17 things you should never wear to a job interview

Avoid wearing overly colorful clothes, but don't dress to be forgettable.

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Avoid wearing overly colorful clothes, but don’t dress to be forgettable.
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Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr

Your interview outfit should be professional and put-together. It won’t necessarily be the most stylish outfit you’ll ever wear, but it should communicate confidence and a good work ethic.

But the days of absolutely having to wear a suit or dress to a job interview are over, said Marc Cenedella, CEO of Ladders, a careers site for six-figure jobs.

Cenedella suggested reaching out to your recruiter, company contact, or the HR team to get a sense for what people at the company typically wear to work.

“You can always be direct and ask ‘Will I feel out of place in formal business attire?'” Cenedella told Business Insider. “If they answer ‘not at all,’ you know it’s expected.”

Regardless of the typical level of dress in the office, some decorum during the interview is still necessary – yoga pants, wrinkled shirts, or ripped denim shouldn’t be in your interview wardrobe even for the most casual workplaces.

Here are the 17 things you definitely shouldn’t wear to a job interview:


Anything that’s wrinkled or wrinkle-prone

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Your Best Digs/Flickr/CC 2.0 Attribution

Ironing your interview clothes the night before is non-negotiable.

“Make sure it’s clean, unwrinkled, and that you feel that it presents you in the best possible light,” Betsy Aimee, a digital content producer who writes on workplace fashion and entrepreneurship, told Business Insider. “People make an assumption about you before you sit down in the seat and start talking.”


Something that doesn’t quite fit you or is stained

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Rick Wilking/Reuters

That dress that’s just a little too tight? Those shoes that have salt stains?

You want to wear your best, most-polished clothing to the interview so you can feel confident from the get-go. Don’t start off on the wrong foot with clothing that doesn’t feel comfortable or look presentable.

In fact, rolling up to the office in a suit or skirt suit when everyone else is wearing jeans could hurt you in the interview process. It shows you’re not a cultural fit for the company.

“Some of the most common mistakes people make when dressing for an interview are following old and outdated advice or not taking the time to do their research and ask questions about the company culture ahead of time,” Cenedella told Business Insider.


Avoid light colors

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Arthur Edwards/Getty Images

If you’re taking public transportation or have a tendency to spill coffee on yourself, avoid wearing light colors, Barbara Pachter, author of “The Essentials of Business Etiquette” and business communications coach, told Business Insider.

Stained clothing is the ultimate no-go for job-interview looks. Dark colors are the least likely to show stains, and are the safest bet.


Anything that’s too trendy

Unless you’re interviewing for a job in the fashion industry, you’re probably going to want to keep your outfit on the conservative side.

Opt for neutral or earth tones, simple makeup and jewelry, and quiet patterns, the experts advise.

Your interview look is probably not going to put you on a street style blog, but you want to be remembered for your confidence and abilities, not your clothes.


Jeans and a T-shirt

Even if you’re interviewing with Mark Zuckerberg, you shouldn’t wear jeans and a T-shirt.

Granted, if you know the whole office is ultra-casual, you shouldn’t show up in a suit. But you also shouldn’t be quite as low-key as the rest of them.

“You go in the middle,” Aimee said. “You’re not as casual as everyone else is, but you’re also not too formal.”

If you know everyone is in flip-flops, opt for baseline casual – dark denim and a nice blouse or shirt.


Yoga pants or other gym clothes

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Westend61/Getty Images

Yes, athleisure is trendy, and it’s crossed over into workwear. But athleisure is still considered inappropriate in most conservative offices – and it definitely shouldn’t be worn to a job interview.


Outlandish make-up or jewelry

Pachter suggested a light touch with your hair, nails, and makeup. It’s not the time to rock your purple lipstick and super-long acrylics.

She said men might consider a nice watch and simple cufflinks.


Loud patterns or crazy colors

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Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The experts suggest leaning toward quiet colors – navy, black, gray, or brown work well.


Sandals are a major no

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The Social Network/Columbia Pictures

Even if it’s a casual office, you will want to go a notch or two above what everyone else is wearing, Aimee said.

Opt for fancy sneakers, loafers, or flats if you think dress shoes aren’t right for the company.


A crazy tie or a black tie

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Business Insider

Navy, red, gray, or a pattern of these shades are safer options, the experts say.

Black ties should only be worn for black-tie events.


Earbuds or headphones

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Air Vinyl Design

Store these in your bag before you get to the reception area. Your future boss is going to be annoyed with you if it looks like you can’t hear him or her, even if your podcast is switched off.


Visible underwear

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Eric Thayer/Reuters

Neither gender should show underwear, but they should wear underwear.


A lot of perfume or cologne

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David Moir/Reuters

One spray is fine. But your interviewer might be allergic to your perfume and get a sneeze attack.


For men, shoes and belts that aren’t made of leather

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Now is not the time for your coolest sneakers or your D-ring cloth belt.

Even if it’s a super casual office, men should stick to a leather belt or more upscale sneakers. Don’t look like you could go for a jog.


Your flashiest nose piercing

Again, err towards the conservative. While many companies these days allow piercings of all kinds, stick to as few as possible during the interview if you’re not sure of the policy.


Ripped or light-wash jeans

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frantic00/Shutterstock

Jeans are common in casual offices, but usually black jeans are the most acceptable.

Don’t go with the most casual wash and cut for the job interview, or you’ll appear unprofessional.


Something that doesn’t make you feel awesome, confident, and ready for anything

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Eye for Ebony/Unsplash

If you feel stifled by having to wear a suit for a job interview, it might be a sign that the company’s environment isn’t a fit for you.

“Let your personality shine through,” Aimee said. “If you’re interviewing for a job and you feel the attire is off-putting to you, that’s a signifier that the job is not a good cultural fit for you.”