The interview runway: How to dress for the best shot at the job

Most people recognize that the corporate world is a land of utilitarian dress, not high fashion. Many companies have dress codes banning certain clothing items, accessories, visible tattoos or piercings and, in extreme instances, specific colors.

While it’s difficult to know in advance what fashion faux pas you’ll make in an interview if you don’t know the company dress code, interviewees should abide by a few general rules no matter where they want to work.

Sex appeal, job repel

Some offices are more liberal than others, but 70 percent of job recruiters in a U.S. study stated that provocative dress in an interview ensured a candidate wouldn’t get the job. The takeaway? Conservative dress still reigns supreme in the business world.

Some companies attempt to exude a young, modern persona, and may expect you to capture that mindset and look trendy, but you’re still less likely to lose a position you’re qualified for because you’re dressed too conservatively than because you’re dressed too provocatively. So, when you’re not sure about an interview outfit, modesty is the best policy.

Toeing the fashion line

When you go in for an interview at an up-and-coming urban company, you can keep things chic without inadvertently offending the person interviewing you. A business suit, whether it consists of slacks or a skirt, makes a good impression in most offices. Since suits are conservative, you may be able to get away with pairing heels or a tight-fitting shirt with it, as long as you don’t go overboard.

Not all businesses will respond to a business suit, though. Retailers, restaurants and tech start-ups might see a business suit as a bit stuffy for their company cultures. Heed the dress code of a company by finding out how employees dress for work and dressing a step above for the interview.

If that start-up allows employees to come to work in their pajamas, for instance, jeans will likely be fancy enough. In most casual employment situations where employees are permitted to wear jeans, you’ll be more than dressed up in khakis and a nice top or button-up.

Accessories

While accessories may make the outfit, they can also break it if you’re not careful. When you walk into a job interview, you’re there to be judged, so expect the interviewer to judge everything about you, from what you tell them to what your style tells them.

You probably know not to wear a shirt with a message scrawled across it, but may be less aware of what your accessories are saying about you. Steer clear of necklaces, earrings or bracelets that indicate affiliations with groups or organizations.

Stick to basics, like pendant necklaces, gold or silver bangles and a pair of simple earrings to keep from insulting the interviewers’ sensibilities. If you get the job, the people you work with will get to know your personal tastes soon enough.

Getting a callback after submitting your resume is difficult enough. Don’t tank the interview by not knowing what the company expects you to wear. Stick to the basic fashion rules of the corporate world, land the job and then you can gradually incorporate more bold fashion into your work wardrobe.