Note: These guidelines assume you are interviewing for a professional or office position. Before your interview, it’s always a good idea to try to find out how people at the company, or in that industry, dress on a day-to-day basis—or even better, how you could expect them to dress when interviewing you. This allows you to mirror your interviewers’ style of dress and level of formality, helping to create an unconscious feeling of familiarity and a sense that you belong. But when in doubt, dress up rather than down; such research is primarily useful to avoid the awkwardness of showing up in a suit and tie to meet three interviewers wearing polo shirts and khakis, or vice versa.
1. A solid navy or grey suit, in wool or wool blend, two-button, two-piece, single-breasted, notch-lapel. Any other pattern serves no substantive benefit and may in fact be distracting; pinstripes may be seen as flashy, as would peak lapels on a single-breasted suit. And, as Morgan Freeman noted in The Dark Knight, "Three buttons is a little nineties, Mr. Wayne." In terms of colour, navy and grey are the most conservative; however, black is becoming more common, and if it meets all the other criteria, a black suit will be acceptable for any but the most conservative occupations.
4. Round-toed black lace-up dress shoes. Note that every single descriptor in this list is essential. If they’re not round-toed, they’ll look dated. If they’re not black, they’ll look flashy. If they’re not lace-up, they’ll look too casual. And if they’re not dress shoes, they’ll just look inappropriate. A plain cap toe (pictured at right) is always a good choice and will never be inappropriate. You can also get away with a small row of perforations across the top of the cap. Wing-tips are a little bit stuffy and not quite as versatile, so try to avoid them.
5. A black dress belt, no wider than 1.25 inches. The belt should match your shoes in both its colour and the finish of its leather (i.e. texture and level of shine). Choose a simple prong buckle rather than a plaque or any other design. The tone of the buckle’s metal should match your watch. The choice of silver or gold is up to you, although silver is more current.
7. No pocket square, unless you’re interviewing with a menswear store, a rapper, or the NBA.
Generally speaking, no aspect of your outfit should be loud, flashy, or conspicuous in any way. You want to project a general aura of being well-put-together, without any one item drawing attention to itself. People should be left with the impression that you looked good, but not quite be able to put their finger on why. Ideally, your clothes will serve as a backdrop, allowing your non-physical strengths to shine through, but at the same time subtly enhancing your overall appeal—like the setting of a gemstone.
So, you get the job, and then you discover that the dress code is “business casual.” Sweet! Now you’re home free, right?
Well… not quite.
But we’ll talk about that next time.