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5 Things You Should Never Wear to a Job Interview

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

One of the most important things you can do for your career is to invest in a professional-looking wardrobe for job interviews. With so little time to make an impression, the right outfit can help you stand out from the competition. In today's job market, it's more important than ever for potential employers to see you as professional and confident—and the way you dress says a lot about how you feel about yourself.

You’ve heard the saying about dressing for success and it's a little trite. While you can't put your professional career on one sleeve, there's still some truth to the idea that certain outfits or locations can set yourself up to fail. To help you nail that first impression, here are some tips on what NOT to wear to an interview.

Clothing that Distracts

Stay away from clothing that’s overly revealing or too showy. Showing too much skin can be distracting and undermine what you're saying. If you want to wear something more feminine than a suit, opt for an item with a more modest neckline. You want the interviewer to focus on your accomplishments, not your clothing.


Bright colors

When dressing for a job interview, you want something that shows off your personality without being distracting or garish. Very bright or neon colors will make you stand out, but they'll also distract from what you have to say about yourself as a candidate.

In most situations, brighter is not better as far as color choices go in an interview setting. Stick to dark (black/navy), medium dark (browns/mauves/greys), and add a pastel (pinks/greens) to look professional without being boring. Small splashes of color are acceptable though. For example, you might add a colorful scarf or a blouse to brighten up a basic black suit.

Clothing with things written on it

Don't wear clothes with phrases or sayings. While everyone has an opinion and wants to express it, you don't want to wear clothing that will distract the interviewer. Interviews are stressful enough without the added pressure of worrying about offending someone with a thoughtless fashion choice. Save your personal statements for your resume and cover letter instead, and if there's something you need to say, work it in subtly and keep things professional.

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Too many accessories

There are too many accessories to list, but here are some of the most common ones that will turn a job interview into an uncomfortable experience.

  • Big or long earrings
  • Too many bracelets
  • Too much makeup
  • A large, clunky necklace

If you wear jewelry, keep it simple for your interview. It's important to let the interviewer focus on what really matters—your skills and experience. Wearing too many or too flashy accessories could distract them from what you bring to the table professionally. That said, there is one piece of jewelry that can be helpful in the workplace: a watch.

A watch can say a lot about you without taking up much space. A leather-banded, classic timepiece with a simple face shows you're professional, organized, and respectful of other people's time. This type of watch is also understated enough that it won't detract from the conversation and will show you’re focused on being on time. If you choose not to wear a watch, don’t be late!


Clothes that don't fit well

You should look your absolute best on the day of your interview, and that means wearing clothes that fit well. You might think it looks more professional to wear a blazer that swallows you whole or a pair of heels that are a bit too big, but the truth is, loose-fitting clothing can make you look sloppy and ill-prepared. Wearing clothes that are too small will have an equally negative effect. Plus, clothing that’s too tight will make you feel uncomfortable too!

Have attention to detail

Every detail matters with a job interview. The interviewer will notice small things about you too. Make sure your buttons are lined up correctly and your zippers are zipped properly. If you have a button unbuttoned or a missing earring, it’ll look like you aren’t meticulous and detailed oriented. Also, take note of the dress standards before your interview. Some companies have dress-code policies so make sure you check before you get dressed up - it's best to be safe than sorry!

The Bottom Line

If you show up for your interview in an outfit that's too casual, bright, or showy, it sends the wrong message about how serious you are about the position. It could also leave an interviewer with the impression that you’re not serious. Show you’re a professional from the start, by the way you dress.

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