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I’ve Got an Interview! What Should I Wear?!?

student interviewing

What should I wear to my interview?

I get that question a lot from my students regarding their admissions “interviews” (which may or may not be true interviews) or their honors interview (believe me, this one IS an interview). But the question is relevant to anyone planning to interview with admissions staff, a professor, an alum, or with a prospective employer.  It is ALWAYS a good idea to dress “appropriately” for interview, even if it is for a lifeguard job or a job as a checker at the local grocery store!

So, what IS appropriate attire?  Seems like our standards of dress have changed so much in the past decade (as styles generally do), that no one really knows the ground rules.  I’ve often used the rule of thumb to wear what your grandmother would approve. That comment draws some eye-rolls but you know that grandma would not let you get by with sloppy or provocative attire, right?  Another guideline is to wear “what you’d wear to church,” but that standard has definitely gone far more casual.   Parents in a business environment may be clearer on the concept, but even professional office attire has evolved significantly in recent years.

High Expectations

Just for fun, let’s look at what the Dress Code of the Union League Club of Chicago, which sets a very high business standard, states:

Selected segments from the Dress Code of the Union League Club of Chicago The following requirements are applicable to Members and their guests at all times:

  1. Business Dress Attire is defined as: Men: Business suit or sport coat and slacks with collared shirt and necktie. Women: Suit, dress or blazer with skirt or tailored slacks.

  2. Business Casual Attire is defined as: Men: Collared shirt and slacks (no dress denim). Women: Slacks or skirt with blouse or sweater.

  3. Casual Attire is defined as: Slacks, dress denim, collared shirts, polo shirts, turtlenecks and sweaters.

  4. Prohibited Attire: The following are NOT considered Casual Attire and are specifically PROHIBITED: T-shirts or sweatshirts, trading jacket and other work clothes/uniform, sweat suit and other athletic attire, jean jacket, overalls, or cutoffs.  Any torn or tattered garment  Shorts of any kind.

Our Realistic Recommendations

While most interviews don’t require the Union League’s standards, I do agree that their point #4 (prohibited attire) should not show up at any interview.  To be realistic, here is what we advise as your interview attire guidelines.

1.  Look sharp.

2. Wear what makes you feel confident.

3.  Don’t overdress OR underdress.

4.  No plunging necklines or below-hip waistbands

5.  Avoid too much perfume/cologne/aftershave

6.  Wear what makes you look like you care.

If you are still in doubt, read these suggestions:

Girls: Dress pants, a skirt and blouse, or a dress are good choices. Shoes you can walk in.

Guys: Nice pants and a button down shirt are good choices. Remember to wear a belt.  Wear appropriate and polished shoes.

Both guys and girls:  Be sure to wear shoes comfortable enough to walk in. You may be touring the campus.  Shoes should be clean and polished, not scuffed.  Avoid athletic shoes.

Parents:  Dress in business casual; don’t upstage your child.

For some one-on-one advice related to this topic, we invite you to contact Stephanie directly at My College Planning Team.

Stephanie Kennedy

Stephanie Kennedy is president of Kennedy Educational Services and co-founder of My College Planning Team. Stephanie holds a Masters in Counseling and College Student Development. A former admissions counselor, she has read hundreds of college applications and assisted thousands of students in their college adjustment and educational path. With her hands-on perspective, she guides students and families in a successful college search that goes far beyond the acceptance letter.

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