What Not to Wear to a Job Interview


job interviewWhat is the worst outfit ever worn to a job interview? For a career services director at the University of Chicago, it was the applicant who sported a Madras tie as a belt and a patterned cotton hat. Other contenders, according to a CareerBuilder.com survey of hiring managers, include candidates with dirty fingernails, micro-miniskirts, t-shirts with offensive slogans and even bare feet!

Are you guilty of one of these top 20 fashion faux pas?

1. Sunglasses on top of your head or headphones around your neck

Be sure to remove all your "transit gear" and tuck it in your briefcase before entering the lobby.

2. Carrying a backpack or fannypack instead of a briefcase or portfolio

Some image consultants suggest women ditch their purse, too!

3. Too-short skirts

Your skirt should cover your thighs when you are seated.

4. The wrong tie

Ties should be made of silk, no less than 3 ¾ inches wide with a conservative pattern. Image consultants say the best colors are red or burgundy.

5. Overly bright or large-patterned clothing

With the possible exception of creative fields like advertising or computer programming, it's best to stick with navy, black or gray.

6. Heavy makeup on women

(or any makeup on a man)

7. Earrings on men

In fact, men should avoid wearing any jewelry unless it is a wedding ring, class ring or metal watch.

8. More than one set of earrings on women

9. Facial piercings, tongue jewelry or visible tattoos

10. Ill-fitting clothes

Few people can wear things straight off the rack. Spending a little extra to have your garments tailored is a worthwhile investment.

11. Long fingernails, especially with bright or specialty polishes

Nails should look clean and be trimmed to a length that doesn't leave an observer wondering how you keep from stabbing yourself.

12. Unnatural hair colors or styles

Remember, Donald Trump was a billionaire well before he began wearing a comb-over. If you're balding, try a close-cropped cut like Bruce Willis or Matt Lauer.

13. Short-sleeved shirts

Even worse when worn with a tie

14. Fishnets, patterned hosiery or bare legs (no matter how tan you are)

Women should stick with neutral color hosiery that complements their suit.

15. Men whose socks don't match their shoes

Or whose socks are too short and leave a gap of flesh when they are seated

16. Rumpled or stained clothing

If interviewing late in the day, try to change to a fresh suit beforehand.

17. Scuffed or inappropriate footwear

Including sneakers, stilettos, open-toed shoes and sandals

18. Strong aftershaves, perfumes or colognes

Many people are allergic to certain scents. For a subtle fragrance, use a good quality bath soap.

19. Belts and shoes that don't match

Shoes and belts should be made of leather or leather-like materials and the best colors for men are black or cordovan.

20. Telltale signs that you're wearing a new suit

Remove all tags and extra buttons -- and remember to cut off the zigzag thread that keeps pockets and slits closed!

Don't be a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. Plan and lay out what you're going to wear several days before the interview, so you'll have time to shop or get garments pressed and cleaned. Save "innovative" or revealing garb for the club (or your couch) and strive for crisp, clean and professional. Remember, you want the interviewer to be listening to what you're saying, not critiquing what you're wearing.

Next: 43 Things Actually Said In Job Interviews >>

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HR Pro

This article is exactly right........you should dress better than the interviewer, but not loud or flashy. Here is the best rule of thumb......................if the interviewer was asked 5 minutes after you left what you were wearing..............they wouldn't be able to remember.

April 22 2011 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Can someone please tell me what's wrong with wearing open toed shoes to an interview? Does everyone HAVE to wear a dark suit and pumps, even if the office is business casual? Reminds me of an old Leave it To Beaver when Ms. Canfield comes to dinner at Beaver's house and he gets all bent out of shape because she has on shoes that show her TOES, Not her nipples or tattoos, just her toes.

Why wouldn't a pair of open-toed sling backs permitted? I live in a part of the US where the temperature can be -10 in January and 103 in July.

I only ask because I used to work for a company where the CFO was a Shoe Nazi who made comments about the (female) employees shoes. So my sense of shoe appropriate behavior is somewhat disabled.

February 17 2010 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm sorry Career Builder, you could not be more wrong. I was told to dress "to the nines" for an interview. When I got there the entire staff was in shorts and flip-flops. Needless to say I DID NOT GET THE JOB.

Next time I'm wearin' my bikini! HA

P.S. You do need an editor. That's what I do ...

December 15 2009 at 5:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One thought about the suit. The author says to cut those zig-zags holding the pockets closed.

Well, another suit expert says leave them sown shut forever because it lets the suit hang better.

November 22 2009 at 8:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That's so true..I've only been in the corp. world for about 10 years now but you hit the nail on the head.

November 02 2009 at 5:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

L.Mull - while I understand where you are coming from that kind of thinking that I "fit into" a certain type of people based on what I ride or drive is what the problem is with this country today. Pardon me here but I also have 2 closets full of designer dresses and over 400 pairs of shoes, 2 minks, a sable, and a blue fox fur, so what kind of people do I fit into with that? Do you see what I mean? Stereotyping. I can go from country club to biker lady in 2.1 seconds and honestly what difference does it make HOW I choose to get around ? And with this economy its hard enough to get an interview for my field let alone a field I have no experience in. Trust me I have humiliated myself into work for Walmart for a month at 1/4 of my wages and even applying to flipping BURGER KING !!! Why ?? Because I dont fit into some mold thats why. I just got an email from a gal I know in my field that has only 5 years experience, no formal education, but oh shes early 40's and HOT - and yeah, she was out of work for a whopping 9 days!!! So as I said screw it - I give up

October 24 2009 at 12:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yesterday I couldn't even spell excutive, now I are one.

October 24 2009 at 3:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd just like to say that I think it's long overdue that society becomes more accepting of things such as multiple piercings and tattoos. I personally have 19 piercings, 9 tattoos, and pink and purple hair. Does that affect me as an employee? Absolutely not! I dress in appropriate business attire, and I work my ass off. And while there are some people who might think that I look "weird" or like a "freak" or whatever, I am constantly getting complimented on the way I look by people of all ages and backgrounds (women older than my grandmother in particular seem to love my hair). If anything, looking the way I do has made me a BETTER person. It has helped to build up my confidence, made me more outgoing and given my the ability to talk to anyone with ease. I think potential employers should stop discriminating against people who choose to express themselves differently than the "norm", and realize that by not hiring someone simply because they have some facial piercings or visible tattoos, they may in fact be losing out on a highly valuable and loyal employee.

October 24 2009 at 1:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Megan's comment

Burger King would probably let you be their next spokesman instead of the dorky king.

October 24 2009 at 3:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Unfortunatley the youth of today has its priorities. Tattoos, piercings, short skirts. shorts, sandals whatever. If corporate America can't deal with this they will be out of business, because some of these people are the Bill Gates of tomorrow. So get over it or get out.

October 23 2009 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Those so-called 'standards' are a big part of why I decided not to even think of a career in the corporate world, and this was back in the 1960s before PCs and cell phones, when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Actually, with those "psych me out" notions of corporate culture and their Stepford dress codes, they still do. And you wonder why we seem to end up with a culture of coked-out frat boys, anorexic stick-figures (aka 'models') and folks who spend more time working on their abs than their minds as out decision-makers - with predictably horrible results. If you want real people with real brains and hearts, dump the "Bods, Bucks and BS" mentality and get real. Otherwise, we're still in Oz, ruled by the Wizard.

October 23 2009 at 11:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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