Interview attire isn’t the most important thing, but it definitely matters, especially in competitive interviews. When twenty people compete for a single vacancy, the margin between success and failure can be razor-thin, and one or two details can make the difference between the best and the second best candidate. One will sign a new employment agreement, the other will walk away empty handed… Your handshake with the interviewers, right question you ask at the very end of the meeting, or perhaps your clothes, conveying the right message or attitude. In this article we will look at one of the issues related to interview attire: whether you can actually overdress.

The short answer is YES. You definitely can overdress. But like with many other things in the interviews, short answer does not tell the entire story. Let’s have a look at few points you should consider when thinking whether you have not overdressed for your interview, and shouldn’t rather return back to your closet, and try on something else.


Jewellery and accessories – less is more in the interviews

It has been proven by several studies that people who wear excessive jewellery–too many necklaces, bracelets, rings, and so on, are the same people who struggle with confidence, or with accepting who they are, how they look, and how old they are. Needless to say, lack of confidence is the last thing you want to demonstrate with your attire in the interviews.

Keep it simple. Modest earrings, a thin necklace, and perhaps one ring on each hand is pretty much maximum you should wear in terms of jewellery. The same goes with your handbag. Do not take that $500 model you have for special occasions and private parties. Take something simple, a matching color and style, something that won’t attract the eyes of the interviewers too much. They should focus on your words, not on your handbag…


Follow the corporate dress code already in the interviews

Do your homework. Check the website of the corporation, and some pictures they post from the workplace, for example on their social media channels (or you may find a YouTube video). Have a look at what the people wear. Whether they wear a tie, whether women wear pants, skirts, or jeans.

Pay special attention to colors and style, since it is a common practice in many places that employees are supposed to wear certain colors. Then you should stick to to same line while choosing your interview clothes.

Needless to say, if nobody in the whole company wears a tie, you would overdress wearing one. However, job interview is still a formal occasion. If you see people wearing shorts in the job (it is not common but I’ve seen it in a couple of organizations), you should probably not wear shorts to your interview. Jeans would be a more fitting choice in this case.

Car mechanics do not wear tailored suits

As I try to indicate with the heading, you should wear clothes appropriate to the level of job you try to get, as well as to the type of work you will do.

I saw a couple of times people wearing suit and tie while applying for the so called “dirty jobs”, such as a car mechanic, plumber, construction employee, warehouse worker. This really is overdressing. If you wear such clothes, the only impression the hiring managers will get is that you actually apply for a job that you consider below your standards.

Not a job you really want to have, but simply one you have to get right now, because you have bills to pay and need to earn money to make it happen. Once a better offer rings your inbox, you will quit. And that the last thing you want them to think after seeing your interview attire.


Overdressed for a salary level

A similar situation happens when you overdress for the level of salaries typical for the job you try to get. I do not want to post numbers here, because obviously salaries vary a lot across industries, countries, levels of experience. Let me show you just one simple example:

If you apply for a job with a monthly salary of $1,500, and at the same time have on you clothes and jewellery worth $10,000, it doesn’t really leave the right impression in the room… You want to show them that you are modest (when it comes to money), and that the salary you’ll earn with them will suffice to cover your needs. They may find it hard to believe when you wear Rolex watch on your writs, watch worth more money than you’ll earn in a year in your new job. Keep it on your mind when deciding what to wear, and what you should rather leave at home.


Do not give your clothes more attention than they deserve

As I’ve already said, each detail counts in a competitive interview. But not all details carry the same weight when it comes to decisions of the interviewing panel. You should not overdress for your interview, and you should keep things simple.

But if you spend two days buying, choosing, and trying on clothes for your interview, and just two hours preparing for the questions you may face, you got it all wrong.

Good choice of clothes can help you. It can be the one detail that decides it between you and the second best candidate. But unless you prepare for the real challenges of interviewing for a job–especially for the questions, you simply won’t end up being one of the two best candidates… And that’s the most important point to remember.

Continue your interview preparation with us:

  • 15 most common interview questions and answers – Your starting point. Get ready for the most common questions, and learn how to avoid typical interview mistakes.
  • How to overcome interview nerves – The entire interview preparation can end in vain when your nerves get the better of you. In such a case you just cannot show your best. Instead of giving them great answers you feel a lump in your throat, and remain silent after hearing their questions. Follow our 4 strategies on beating interview anxiety and make sure it won’t happen to you.
  • Interview attire special tips – Learn some trick and dress to impress in your interview.
Matthew Chulaw
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