Job interviews can be nerve-racking and time-consuming, but with the right preparation, you can get through them without fear. Whether you're aiming to land a senior-level position or applying for your first role right out of college, there are some essential rules to follow when dressing up for a job interview.
Shop TODAY talked to several professionals to find out the do's and don'ts of interview outfits. We also asked these workers what they currently wear at their workplace, plus a few finds to make your work wardrobe easy to build.
Dress code for interviews | Outfits do's and don'ts | Are accessories safe to wear? | Ideas for healthcare workers | Ideas for sports-related jobs | Ideas for political-related jobs | Ideas for tech jobs | Ideas for outdoor jobs | Ideas for teachers | Meet the experts
Is there a standard dress code for interviews?
This depends on the type of industry you're interviewing for. According to Nirupama Hegde, senior director of human resources at NBCUniversal, modern interviews have changed over the last few years, with many currently interviewing in the comforts of their respective homes.
"You want to be dressed like you are ready to do that job and...ready for the position," says Hegde. "Also, you want to be comfortable and consider the outfit that you would wear on your first day."
Outfits do's and don'ts for a job interview
According to Hegde, one of the biggest do's that an interviewee should keep in mind is presenting themself how they truly are. "Whether you wear your hair down or up, short or long, I want to know who that person is and I want that person to look ready and prepared. Basically, someone that looks put-together but that can show off their personal look," she says.
But showing off your authentic self doesn't mean wearing weekend attire or loungewear pieces. Hegde suggests avoiding outfits that show profanity and accessories that are too distracting to the interviewer. "Don’t be controversial [or wear anything] that will distract from your ability to talk about yourself and why you’re qualified for the job," adds Hegde.
She also suggests looking "prepared and ready and not like you just left the gym. This means dressing intentionally for the job you're interviewing for."
Are accessories safe to wear during an interview?
Accessories, tattoos and piercings are totally fine to wear as long the workplace permits them in their dress code. "Tattoos and piercings show authenticity but in a super conservative workplace, these might have to be covered. It also depends if the tattoo is provocative and distracting," shares Hegde.
Hegde also recommends wearing accessories that you would use on a daily basis and not being afraid to show your personal style.
Outfit ideas for healthcare interviewees
Sierra Jones | Nurse on a labor and delivery unit
While she could have worn scrubs during her interview without it feeling abnormal, Sierra Jones instead opted to wear a button-down shirt and slacks. Though a dress code was mentioned, she said that some body modification aspects such as tattoos, piercings and hair color were left up for interpretation.
Dress code policies have certainly transformed from the old no-tolerance rules of conduct over the years, but ultimately it differs from hospital to hospital. "You can’t have any tattoos that are questionable or have cuss words, but I have worn my nose piercing and ear piercings at every hospital," she specifies. "My tattoos are sometimes visible too, which is no big deal because they are not offensive."
"I love fashion and my alter ego, if I wasn't in healthcare, would be an interior designer that dressed really cute," Jones says. "It kind of pains me to put on scrubs every day, but then I just get to be more fashionable with my off-day outfits."
Jones notes that she immediately changes into scrubs upon arriving at work, leaving her yearning for products that help her express individuality, such as a fun badge reel or scrub cap.
What she currently wears at work
"Badge reels and scrub caps are a way to express individuality while wearing a uniform," Jones explains. This badge reel is less than $5 on Amazon and can add a fun touch to an otherwise monotonous outfit.
Keep wispys and flyaways at bay with a healthcare-themed headband that can be swapped out with a scrub cap when need be.
Jones's go-to scrub brand is Figs, a brand that offers a myriad of scrubs, from jumpsuits to vests, in addition to traditional options. Vibrant and fun colors like lavender, limeade and 'shocking pink' make it easy to mix and match scrub tops and bottoms.
"The scrubs did seem expensive, but I always looked at it as 'I will wear these all the time and if I was in the business world it would cost way more to dress in that profession,'" Jones says.
These polyester, rayon and spandex-blend joggers provide a comfortable fit for long shifts. Included are drawstrings at the waistband, if you prefer a more snug or loose fit, and six pockets for carrying a small snack, pens, a phone or anything else you may need to reach for throughout a shift.
Nurses and anyone else who works a job that requires them to be on their feet for hours at a time know that the shoes you wear will either make or break you. This pair from New Balance features an antimicrobial insole, an inside lining, a water-repellent upper, a lightweight mesh underlay and a grippy rubber outsole.
"I work 16-hour shifts and do a lot of walking and standing and never have issues with leg or back pain," said one reviewer who wears these shoes.
Outfit ideas for sports interviewees
Hannah Morrow | Production assistant at ESPN
Fortunately for Hannah Morrow, ESPN has a production assistant training process where they are allowed to ask questions regarding dress code and other office-related questions.
