Interview attire

In the lead-up to interviews, we have heard a lot of questions about interview attire. As you know, your attire will be part of the first impression you offer your interviewer – and you want that first impression to be great!

Our top 5 Dos for interview attire 

  • Be neat. Iron or press your clothes and check that they are impeccably clean. (For women, dress/skirt suits and pantsuits are both fine options, but if you go with a skirt, make sure it’s knee-length – and check for runs in your pantyhose.) Make sure your shoes are shined and scuff-free.
  • Choose “standard” colors. Black, navy, or dark grey are your best bets.
  • Match! Make sure socks and shoes match. Ditto for handbags / shoes.
  • Keep everything simple. Patterns, hair, jewelry, makeup, scents.
  • Eliminate potential distractions. If you tend to play with your hair, pull it back; stay away from garish colors, avoid earrings that might get caught in your hair, etc.

Unfortunate Don’ts that we’ve actually seen or had recounted after  interviews 

  • Clothes with stains or pet hair.
  • Tan suits.
  • Bad nail polish (if you’re going to wear any, make sure it is a fresh manicure with a neutral color).
  • Low-cut shirts. For both genders.
  • Food in your teeth.
  • Strong perfume/cologne (remember, many people are allergic or sensitive to scents).
  • Super tight-fitting clothing. For anyone. Especially if it might be a size too small.
  • Visible skin between shirt buttons; men should wear an undershirt, women should wear a camisole.
  • Forgetting to change out of your running shoes.
  • Leaving a phone on (and having it ring).
  • Backpacks.

Should I buy something new? The answer is yes if you: 

  • Haven’t bought a suit since college.
  • You have gained or lost more than 10 lbs (do not try to get away with a suit that doesn’t fit, both because it’s uncomfortable and can look REALLY awkward); you may be able to get an existing suit tailored in this circumstance.
  •  You are planning to wear clothes that violate one (or more!) of the rules above.

Extra credit reading: 

The Charisma Edge is a great book that talks about project leadership presence and is full of valuable tips that would be helpful to practice. In particular, there is a section on tribal behavior that is particularly useful for interviews.

Super extra credit: 

One of the best ways to figure out what to wear is to watch videos that showcase HBS students. Make note of the attire/physical presence, including clothing, hair, makeup, jewelry, shoe, and bag choices.

Do you see any inconsistencies? What seems awkward to you? What you notice/pick out will be noticeable to others too. Look for similar videos at whatever school(s) you are interviewing with.

Good luck. You’ll do great!