How to dress for interview success

How to dress for interview success

You don’t have to spend a fortune to pull off the right look for a job interview. Here’s some tips from a professional stylist to help you land the job you want.


Picture this: it’s the morning of your job interview and you pull open your wardrobe only to discover the shirt you were going to wear no longer fits, your shoes are scuffed and your pants need an iron. You do the best you can with what you have, but by the time you make it to the interview you’re flustered, stressed and running late.

That’s the exact scenario you want to avoid, according to professional stylist Susan Purcell.

Susan has helped to style and prepare many people for job interviews as a volunteer for Groomed to Go, delivering services for Dress for Success. This not for profit organisation helps people from all walks of life by providing clothes, styling, dressing and support services to prepare for interviews and work.

Susan says the key to dressing well for an interview is to pre-plan what you will wear ahead of time so getting ready on the day is a breeze. This way you’ll arrive looking, and most importantly feeling, like you’re in control, well put together and ready to ace the interview.

So, are you ready to start planning? Here’s Susan’s tips for pulling off the perfect interview look for any job.

Tailor the look for the role

According to Susan, different types of jobs require different interview dress styles.

For professional roles Susan says it’s a good idea to opt for a suit. “Ideally some sort of suit is probably the best option for males and females,” she says. If you don’t have a suit, women can choose a skirt, pants or dress with a nice jacket, and men can likely get away with dress pants and a shirt, this depends on how formal the workplace is. “I don’t think you need a tie these days,” Susan says.

If you have applied for a role in an industry with a less formal style, such as a trade apprenticeship, IT role, hospitality or retail work, Susan says men can choose a pair of dark-coloured chinos and a shirt and neat jumper in winter. She advises women to go for neat pants or a skirt with a shirt.

Keep it neutral

We all love to show our style and personalities through our colour choices, but for an interview Susan suggests muted tones. “Try to keep it neutral, go for navy, black or grey and don’t underestimate a white shirt,” she says.

If you’re interviewing for a creative role, such as in IT, fashion retail or marketing, you can “jazz it up” with a statement piece with a bit of colour such as a bright scarf or a patterned top, but make sure there’s not too much going on.

Put your best foot forward

Not sure which shoes will best suit your outfit? Susan says to always choose closed-toe styles. Sandals are an interview no-no, even if they are a formal design.

For men, she suggests black dress shoes with black pants, but says you can get away with tan shoes with navy pants. Women should generally also wear dress shoes in neutral tones, but there’s no pressure to wear a heel. “You’ve got to be comfortable, you could wear a little kitten heel or wedge but don’t force yourself into the pair of shoes,” Susan says. “If you’re tottling in heels and your feet are throbbing, you won’t be performing your best.”

Grooming is key

You don’t need to have the latest style of trendy clothes, but Susan says it’s essential to make sure you are well groomed and looking neat and tidy. “The main rules are good hygiene, clean hair, hands, nails and clothes that are at least pressed and clean gives the impression you’ve made an effort,” she says. “If you’re scruffy they will think maybe your work might be scruffy.”

Susan suggests men should be either clean shaven or have a neatly trimmed beard. Women should avoid over-the-top makeup, keeping it simple, neutral and professional. “Remember it’s a job interview not the club,” she says.

What not to do

Susan says it’s generally better not to show your tattoos and piercings during an interview. She advises that once you’re in the job you can get an idea whether you need to continue to cover them up for work. “Remember your audience, it’s better to play it back a bit and be a bit more conservative,” she says. “Let your personality shine through and not your piercings.”

She also advises her clients not to wear crazy hairstyles. “People should be able to be themselves, but the reality is the employment pool is so big and you’ve got to put your best foot forward, once you’re in the door you can change it up.”

Denim is also a no-no as it looks very casual and may give the interviewer the impression you haven’t made an effort.

Outfits on a budget

You don’t have to spend much to get the look right. Start with your own wardrobe and try to work with pieces you already have. For example, if you already own black dress shoes you may want to buy black pants to match, while if you already have a skirt and shirt, a nice blazer could top off the outfit.

If you do need to spend money on new items, Susan suggests men and women can find well priced items at discount department stores. “You can pick up a pretty nice white shirt for $15,” she says. “It will carry you through interviews, but you can wear it everywhere, it’s a staple piece to have.”

If you need help, book a styling session

If you need help with dressing or preparing for your interview, Groomed to Go can help.

Face to face appointments are available at Frankston and Dandenong, and Victorians who can’t make it in person can book a virtual styling session through the Pack n Send program.

To book phone 9770 0220 or email