This no-fail interview look will boost your confidence and make a great first impression.

By Maggie Seaver
December 23, 2019

What's the weirdest part about deciding what to wear to a job interview? The fact that you don't want to overthink it—but you also don’t want to underthink it. What you wear matters, but it's not the only thing that matters. In other words, how you present your inner self—your skills, curiosity, personality, intelligence—shouldn’t come second to what you wear. In a way, what you wear should help highlight your best qualities by making you feel comfortable, confident, and perfect for the role.

You'll want to come up with an outfit that’s neat (read: more formal than you think), presentable, and professional, without being distracting, over-the-top, or out of place. Here to take us through her idea of the perfect interview ensemble is Kim Perell, an entrepreneur, angel investor, national bestselling author, and tech CEO.

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Why It Matters What You Wear to an Interview

It makes a solid first impression.

By nature, first impressions tend to be driven by the superficial—at least in part. “Your interview attire is the first impression you’ll give and will set the tone for your interviewer,” says Kim Perell, an entrepreneur, angel investor, national bestselling author, and tech CEO. 

It shows confidence, respect, and thoughtfulness.

“Showing your interviewer you put time and attention into your attire proves you’re serious about the job and demonstrates an understanding of corporate culture,” Perell says. “More importantly, dressing the part will provide you with a higher level of confidence. Not only will you be taken more seriously, but you’ll feel better too.”

It provides a foundation for you to wow them in other ways.

“Your interview outfit should make you look put-together, confident, and professional, but not detract from your interview,” Perell says. Said another way, think about wearing something your interviewer almost won’t notice—something just right that doesn’t distract from your brilliant self. You want them to remember you—not your outfit.

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What to Wear to an Interview

It’s very possible you already own some version of the ideal interview outfit, so an expensive workwear shopping spree might not be necessary.

“Generally, a black dress or suit with heels can work for almost any job interview,” Perell says. “It’s a classic look you can dress up or down depending on the environment and accessories you choose. It can actually work for any environment you’re in. An interview, a work meeting, dinner—a black dress and heels will never fail you.” 

In general, Perell says to shoot for a knee-length dress and long sleeves (unless it’s summer, in which case short sleeves are totally appropriate). It’s easy to adapt this fashion combo for the industry and job you’re interviewing for. If you’re out for a role at a more relaxed office or industry, wide-leg culottes, a chic blouse, and chunky heels work great. For an interview somewhere very buttoned-up and corporate, a more classic black or navy shift dress or pantsuit will be your best bet.

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When it comes to your hair, wear what’s comfortable—but take it up a notch, even if that just means smoothing it out with a brush or adding an extra bobby pin to keep that distracting tendril out of the way. “Personally, I feel most confident when my hair is down,” Perell says. “But if you’re going to put it up, make sure it looks polished, not thrown up because you ran out of time.” 

Make it work for you.

Use Perell's personal ideal interview outfit as a jumping point. Not a dress person? Opt for navy blue or black trousers paired with a crisp, white shirt. Hate wearing heels? Choose sleek black flats or loafers that make you feel great. "The biggest mistake would be not wearing what makes you feel most comfortable and confident,” she says.  “At the end of the day, I will always say to dress how you feel most comfortable, because that’s when you’re going to be the most confident.”

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