t get me wrong comfort is not a reason to not be well put together.

      And I totally get the need for a bit of color – too much black, white and esp beige drive me nutty but unfortunately I think people who don’t conformed get judged a fair bit. If you are ok with that and who are then whos to say anything contrary ? πŸ˜€
      .-= Janhavi´s last blog ..Power ! – Kanye West =-.

  12. Least but not last… and it is surely a valid point to question. Small problems and contradictions may reveal way more things than we imagine…
    .-= Flavia´s last blog .. =-.

  13. Hey can any one give me one suggestion.Can i wear kurti with a leggings in my job interview??? :chewnails :chewnails :chewnails :chewnails :chewnails πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™

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