Morrow's interviews for her current role took place over Zoom, where she chose to wear striped sweaters. When it comes to the dress code in her workplace, Morrow lives by the motto "Always better to be overdressed than underdressed!"
"On my first day, I wore jeans, a black turtleneck and a blazer," she mentions. "I didn’t feel overdressed or underdressed with this look, so it was perfect. However, some of my friends that started on the same day as I wore dresses or suits, which they usually wouldn’t wear now."
What she currently wears at work
This spring and summer lemon-y cotton scarf can dress up any solid-colored outfit, adding a fun patterned accessory to the mix. "I've recently invested in scarves because I love how they are versatile and can be styled so many ways," Morrow says.
Mules are a basic go-to for Morrow, who said that a common workplace look is pairing these with a linen set. Available in brown or bone-white faux leather, these mules have an open back, making them easy to slip on.
As mentioned above, Morrow constantly reaches for linen tops and bottoms. Available in nine colors, this boyfriend shirt is loose and baggy, meaning it can easily be layered with a tank or tee underneath.
While these aren't the exact floral earrings Morrow wore to her first interview with the sports media platform, she admits that "around half of my closet is Anthropologie. I just love the maturity, class and variety that they provide."
These earrings, while oversized in a sense, pair well with other gold jewelry such as a wristwatch or rings from Pandora, as Morrow wears.
Outfit ideas for political interviewees
Anna Olson | Former press intern
As a recent college graduate, Anna Olson has held multiple positions in the political world, including at the Iowa House of Representatives, the Office of the Attorney General of Iowa and a press intern at the White House.
While TV shows and movies provide Olson with inspiration on what to wear, it wasn't until she was actually living, breathing and working in the nation's capitol that she was able to decipher that she should prioritize comfort over fashion.
When it came down to it, Olson erred on the side of caution and dressed for the job she wanted, not the job she had, which often consisted of blazers and matching suits.
What she currently wears to work
"I was never an accessory girl until this year," Olson says. "After working around many young professionals, I learned that accessories could tie an outfit together. Dainty necklaces are always safe because who doesn't like those?"
This dainty initial necklace is available in three metals from rose gold, sterling silver and 18K gold.
Olson invested lots of time in finding matching suit sets that could work together or she could mix and match with other staple items in her wardrobe. H&M is a brand that Olson gravitates towards because it's one of the "best stores if you are on a budget; some can be pricey, but overall a good steal."
More often than not, Olson liked to go business in the front and party in the back with her outfits. Blazers allow Olson to be professional and casual at the same time, as she would often pair them with a pair of jeans. In addition, Olson also wore blazers with dresses "if a blazer worked with it, as blazers were required to go on the Senate floor."
Outfit ideas for tech interviewees
Autumn Gruber | Paid social marketing associate at Grubhub
The entirety of Autumn Gruber's interviews were conducted virtually, which meant she wore business on the top and "comfy" on the bottom. "I wore a purple puff sleeve bodysuit with sweatpants," she adds.
Although the dress code was never formally mentioned, she took a cue from her first day when she showed up in a head-to-toe "corporate outfit" while others were wearing hoodies. "Outfits in our office vary from leggings and hoodies to maxi dresses and cowgirl boots to slacks and button-ups," says Gruber.
Since then, Gruber has been experimenting with the loose and semi-casual dress code, documenting her work outfits on TikTok.
What she currently wears to work
If Gruber had to choose a favorite accessory, colorful claw clips would make the top of the list. One of her style role models has a wardrobe full of playful outfits and accessories that span all colors and patterns, including hair clips. Made for thin or short hair, these sunflower claw clips easily add a fun pop of color to any outfit.
Gruber describes her style as "business casual with a mix of casual," making bodysuits a versatile, easy to wear go-to in her everyday rotation.
"They offer the perfect mix of fun items while still remaining practical for work," Gruber said of the brand Zara. "They're also budget-friendly and give more room or swap in new pieces frequently."
Maxi dresses prove to be easy to throw on during the summertime, yet can also be paired with a denim jacket or cardigan for colder months, making it a wardrobe addition that can be pulled out year-round. They're also common in Grubhub's office, Gruber says.
After their most recent rebrand, Abercrombie and Fitch have been known for their comfortable business casual wear. While these tailored slacks are an investment, Gruber mentions that she wears them pretty regularly, making sure you get the most bang for your buck. In the Grubhub office, Gruber admits to dressing more casually, while at partners' offices, she dresses more business casual like "slacks with a fun blouse."
Outfit ideas for outdoor interviewees
Felicia Jimenez | Outdoor environmental science educator
Since her job requires her to be outdoors the majority of the day, Felicia Jimenez opts for clothing that is going to serve a purpose like rain jackets, trail running shoes and sun hats. Located in the Marin Headlands, about 20 minutes away from San Francisco, it's also important for Jimenez to purchase clothing that will protect her skin from the sun.
