What not to wear – to interview

By Rachel Rubin

Put away the distressed jeans, take off the flip-flops and cover the tattoo. The reality is your personal style and business professional style is different, and what seems to be your nicer set of clothing on campus may not be your future boss’s idea of nice in a business setting.

Damian Lay, assistant director at the University’s Career Center, suggested students invest in a conservative, solid color business suit.

For men this would include a tie with a conservative design and a conservative shirt. For women, dress slacks or a suit with a conservative length skirt is okay, just as long as you have on neutral hosiery and a blouse that is not too low cut or short.

“One rule of thumb is that it’s always better to overdress than under dress,” Lay said, “Most of the time the interviewer won’t be dressed as nice as you.”

Job interviews come in all sorts of lengths and environments and from all different levels of professionals.

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Still, Lay insists that the rules remain the same across the board. If an out-of-town interview is scheduled for Monday, but your interviewer would like to take you to dinner Sunday night, then it is still important to look your best.

“Even in that case it would be OK to wear a suit. One thing we advice students is when you’re not sure, it’s always better to ask,” Lay said.

In a situation described as business casual, Lay said it is better to overdress. Suit pants with a button down shirt and either a tie or a jacket for men are a safe suggestion.

With business formal, Lay said the tie is necessary with the suit and women must wear dress slacks or a skirt suit. If women wear any jewelry, it should be minimal and simple.

“You have to present yourself as someone who is professional and present your best. It doesn’t matter who is interviewing you,” Lay said.

Lay knows from personal experience with interviewing students that too much perfume or cologne can ruin an interview. He suggests that concern with body odor should be addressed with minimal body deodorant instead.

“Stay away from perfume or cologne. You don’t know if they have an allergy to a scent,” Lay said. “A lot of time when you wear perfume or cologne in a close proximity, it ends up being a distraction.”

Cleanly shaven and combed hair is also important in showing your ownattention to detail.

“If your hair is really untidy people can tell the impression your giving is that ‘I’m not really into details,'” Lay said.

“They might think this might carry on to your professional work.”

Well-groomed nails and a proper briefcase or portfolio are also suggested for men and women. Men should not wear any earrings, and women only one set of earrings in their ears.

“What you say and your attitude should be what the interviewer remembers, so you want the attention to be away from what you’re wearing,” Lay said. “Make sure what you’re wearing is simple, conservative and good enough not to draw attention away from who you are as a candidate.”

  • Women


  • Solid conservative suit
  • Simple, limited jewelry
  • Neat professional hairstyle
  • Nude hosiery
  • Conservative heels
  • Not too much makeup
  • Manicured nails – neutral color
  • Portfolio or briefcase
  • One ring on each hand
  • Only one earring in each ear


  • Open toe shoes or flip-flops
  • Underwear or bra straps showing
  • Too short/tight skirt or too low rise pants
  • Low cut shirt/high cut shirt
  • Show a bunch of piercings
  • Untamed hair or juvenile hairstyle
  • Purse
  • Dark nail polish
  • Gum



  • Solid conservative suit
  • Tie with conservative pattern, solid shirt
  • Black dress shoes
  • Black socks
  • Freshly shaven
  • Combed hair
  • No rings besides wedding or college ring
  • Trimmed nails
  • Briefcase


  • Sneakers
  • Jeans or casual pants
  • T-shirt with a suit jacket
  • Showing tattoos
  • Messy hair
  • Bulging pockets
  • Cigarettes
  • Earrings