9 Interview Outfit Mistakes that Could Cost You the Job

Even if your qualifications make you the perfect candidate, wearing the wrong interview clothes could seriously damage your credibility.

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Your look doesn’t fit the company culture

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A suit should be your go-to for a traditional corporate position, but wearing a blazer or tie at a startup could make you look stuffy, says Jaclyn Westlake, career advisor and founder of job-seeking consulting company The Job Hop. “The whole point of an interview is to check if you’re the right fit for each other,” Westlake says. “You want to make sure the visual message you’re sending lines up as much as possible.” She recommends asking your recruiter for recommendations on what interview clothes to wear, or checking out the company’s social media page to get a sense of how employees dress. If in doubt, it’s better to be a little too dressed up than way underdressed, she says.  Here are key words you should never say during a job interview.

You’re tripping over your heels

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Heels can look polished and confident—unless you need to concentrate on walking without wobbling. “People run into trouble when they never wear heels and think they have to wear them for an interview,” says Alison Green, founder of blog Ask a Manager and author of How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager. If you aren’t used to an elevated shoe, stick with a nice pair of flats. No matter what style you choose, pick a closed-toe pair for the most professional look. Men should stick with business dress shoes like loafers, she says.

You wear an outfit you bought 10 years ago

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Interview clothes that look dated or don’t fit quite right anymore are a bad choice when you’re job seeking, Westlake says. “You want to be honest when pulling out an old business suit or old interview outfit,” she says. “If it’s too tight, too long, or bunchy or bulging, it’s probably a sign it’s time to change it up.” Check Pinterest to make sure your outfit lines up with the trends—wide trousers and a boxy blazer will make you look out of touch. If you could use an update, get your outfit tailored, borrow from a friend, or buy new clothes. As a bonus, you’ll probably get a confidence boost from a new skirt or blazer that feels fresh and well fitted, she says. Check out these words you should always say during a job interview.

You go overboard with color

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While you don’t need to stick to black and white, limit yourself to just a pop of color, Green says. “A good rule is one element of the outfit is brighter while the rest is more neutral,” she says. “One element that … is not taking over your full outfit.” Feel free to wear a colorful blouse, but pair it with a gray suit.  Here are surprising things your outfit's color says about you.

You wear your boldest necklace

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A statement necklace can pull your outfit together when you’re prepping for an interview. Just be careful that it doesn’t hog your interviewer’s attention while you’re talking. “You don’t want it to be a distraction so they’re staring at a crazy necklace during the interview,” Green says. Westlake recommends putting your outfit together, then stepping back and asking yourself: “If I saw someone walking down the street in this, would it catch my eye in a negative way, positive way, or not at all?” Let your answer guide your choice. Don't miss these easy wardrobe upgrades that make you look expensive.

You show too much skin

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While you don’t need to stay totally covered up, make sure your outfit doesn’t reveal too much. “Some people can’t help the way they fill out clothes,” Westlake says. “It’s all about what you’re comfortable with and if you feel like your outfit is distracting.” Balance a V-neck top with a longer skirt, or cover a sleeveless shift dress with a coordinating blazer or cardigan, she says. If you’re still not sure if your outfit is appropriate, ask a friend’s honest opinion.

You wear a loud print

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While small floral prints are probably subdued enough to work in a job interview, big, bold flowers tend to look too casual, Green says. Unless you’re applying for a fashion-forward field, an animal print could look out of place, she says. Swap it out for a solid color or subtler print. “No one will think your outfit is inappropriate because it’s too neutral,” she says. “If you’re unsure, it’s better to err on the side of playing it safe.” Avoid these outfit mistakes that make you look messy.

You put no thought into your bag

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As with the rest of your outfit, the bag you carry should fit with the company culture, Westlake says. A briefcase is perfect for a corporate position but might look too formal for a startup. Pick a bag that can fit a laptop and notebook, and match it to the feel of the rest of your outfit.

You look like you’re heading to a club

iStock/Yuri_Arcurs

Dressier doesn’t necessarily mean more professional, Green says. “There are things you see with younger people who are new to the job force and think more dressy is more professional,” she says. “Social formal dress is different than business formal dress.” Rule of thumb: If you’d wear it to a cocktail party, don’t wear it to an interview. Once it's over, use this guide to writing the perfect interview thank-you note.

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