Dressing Appropriately for an Interview

W&M alumni who come here to campus to conduct job interviews have repeatedly mentioned that students are coming to the interview inappropriately dressed. Don't make this mistake!

There are different standards of appropriate attire, depending on whether you are applying for an internship or a job and also depending on the industry/career field you are interviewing for. Research your chosen field so that you will know what is appropriate for an interview, keeping in mind that interview attire is usually more formal than every-day work clothes at an organization.

When in doubt, err on the side of conservative/conventional. Your attire at the interview should convey that you are:

  • aware of appropriate attire
  • predictable and stable
  • serious about getting this job

Your attire should NOT convey that you are:

  • 'just' a student who is trying to fit this interview in amongst classes and extra-curriculars
  • sexy and/or cute

At one end of the appropriate attire continuum is "Business Casual" and at the other end is "Formal Business"; you have to be aware of which is most appropriate for specific situations.  For instance:

Business casual attire can be appropriate for some career fields: 

Your message here is: I'm neat and dependable. If you need me to work with your clients, they will perceive me to be competent.

Business casual attire for men:
Slacks, polo or button-up shirt, ironed and tucked in. Belt and leather shoes (not tennis shoes). Tie is optional and more formal.

Business casual attire for women:
Slacks or skirt, conservative blouse. Conservative dress. Close-toed shoes. Low key makeup and jewelry. Avoid ruffles, lace, animal prints. *No cleavage!*

Formal Business attire is most appropriate for most job interviews.

Your message here is:

  • I'm dependable and predictable
  • I understand what is appropriate in professional situations
  • I'm serious about applying for this job

Formal Business attire for men:

  • Dark suit, navy, brown, grey or black
  • Black leather belt & shoes ( unless it's a brown suit, then brown shoes and belt)
  • Button-up, long-sleeve shirt
  • Tie
  • Socks match shoes; socks are mandatory
  • No jewelry other than one or two rings and a watch
  • Generally avoid facial hair, conventional/conservative hair style
  • Be very sparing with scent

Formal Business Attire for Women:

  • Subdued colored suit, either skirt suit or slack suit; can be accessorized with a small pin or scarf
  • Conventional blouse
  • Skirt should be within 2 inches of kneecap
  • Hose
  • Close toed shoes, not too pointy, not too high-heeled
  • *No cleavage*
  • Low-key make-up; be very sparing with perfume
  • While you don't have to have your hair pulled back into a ponytail or bun, choose a style that keeps it out of your eyes--it's very distracting to have portions of a candidates face disappearing behind the hair or to have the candidate constantly flipping hair off her face during the interview

CAVEAT: You may decide that you don't want to work at a place that expects you to wear conventional, formal attire to an interview. If this is important to you, go ahead and wear that pink-polka-dotted yellow bow tie, or that hot-pink-and-tangerine skirt suit as a way of weeding out the employers you don't want to work for!

Bring a portfolio with you to the interview. It is a place to store extra copies of your resume, a notepad and pen so that you can write down the names and titles of the people interviewing you, a place to store business cards.

Some employers will have you walking around to different offices and buildings during your interview; it is a good idea to wear comfortable shoes.