When a job interview is fast approaching, everyone starts to freak out a little bit and obsessively prepare to ease the nerves. But you can only prepare for interview questions so much before you either psych yourself out or have a nervous breakdown.
You can, however, turn that nervous energy toward your interview outfit. Your appearance is the first thing an interviewer will notice when meeting you, so you want to make sure your outfit accurately portrays you. The wrong combination of pieces can sabotage your career goals before you know it.
Use these guidelines to put together an ensemble that will make you feel competent, intelligent, and professional so your potential employer will focus on your qualifications — not your clothes.
DO: Research the company culture.
This is the first step. You can’t put together an outfit without having some idea of what’s considered acceptable attire at the company. If you know someone who works for the company you’re interviewing with, ask them what the standard is. If not, check out their social media channels for any inside glimpses of their office culture — and then mimic that in your outfit of choice.
DO: Dress one notch above that.
If it’s a casual place, then you can get away with a nice dress and blazer or slacks and a button-down. If it’s full-on professional, then pull out your power suit. You don’t work for the company yet, so you still need to make extra effort in your clothing to show you take the interview and the job seriously.
DON’T: Be too trendy.
It’s great to be modern with your clothing, but unless you’re interviewing with a fashion mag, going with an overly trendy look can detract from your overall impression. Peplum tops are super cute, but they don’t need to be worn to an interview. Same goes for shoes, jewelry, and any other style of the moment.
DO: Iron your clothes.
Nothing ruins a good outfit like a wrinkled shirt or skirt. Leaving wrinkles tells the interviewer you’re sloppy and don’t pay attention to the details. Employers want detail-oriented people. The last thing you want to do is send the message that you either don’t care or you’re just plain lazy.
DON’T: Wear anything stained, ripped, or worn out.
This should be obvious, but it has to repeated. Clothing that is ripped, stained, or distressed (aka your favorite pair of ripped jeans) in any way doesn’t belong on your body during an interview. These items don’t make you seem like a capable professional who will add value to the company.
DON’T: Show off your undergarments.
Bra straps, bra fabric, and underwear should never be visible during an interview. Wear tops thick enough to conceal your bra, shirts or jackets that hide your bra straps, and pants high enough (and thick enough) to cover your underwear. Seriously, there’s nothing more unprofessional or unacceptable.
DO: Show (a little) personality in your clothes.
You don’t have to wear a black pencil skirt, black blazer, and a white top with black pumps. That’s boring. You can still put on clothing that’s both appropriate for an interview and shows your personality. Whether it’s with a colorful top, a statement necklace, or a bold bag, make sure to show your personality in your clothes — just don’t get too crazy.
DON’T: Wear crazy patterns.
Subtle patterns — yes. Fresh Prince-worthy patterns — no. You can bust out those funky items after you’ve been in the job for a little bit. Loud patterns will distract from you, your answers, and your qualifications during an interview. Leave them at home.
DO: Wear shoes you can actually walk in.
Tottering into the interview in shoes you obviously don’t know how to wear is never a good look. If 3-inch heels aren’t your thing, then don’t wear them. Wear kitten heels or flats (no flip flops — the less toes exposed, the better) you’re comfortable in. Fierce shoes won’t win you the job anyway.
DON’T: Wear the wrong size.
You aren’t representing yourself well by wearing something too tight or too loose. Unnecessarily tight clothing will make you seem risque, and baggy clothing will make you seem sloppy. Wear pieces that fit you the right way. You’ll be much more comfortable and so will the interviewer.
DO: Avoid wild, colorful makeup.
You can rock red lips and blue eyeshadow any other day, but they aren’t the best choice for an interview. Go with a more natural makeup look. Browns, soft grays, and light eyeliner are your best options. You want the interview to focus on your intelligent questions and answers rather than be distracted by the makeup on your face.
DON’T: Wear a ton of jewelry.
A necklace and earrings is fine. One bracelet won’t hurt. But an armful of bangles, long, dangling earrings, and a family of necklaces will come off as too much in an interview. You want your look to be clean with just one or two eye-catching pieces. Anything else is too flashy.
This article originally appeared on Earn Spend Live.