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).
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.
- HBS students give advice on interview attire.
- Watch videos of students from the venture competition (they’re wearing business formal).
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!