top of page

Preparing for an interview - How to Dress for an Interview

Interviewing with a criminal record is challenging for many reasons. At Honest Jobs, we are here to help you connect with second-chance employers who are willing to hire ex-felons. We aim to reduce uncertainty and stress throughout the hiring process.

Being prepared for an interview is one of the most important parts of proving that you are interested in working for the company and you are the right fit for the job. As part of a series of blog posts, today, we would like to share some tips on how to dress for an interview to make a good first impression.

Overall rules

While there are no absolute rules, you should always dress for the position you want, not the position you are currently in. Since interviews are formal situations, a clean and neat professional appearance is an important step in making a good first impression. It does not matter what role you are applying for, you should always make sure that your clothes are clean, fit well, and are not wrinkled or stained.

What to wear?

The best outfit will depend on the type of job and the company you are interviewing with. Before your interview, you can visit the company's website for clues on how people dress. That way, you can show up to the interview conveying that you understand the type of role and the environment. For example, interviewing for a corporate office job may mean it's best to wear formal business clothes to the interview. However, there are plenty of jobs, such as startups, restaurants, or warehouses, where business casual style is completely acceptable for the interview.

Business professional attire vs business casual attire

Clothes to avoid

Regardless of the formality of the workplace, there are items that you should avoid wearing to an interview, even if you think they would be acceptable to wear on the job. They could significantly impact your ability to make a good first impression. You want the hiring managers to focus on what you say, not on what you wear.

  • Denim/Jeans (for formal - can be okay for business casual)

  • Shorts

  • Sweatpants, leggings, track pants, yoga pants, or pajama pants

  • T-Shirts

  • Tank tops

  • Crop tops

  • Flip flops, sandals, or athletic shoes (nice sneakers can be okay for business casual)

  • Very short, tight, or low-cut clothing

  • Very loose or baggy clothing

  • Lots of perfume or cologne (aim to smell neutral - no strong smells either way)

  • Lots of jewelry

  • Sunglasses

  • Hats or headwear, except for religious or cultural purposes

  • Ripped or wrinkled items

Standard Interviewing Outfits

Having at least one outfit ready to go will save you a lot of time and stress before your interview. As long as your clothes are clean and fit well, there is no need to spend a lot of money on them. Consider the following items that make up standard interviewing outfits:

For Men:

Standard Business Formal (Corporate, Banking, Office)

  • Black, gray, or navy suit

  • A long-sleeved, white or light colored, collared shirt

  • Clean, black or brown dress shoes

  • Tie that coordinates with your suit

  • Belt that goes with your suit or shoes

Standard Business Casual (Manufacturing, Logistics, Food Service, etc.)

  • Short or long-sleeved button-down or polo shirt

  • Khakis, trousers, or nice jeans

  • Clean shoes or boots

For Women:

Standard Business Formal (Corporate, Banking, Office)

  • Black, gray, or navy suit (pants, or skirts to the knee)

  • Blouse, shell, or button-up shirt

  • Closed-toed flats or shoes with lower heel heights

Standard Business Casual (Manufacturing, Logistics, Food Service, etc.)

  • Blouse, shell, or button-up shirt

  • Cardigan or blazer, if the shirt is sleeveless

  • Khakis, trousers, a skirt that goes to at least the knee, or nice jeans

  • Closed-toed flats or shoes with lower heel heights

Many organizations collect clothing donations for working adults. If you need help getting work clothes, check out resources like Goodwill and Salvation Army in your area. Thrift stores, consignment stores, and discount resellers like TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshall's are all good sources of interview clothes on a budget. (Also, switching out shirts or accessories is enough of a change from one round of interviews to the next - no need to have a wholly different outfit each time.)



bottom of page