With the Great Recession shrinking in the rearview, employers are once again feeling bullish about hiring new workers. If it’s been awhile since you’ve been called for an interview, you may be wondering whether your old suit is still in style. Well, we’re here to tell you to relax; dressing up for an interview isn’t that big of a deal. Your interviewer probably won’t turn her nose up at square-toed shoes, blanch at the sight of double vents, or accurately discern your work ethic based on the dimple in your tie. For help understanding what to wear to a job interview, we’ve reached out to Tony Spear, President and Owner of Este’s Men’s Clothing in Portland, OR.
Choose a nice suit
When it comes to dressing up for most job interviews, it’s hard to beat a crisp, good-looking suit. However, that black suit may no longer be the slam dunk it once was. “Black used to be real hot, but that was when everyone was making a boatload of money,” says Spear. “Black is powerful, and it was popular when people really respected power.”
The winds of time have changed, and now the bow of the HMS Menswear is pointed at a sea of dark navy suits. “Since the recession in ‘08, we’ve gone back to what we wore in the 70s, which is the sincere navy blue,” says Spear. “It’s more approachable. You don’t come off as harsh; you seem more likable, more accessible.”
Every man should have at least two suits: a navy blue suit and a charcoal grey suit. “If you’re in a type of job where you’re seeing a client two or three days in a row, then you’ll need more suits than that,” says Spear. “But if you have a charcoal suit and a navy blue suit, you have three outfits.”
Spear is a strong proponent of pairing gray slacks with a navy jacket. “Be creative — wear a conservative gray pant, navy blazer, and lavender shirt,” suggests Spear. “You’re not going to offend anyone, because they see the conservative side of you with the blazer. You have the proverbial 20 seconds to make a good first impression.”
Dress to your audience
Unfortunately, there’s no one suit that will work for every job interview, though a navy suit comes close. Simply use your brain when deciding what to wear; if you’re interviewing at a law firm, the navy or charcoal suit is going to work for you.
“If you’re going to work for Wieden+Kennedy (an advertising firm based in Portland), and you’re a creative type, it’s OK to wear some of those pastels,” says Spear. “It’ll show confidence in your ability to work, because it shows you believe in yourself.”
It probably isn’t necessary to wear a whole bunch of accessories; in fact, fancy cuff links, a pocket square, and a tie clip may be a little distracting. Instead, just go with a simple tie with a small pattern and unassuming dress shoes. Black, brown, and burgundy shoes all go well with navy — as do white, blue, and lavender dress shirts. “When dressing for job interviews, don’t let the guy notice you,” says Spear. Instead, you should let your confidence do the talking. Oh, and you should probably let your mouth do the talking, too.
Don’t overthink it
Don’t overthink your interview wardrobe choices. If it looks good to you, it’ll look good to an interviewer. Most interviewers aren’t fashion experts, after all. “Make sure your nails are clean and shine your shoes,” says Spear. “It’s not rocket science.” Even if you’re interviewing to become a rocket scientist, a simple navy suit is still the ideal choice.
Related: How to Choose the Perfect Blazer
“Everybody’s in sales,” says Spear. Though you may be applying for a position that has nothing to do with sales, you’ll still need to sell yourself for the interview. On the visual side, the main thing to keep in mind is crispness. No, we’re not talking about chicken strips or potato chips — we’re talking about cultivating a clean look. “You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but you should look crisp,” says Tony Spear. “You’ve got to look like you’re there to work.” If you have a good resume and you carry yourself well, what you wear to a job interview may not matter as much.
Este’s Men’s Clothing sells affordable and stylish suits and sportswear in Portland, OR. They also offer in-home image consulting for Oregon and Washington residents.