Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Many men think they don’t have to put as much thought into their work wardrobe as women do. The basic principles of menswear don’t change as markedly across generations, and a traditional style is always preferable to trend-chasing. But it’s important for men to know why those principles are what they are, especially when it comes time to dress for a job interview. This is when fit, cleanliness, and attention to detail matter most – and not just when it comes to your application.
After you’re hired, you may go to work every day wearing khakis and a sport shirt, overalls and a T-shirt, or a head-to-toe uniform. But that’s something you’ll figure out after you’ve paid a visit to the company. In the meantime, a classic suit with a pair of dress shoes should be your go-to interview outfit. Here are some pointers before you hit the stores:
1. Prepare to spend money.
A good suit is an investment in your work and social life. You may need it for more than just a job interview; it’s also useful for board meetings, conferences, dinners, weddings, christenings, and any event where the invitation specifies “formal dress.” To look your best in all of these settings, go to a store that specializes in quality menswear, and prepare to pay at least a couple hundred dollars. You don’t have to break the bank on a fully custom suit, but you should buy one that will last several years and matches your coloring and body type perfectly.
2. Know your sizes.
Buying a suit isn’t as simple as medium vs. large vs. extra-large. There are a few measurements every man should know: chest, neck, and sleeve for shirts and jackets, and waist and inseam for pants. A sales clerk will be happy to help you figure these out. Once you know these numbers, there’s less chance of confusion when you look at the tags.
3. Choose your material.
You probably know the standard neutral colors for suit jackets and pants: black, gray, navy, and brown. One of these will look better with your skin tone than others. Depending on what’s already in your closet, you may be instinctively drawn to your best neutral already. If you’re not sure, hold up the material close to your face. If your skin looks pale, sallow, or ruddy next to this color, it’s either the wrong color or the wrong shade. Try them all until you find the one that makes your skin look clearest and healthiest.
Once you’ve chosen the best neutral color for your suit, you can choose to add a pattern. A small, subdued pattern is best in an interview setting; big and loud prints distract from the overall look, and solids can look cheap and plasticity. The best patterns to seek out include pinstripe, nail-head, herringbone, and Prince of Wales check. All of these add texture to your suit and give it a prosperous look.
4. Learn how to get the rest of your outfit ready.
By the time you start looking for full-time work, you should know how to iron a white dress shirt (with a white undershirt only), put links on a standard-cuff shirt, tie a necktie, and polish a pair of black dress shoes (with black socks only). If you’ve never done these things before, don’t be embarrassed to ask a friend, a family member, or even a sales clerk for help. To give your look an extra boost of professionalism, consider adding an analog watch, a tie clip that matches your cuff links, and a black leather briefcase. All of these show that you’ve put care and consideration into how you present yourself.
5. Get yourself clean.
Before you put any of your new clothes on, you’ll need to get yourself ready for the interview as well. After you’ve showered, give your face a good wash and comb your hair neatly. If you’re worried about keeping your hair neat throughout the day, feel free to comb in just a little bit of gel. You can add small spritzes of cologne on the back of your neck and in the center of your shirt, but no more than that. Once all that’s done, it’s time to suit up!