Dressing For Your Interview (For Men) Employment

The days of automatically slapping on your suit and tie are over. 

There are more options than ever when it comes to dressing for that all important interview, and it can be very difficult to work out exactly how you should dress. In order to solve that problem, Building Better Opportunities has put together this quick guide. 

This is the first of two guides for dressing for an interview. Our second, aimed towards female applicants, will be coming soon. 

Dressing To Suit the Situation

The first thing that you should understand is that there are three types of interview dress code. The second thing is that the type you will be basing your interview clothes on depends greatly on the job and the industry. 

For example, a position in the retail industry would logically suggest a Smart Casual dress code for the interview; however, if the store you are interviewing for is an upmarket jewelry store or a high end fashion boutique you’ll have a much better chance of being hired if you wear something semi-formal or even formal. Likewise, if you’re applying for a managerial position, you’d think that adhering to a formal or even sem-formal dress code would be the right idea. But, if your company is a young IT or Marketing company (or even a start up) dressing in a suit might give off the wrong impression. 

Ultimately, the key is to do research on your potential employer both as an organization and a representative of their industry. Once you understand where they stand, you’ll have a better chance of dressing the correct way. It sounds hard, but it’s really not.

Now that we’ve gone over the importance of research, let’s touch on the three interview dress codes. 


Formal is, as its name suggests, the most formal type of dress code you should be using for an interview. You’ve seen it before: suit, tie, nice shoes. 

Probably the dress code with the fewest options, the formal dress code requires a suit. It should fit well: not too loose, not too tight. When it comes to colouration, your choices are either grey or navy coloured, and your tie should match. Black suits and ties are to be avoided as they can leave a negative impression. However, if you must wear a black suit, wear a blue shirt with a tie to match. 

At this stage, you should only be wearing a two-piece suit to your interviews. Three-piece suits look fantastic, but they’re a little too formal for the job interview. And while they may help with confidence, they can easily leave your interviewer with the impression that you’re arrogant and a little too overconfident in yourself — not an impression you want to leave! 

When it comes to your leathers, make sure that your shoes and belt (if you wear one) match. Like the old phrase says, a gentleman matches his leathers. This means that if you have brown shoes, you should wear a brown belt. This also includes your watch, if you use a leather strap.


It can be hard to work out what a potential employer means when they say you should adhere to a semi-formal dress code. Many people will think of it as the happy medium between Formal and Smart-Casual — maybe something akin to brown suits with red converse trainers. But this isn’t quite true. 

In truth, the Semi-Formal dress code is much closer to the Formal than it is the Smart Casual, allowing for a few small personal embellishments. For example, instead of wearing a blue or a grey suit, you could consider wearing a tanned suit with a dark shirt. Or you could forgo the tie entirely and wear the shirt with an open top button. 

Dressing semi-formally allows you to adopt a more personal style, but allows you to maintain an air of being put together and helps you feel in control — both of which will help you to relax during your interview. 

Smart Casual

It’s important not to mix up a smart casual dress code with an informal dress code. Because, while you have many more options whilst wearing smart casual clothes, you don’t have absolute freedom here. There are a lot of considerations when it comes to smart casual, as well as unspoken rules. 

Choosing Your Clothes

For a start, remember that the most important thing during the interview is to appear put together and in control — someone your interviewer can trust with their business and to back them up. 

Whilst you can wear a t-shirt here, a polo shirt free of branding is preferred. If you do wear a t-shirt, it should be crisp and free of logos, slogans, or anything else that overly complicates the outfit or draws attention to itself. Remember, you’re here to advertise yourself, not Port Vale. 

When it comes to trousers, once again you have more options. You can, of course, wear formal dress trousers; however, you also have the option to wear something khaki chinos or even jeans if they’re the right cut and well-maintained. Your trousers should be complimentary to your shirt and fit well — remember, nothing says ‘cannot handle responsibility’ quite as strongly as coming into an interview with trousers that keep falling down. 

As for footwear, while you still have the option to wear dress shoes, you do also have the option to wear smart trainers here. These should be as plain as possible, preferably only two colours which complement the rest of your outfit, and more importantly be clean. 

Other Considerations

There are no rules concerning colours here, but you want to avoid anything too dark. Darker hues and full on black can make you appear dreary or overconfident. Because of that, we recommend something light but professional. 

An exception to this is if you’re using contrasts. For example, if you’re wearing bright chinos, you might want to wear a black dress shirt or a black sweater. This contrast will accentuate your upper body and make you look stronger — a look that was very popular with Steve Jobs, whose iconic turtleneck and jeans combo became synonymous with Apple. 

Ultimately, whilst you have many more options to choose from while dressing as smart-casual, you also have to be more considerate. 

For More information

Dressing for success is only one part of the difficult task of getting back to work. Building Better Opportunities is a charity based in Stoke on Trent and Stafford. If you live in the area and have any questions about finding a position, help with benefits, or anything related, get in touch with us today. 

Our team will be happy to help you with your enquiries.