Work Readiness

What Not To Wear… On A Job Interview

You are in a room anxiously awaiting your next job interview. You have prepped for the interview and just re-read the resumes. You have been trying to find the best candidates to fill the open positions and have already spent an exorbitant amount of time on interviews. You really want the next candidate to be the perfect fit for the position you need filled.


In walks a young woman with disheveled hair hanging in her face. The harsh fluorescent lighting illuminated the leopard-print bra through her see-through, low-cut spaghetti strap tank top. Her exposed shoulder showed off her large tattoo. She struggled to sweep her hair behind her ear with her hot pink long nails, filed into points. This only accentuated her excessive eye makeup of pink, green, and yellow vertical-striped eye shadow.  Her bracelet-sized hoop earrings dangling from her ears; they were large enough to fit on her upper arm.

When she began to describe herself, it was difficult to understand her. Her speech was slurred through her tongue What Not to Wear on an Interviewand lip piercing. She was continually adjusted her skirt, over the mesh stockings, which barely covered her “world.” As she left the room, the large clunky shoes smacked against the floor as she walked. Her appearance in the interview was so distracting, it made it difficult to listen to her responses about the position she was applying for, as a Job Coach.

The next interviewee walked in  wearing a “legalize marijuana” button-down shirt. One side of the shirt was tucked into his dirty ripped jeans. The other side hung over his sagging pants, which he held up with his left hand. The young man appeared nervous. He fidgeted with the six earrings in his ear while smacking his gum. As he slouched in his chair, he turned around his backward cap. The air reeked of stale alcohol, covered up by the overwhelming stench of cologne. He exclaimed that he was excited to be a role model for the youth employment program.

Would these be two candidates you’d be interested in hiring for a professional setting? The two candidates listed above were a combination of actual candidates for positions and job readiness programs. These scenarios emphasize the small details that employers will notice on a job interview. I’ve been in management positions in nonprofit organizations for many years; this includes work readiness programs. I have interviewed hundreds of candidates, and I still can recall all of the interviews where applicants came into the interview wearing inappropriate attire. They thought it was completely acceptable for an interview. (This isn’t a good thing)! Even though not all interview attire is this extreme, employers will notice if your attire is appropriate before they even begin to ask any questions.

Group interview

First impressions in an interview are crucial. Your appearance is the first thing that’s noticed when you meet someone. You are selling a package (you) to your potential employer. It’s not only your abilities the interviewer will notice but also how you present yourself. You are putting together an overall look, and they’re expecting you to bring your best self. There are so many obstacles and obstacles youth of color have to face everyday. Wearing the right attire to the interview is one less challenge.

Some young people may say, “But, what I’m not supposed to wear is an expression of who I am as a person.” But the reality is, when you are in a social environment feel free to express yourself however you like, but a professional environment has a standard set of expectations.

Below I’ve compiled a list of things you want to avoid wearing on a job interview, so that you are on top of your game and by preparing and getting ready for the interview.


What Not to Wear on a Job Interview…

Clothing with a political statement  –  Political views and statements aren’t something that you want to share in an interview. You want to present yourself professionally and keep neutral about your political opinions.

Sloppy unkempt clothing – You don’t want to go into an interview looking like you were coming in from hanging out the night before by wearing wrinkled, stained, faded, pilled, or ripped clothing.

Casual clothing – Just because something is fashionable doesn’t make it appropriate for an interview. You want to avoid…

  • Sagging pants without a belt
  • Spaghetti strap tank tops
  • Short skirts
  • Shorts
  • Capri pants
  • Low-cut tops
  • T-shirts
  • Sweatshirts and zip hoodies
  • Jeans

See-through clothing – What you don’t want to do is look scandalous in an interview. The last thing an interviewer wants to see is your leopard-print or polka-dot bra. Avoid having a scragglybeard

Facial hair – You don’t want to have shaggy, scraggly, nor unkempt facial hair.

Athletic socks, no socks, or bare legs – You don’t want to have exposed skin or athletic attire in an interview.

