Resource Centre Job Search Advice Dressing for An Interview: Practical Do’s and Don’ts

Dressing for An Interview: Practical Do’s and Don’ts

While dressing for an interview, consider what impression you give, as this sets one of the standards upon which you will be judged. Interviewers make a …

The first impression counts

Jobs are hard to find and interviews are part of the process whether you like it or not. Once your CV has made an impression, it is now your turn to prove that beyond your CV, there is more to offer, through an interview. While dressing for an interview, consider what impression you give, as this sets one of the standards upon which you will be judged. Interviewers make a judgement within the first five minutes of meeting you; make a good impression.

The interview is the point where prospective employers get to know you as a person and as such, it is important to make a lasting impression from how you conduct yourself through your appearance, to how you answer questions. Remember, first impressions matter so make your first impression count by dressing up for the occasion.

Here are a few tips on how to dress to ace the interview:


  1. Grooming

Good grooming is at the centre of how you appear at any event and it sets the tone for how you will be addressed. Grooming starts from the head, your hair, to the toe, your shoes, and when appropriately done, gives an interviewee confidence and comfort to focus on impressing the interviewers with his/ her capabilities.


Make sure you get a neat hair cut. This makes you look serious and ready for the job. If you like to wear your hair long, then comb it neatly. Most interviewers will not even pay attention to the length of your hair as long as it is neatly in place. You should also ensure that you shave your facial hair neatly and avoid fancy styles.

By all means, ensure that your nails are neat and short, gentlemen. Dirty nails communicate poor grooming and they are a turn-off.


Ladies, make sure you visit the salon a day or 2 before your big day. You do not want to show up at an interview with a weave that looks like a bird’s nest or braids that have been on that head for 6 months. Additionally, tone down on the hair colour. Green, red or yellow braids may look good on the streets but a prospective interviewer will not take you seriously with a rainbow on your head. Additionally, avoid gaudy makeup as this not only tends to distract the interviewer, but it also makes you look very unprofessional.

It is advisable to have neat nails whether short or long. If you prefer long nails, make sure that they are not too long. If you must have nail polish, make sure it is not chipped and untidy. No matter how fashion-conscious you consider yourself to be, keep the colour of your nail polish very subtle on your interview day. After understanding the culture of the workplace, you can resume your normal nail polish colours and patterns. Garish colours are a distraction in interviews and they may send the wrong message to the interviewers. You wouldn’t like that to happen, would you?


  1. The dress code

It does not matter what the organisation’s culture is, a full suit communicates business. If you are appearing for your first interview, it is important to show that you mean business, through an appropriate dress code. You can tone down during consecutive interviews but first impressions should leave a mark. So wear a well-fitting suit that is comfortable and neat. While at it, choose dark coloured suits. Look at the CIA for example, it focuses on dark suits as they show and mean business. Avoid loud colours at all costs as they are distracting. Flashy colours will make you look like a clown. No one will take you seriously at best, and no one will want to offer you a job, at worst.

Your dress code should then be topped up with a mild perfume, cologne or aftershave. Do not wear a loud perfume as it might fill the room and suffocate the interviewer or cause an allergic reaction. An appropriate dress code communicates respect for the job and your potential employer.


If it is a hot day, you can remove your coat as it is only natural to be overwhelmed by the heat if you are overdressed. This then means that you must have a clean shirt on. If it is white, it should not be white with a shade of brown. Insist on a white, cream, or light blue shirt. Make sure that the collar is not tattered. Additionally, wear a single-coloured shirt. Avoid checked shirts. It is also advisable to wear a long sleeved shirt. Make sure you also wear a mild-coloured tie to complement your suit. Bright-coloured ties are distracting.


For the ladies, you can wear a trouser or skirt suit but avoid extremely short skirts or tight clothing. These are likely to distract the interviewers and be uncomfortable to you. If the interview is scheduled on a hot day, you can remove your coat as it is only natural to be uncomfortable if you are feeling too hot and sweating.

Insist on a white, cream, pink or light blue blouse. Additionally, wear a single coloured blouse. Do not wear a checked blouse or a flowery dress. The idea is to have a powerful corporate image.


  1. Footwear

Shoes set the tone for your gait. If you wear uncomfortable shoes, your walking style changes and as you walk into a room with a panel of prospective employers, you will shift their attention to how you walk as compared to how you talk.


Wear dark-coloured, official shoes that fit comfortably. Your socks should also be dark coloured and clean. Smelly socks will get you funny looks and the interviewers will want to have you out of the room within the shortest time possible. That might not be long enough to impress them with your skills and that is how you might miss out on a good opportunity.

Your shoes should also be sparkling and smart. Do not compromise. If you have never brushed your shoes, pass by the shoe shiner’s booth because this is the day where you should go all out and shine; literally.


Wear medium to low heeled official shoes. 6-inch heels are sexy on a night out but you do not want to gully creep into the interview room or tumble down with all your elegance if you slip on the floor. Ensure that your shoes give you the right posture as that boosts your confidence and we all know that you need all the confidence you can get at an interview. Ensure that you wear closed, dark coloured shoes. Open, brightly coloured shoes do not give a strong corporate image, which is what you should project when going for an interview.


  1. Jewellery and Accessories

When going for an interview, use jewellery as sparingly as possible. This means that you should have as little jewellery on you as possible. If you have tattoos, ensure that they are well-covered as they tend to attract unnecessary attention and some people may actually judge you harshly because of having tattoos.


If you like having jewellery on, avoid being too decorated with studs, chains and bracelets on. Less is more when it comes to jewellery. Showing up for an interview while looking like a rapper will not get you the right kind of attention. Additionally, it is always good to have a belt that comfortably holds your pants in place. Do not wear sagging pants. Ensure that the belt is dark coloured and complements your suit.


For the ladies, do not wear dangling earrings. If you have multiple earring holes, wear only one pair of earrings. And please do not show up for an interview with arms full of bracelets. A hand full of jingling bracelets makes noise and causes distraction especially when you are trying to explain a point using hand gestures. Your hair should be held in place with subtle accessories and not be full of hair pins and clips which make you look like a Christmas tree.

Make sure you give a powerful, corporate image by carrying a handbag that complements your outfit. The idea is to have a coordinated look that communicates business.

For both ladies and gentlemen, carry your documents in a folder or briefcase for purposes of being organised. Do not put them in a paper bag as they can get damaged and you will not look serious. Ensure that the briefcase or folder is dark coloured so that it complements your outfit.

In conclusion, how you dress usually, determines how you will be addressed. Dress well for an interview and you will most likely have ticked the first box on the requirements set out by the interviewers. Dress to win.

Njeri Karanja
Notification Bell