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Interview attire

February 13, 2017


In the lead-up to interviews, we have heard a lot of questions about interview attire. As you know, your attire will be part of the first impression you offer your interviewer – and you want that first impression to be great!


Our top 5 Dos for interview attire

  • Pick something that makes you feel GREAT! The whole point of the interview is for you to project your best in every way. Pick an outfit that you feel great in.

  • Be neat. Iron or press your clothes and check that they are impeccably clean. (For women, dress/skirt suits and pantsuits are both fine options, but if you go with a skirt, make sure it’s knee-length – and check for runs in your pantyhose.) Make sure your shoes are shined and scuff-free.

  • Choose “standard” colors. Black, navy, or dark grey are your best bets.

  • Match! Make sure socks and shoes match. Ditto for handbags / shoes.

  • Keep everything simple. Patterns, hair, jewelry, makeup, scents.

  • Eliminate potential distractions. If you tend to play with your hair, pull it back; stay away from garish colors, avoid earrings that might get caught in your hair, etc.

Unfortunate Don’ts that we’ve actually seen or had recounted after interviews

  • Clothes with stains or pet hair.

  • Tan suits. Trust us.

  • Bad nail polish (if you’re going to wear any, make sure it is a fresh manicure with a neutral color).

  • Low-cut shirts. For both genders.

  • Food in your teeth.

  • Strong perfume/cologne (remember, many people are allergic or sensitive to scents).

  • Super tight-fitting clothing. For anyone. Especially if it might be a size too small.

  • Visible skin between shirt buttons; men should wear an undershirt, women should wear a camisole.

  • Forgetting to change out of your running shoes.

  • Leaving a phone on (and having it ring).

  • Backpacks.

Should I buy something new? The answer is yes if you:

  • Haven’t bought a suit since college.

  • You have gained or lost more than 10 lbs (do not try to get away with a suit that doesn’t fit, both because it’s uncomfortable and can look REALLY awkward); you may be able to get an existing suit tailored in this circumstance.

  • You are planning to wear clothes that violate one (or more!) of the rules above.

Extra credit reading:

The Charisma Edge is a great book that talks about project leadership presence and is full of valuable tips that would be helpful to practice. In particular, there is a section on tribal behavior that is particularly useful for interviews.

Super extra credit:

One of the best ways to figure out what to wear is to watch videos that showcase HBS students. Make note of the attire/physical presence, including clothing, hair, makeup, jewelry, shoe, and bag choices.

Do you see any inconsistencies? What seems awkward to you? What you notice / pick out will be noticeable to others too. Look for similar videos at whatever school(s) you are interviewing with.


Good luck. You’ll do great!