Sandals, sling backs, clunky, embellished, open-toed shoes, sneakers, or work boots  – this is considered to be casual shoe wear, not professional.


Excessive or flashy jewelry – You shouldn’t wear earrings you can fit your arm through and wear as a bracelet or large diamond studs. Heavy chains and bracelets are also not appropriate for an interview. The new belief is also to avoid wearing diamond engagement rings, as well. If you want to prevent one less obstacle, this may be a choice you have to make.

Multiple piercings – Avoid having multiple piercings in your ears, face, or tongue.

TattoosExposed tattoos – Many managerial interviewers are conservative and tattoos are not deemed appropriate for the work setting. The belief is that visible tattoos are considered to reflect poorly on employers. In the past tattoos were considered to be a sign of rebellion and partier mentality, going against the status quo. Employers want to view their staff as loyal without complications. (This doesn’t mean if you have a tattoo that this is true, it is just the old-school belief).

Poor hygiene and potent odors –  Along with your visible appearance, cleanliness also impacts your presentation. Body odor is often offensive to people, which is why you may you may get excited to see an empty subway car but quickly realize why you too want to change cars. Also, avoid wearing cologne or perfume; the interviewer may be allergic to it.Fingernails

Long Nails – Avoid long, brightly colored nails, nail art decorations, or nails filed into points.





What You Should Wear to a Job Interview…

How you look can determine whether or not you get the job. You want to present yourself in a positive way. Some of this information in this post may seem picky and unimportant to you, but there are unwritten rules about what is considered appropriate attire for an interview. The look for an interview is conservative and may feel a bit uncomfortable, but the more practice you have wearing interview dress, it will be easier to wear for the day of the interview. Dressing conservatively for the interview doesn’t mean you need to dress this way all the time for the job, unless it’s in a profession that requires it.

Interview Attire
Marcus Peterson

Clothing – You want to present that you are orderly and can represent a company well. You should be wrinkle -, stain -, and pill-free. Shirts should be buttoned up and not pulling anywhere. You want to wear a dark tailored suit – black, navy blue, or gray – that’s fitted properly. This means the suit is not stretched too tightly or too baggy and hanging off your body. Here are a few tips that are standard for interview clothing.

  • Dresses and skirts should fall to the knee.
  • Make sure a tank top or camisole is worn under any sheer blouse.
  • Make sure you are wearing an undershirt; you don’t want the interviewer to see skin through your button-down.
  • Tops should have sleeves.
  • Wear a belt; you don’t want your pants sagging.
  • The collar of your shirt should be laid flat, and your tie should be on straight.
  • The cuffs of your pants should lie just on the tops of your shoes.

Professional AttireJewelry – It should be simple and small. You should remove your facial and tongue piercings. If you have multiple holes in your ears from gauge or plug piercings, remove these, as well. (You can put them back in when you leave the building after the interview. Trust me, the holes won’t close during your interview).

Hair – You want to make sure your hair is pulled off of your face. It should be neat and long hair should be tied up, braids and dreads should be tightened up too.

Facial HairThe best look is to have no facial hair; however, as long as it is trimmed and neat, it’s acceptable.

TattoosMake sure all of your tattoos are covered. Wear long sleeves or button up your shirt, if necessary.

Shoes– Should be close-toed. Interviewers may look at your shoes, so make sure your heals are not worn down and Professional Shoesyour shoes are polished.

Hygiene – Make sure to shower and put on antiperspirant. You want to smell clean, too.

Nails – Nails should be neatly trimmed. If they’re painted, use neutral colors. Men should refrain from wearing any polish, except for clear.

You must be immaculate for your interview. Look over all of your clothing in the daytime to make sure there isn’t anything that you have missed. Now, you will look professional ready for your interview!



Posts you don’t want to miss:

How to prepare for a job interview
How to Prepare for a Job Interview
15 Things Everyone Needs To Know When Working With Teens And Young Adults
15 Things Everyone Needs To Know When Working With Teens And Young Adults
99 practice Interview Questions
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