She describes the parks industry as "really casual," especially during interviews. She remembers wearing a T-shirt and jeans. During the interview process, a supervisor described the dress code as "rugged but neat," which Jimenez portrays through clothes that feel comfortable and are durable.
What she currently wears to work
"For the most part, I have fun and wear clothes that reflect my personal style, but I also make sure that I'm wearing clothes that are going to protect me from the elements," Jimenez summarizes. A fun graphic tank that expresses love for the outdoors, especially National Parks, makes for a perfect layering or summertime choice.
Thought Baggu was only known for their versatile tote bags? Think again. The brand has expanded into lunch boxes, apparel, accessories and home goods. Jimenez loves to wear this sun hat to provide protection from harsh rays, especially when she goes to the beach when she's off the clock.
Jimenez admitted that she recently swapped out her hiking boots for trail runners, sharing that it's been a "game changer!"
These trail running shoes from Brooks includes a texturized bottom to provide traction on any terrain and a "neutral" level of support, according to the brand.
The North Face is among Jimenez's favorite brands because "they [all] make really good quality gear over a wide price range that's going to last." Jimenez puts a large emphasis on layers, especially when it comes to durable and truly protective rain gear.
This rain hoodie from The North Face is available in eight different colors and sizes XXS to 3X.
Patagonia and REI are also on the list of brands that Jimenez is drawn toward for finding affordable, reliable gear and clothing. "What's considered professional in the outdoor industry looks really different from an office job," she says. "I guess I try to channel an outdoorsy, cool, and effortless style (but also keeps me warm)."
Outfit ideas for teacher interviewees
Brenna Kundel | Second grade teacher
As a second grade teacher, Brenna Kundel prioritizes comfort and quality over shopping for trendy items or ones that aren't versatile. While she currently works in the same district she was a student teacher at, that didn't mean that expectations during the interview process were let down.
Before the interview, Kundel did research on both Google and TikTok, hoping to strike a balance between professional and lively. For the interview, Kundel ended up deciding on a traditional classic outfit consisting of black slacks, a white striped button-down and a pair of flats.
What she currently wears to work
Simplicity is key when it comes to Kundel's accessory lineup. Kundel keeps it pretty routine by wearing a pair of faux-pearl studs each day and it's gotten to the point where if she doesn't, her students take notice.
Compared to dangly or heavy earrings, these won't catch in her hair or lanyard when teaching and serve as a distraction for her or her students, something that Kundel is careful to keep in mind when shopping for accessories and items of clothing.
Kundel opted for a cute lanyard to play the role of an accessory because she has to wear one anyway, so why not make it cute? This customizable option from Etsy allows you to insert a short saying, phrase or your name to include. Made with a mixture of wooden and colored beads, this lanyard features a keyring and a clip clasp to hold important cards or keys that you need handy.
Kundel's dress varies depending on the day. There are certain days that require her to dress more business casual, which is where skirts similar to this come into play. Target is among the stores that Kundel enjoys shopping at because they're affordable and match her personal style.
This silky skirt is available in five colors, from orange and hot pink to neutrals like black and cream. It can also be paired with a graphic tee and a denim jacket to dress it down, or a sweater during the colder months to dress it up.
There are three things that Kundel keeps an eye out for when shopping for clothing to wear to work. "I go for comfy, in the budget and within the dress code," she said. These flats check off all three of those requirements and provide all-day comfort thanks to the included memory foam sole.
Once a week, Kundel's school participates in "Kindness Wednesday," a day where the staff encourages the students to promote kindness. Kundel pairs tees with a pair of jeans, admitting that these days are allowed to be a bit more casual.
This smiley face tee is a great addition to any teacher's closet. Available in three colors, it can be dressed up with a cardigan as well.
Meet the experts
- Autumn Gruber is a paid social media marketing associate at Grubhub, a food delivery app. Gruber documents her life on TikTok, where she posts "outfit of the day" and "get ready with me videos", along with recommendations for those visiting New York City.
- Felicia Jimenez works as an outdoor environmental science educator in a city just outside of San Francisco. When she's not doing that, she works as a park ranger for the National Park Service.
- Sierra Jones is a nurse on a labor and delivery unit in Ohio.
- Brenna Kundel is a second grade teacher in the North Scott Community School District in Iowa.
- Hannah Morrow is a production assistant at ESPN in Stamford, Connecticut.
- Anna Olson is a recent graduate of Iowa State University, and most recently spent a semester as a press intern for Senator Amy Klobuchar.
- Nirupama Hegde is a senior director of human resources with NBC News Group. Before beginning her career in HR, Niru spent several years as an employment attorney, practicing as in-house counsel at NBCUniversal and as an associate at two law firms before that.