What to wear to graduate interviews

First impressions are vital when you’re invited to interview

First impressions are vital when you’re invited to interview
Image: Pressmaster

Just completed your Bachelor’s degree or Masters? Your thoughts will naturally be turning to graduate interviews because as the gateway to your new career, your first interviews are also some of your most important, determining whether you get ahead. Here’s how to create the right impression by dressing the part.

At a glance interview attire:

  1. Dress smartly
    The company you’re interviewing for may have a laid-back dress code, but you’re not working there yet. Remember: it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  2. Choose the correct fit
    Fit is just as important as style. Choose a cut that suits your age and body shape – your clothes should fit you perfectly.
  3. Check the dress code
    If in doubt, ask for the dress code. Knowing what to wear is one less thing to stress about, leaving you to focus on prepping for your interview.

Why you should wear a suit

Present yourself like a professional

Present yourself like a professional

Wearing a suit conveys respect for yourself and your interviewer. It shows you’ve made an effort to look your best, demonstrating that you really want the job, and that you’re a candidate worthy of serious consideration.

Buying your first suit is a right of passage, not a box to tick. The right fit is essential: too tight and you’ll feel uncomfortable, too loose and you’ll look like a child playing dress-up in his father’s closet. Neither will impress your interviewer – deep down, you’ll know it, and your performance will suffer.


In case you haven’t already got the message, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one.

What suit should I buy for interviews?

Navy pinstripe suit from Samuel Windsor

Buy the best suit you can afford – 100% wool is a good option
Image: Navy pinstripe suit from Samuel Windsor

You’re looking for a 100% wool suit in a style that’s not going to go out of fashion overnight. The fit should be slim, but not too slim. In the world of suits there are three main cuts: American, Italian and British. American features a fairly unstructured jacket, single vented (with one slit up the back), has little shape in the shoulders and works well if you’re very muscular or a little on the large side.

If you’re a slim Jim, an Italian suit is a possible solution. It’s a slim fit with a well structured unvented jacket that’ll bulk out your shoulders. It’s a good cut for making the most of a lean silhouette, but it’s quite tricky to get right and because you’re probably still filling out, it might not fit you for long.

If you’re of slight to average build, you want the classic British cut. This single breasted suit has some structure to the shoulders, tapers through the waist, has two buttons (leave the bottom one undone), and has two vents. It’s what James Bond wears. Choose as good quality fabric as you can afford, and nail the fit – remember, your suit is an investment in your future.

What’s the best color for an interview suit?

The only time to avoid a suit is when the company culture actively discourages them

The only time to avoid a suit is when the company culture actively discourages them
Image: Austin Distel on unsplash

Faced with the staggering array of suit fabrics on offer, which should you choose? The first piece of advice is to go with simple and unobtrusive – either a plain color or a very subtle pattern or stripe; there should be nothing about your ensemble that’s loud or in your face.

As Sven at the Gentleman’s Gazette says:

Regardless of what job you’re applying for, a dark suit and a tie will rarely be the wrong choice.”

The only time not to wear a suit is if nobody in the prospective workplace wears one. If you’re going for a job at an agency or in the creative arts, for example, wearing a suit might make you look and feel out of place – if in doubt, check the dress code.

For a young graduate, one color stands head and shoulders above the rest – navy blue. Not only does it strike the right balance between confidence and approachability, it also helps you look mature and professional. If you want to look slightly older and add a sense of gravitas, choose a charcoal suit. But never wear black – it’s for funerals.

Interview shirts, ties and shoes

Image: Samuel Windsor Prestige Oxford Shoes - Black

A pair of quality black leather shoes are an investment in your future
Image: Samuel Windsor Prestige Oxford Shoes – Black

Go for a plain white smart shirt with a conventional collar – avoid button down collars because they look too preppy. A spread collar is a good look as long as it’s not too extreme. Those with darker complexions will suit a pale blue shirt – another great option for interviews. No matter which shirt you choose, make sure it’s clean and crisply ironed.

In either case, your choice of necktie must be modest – the best options are fairly plain blues and reds. In terms of patterns, a subtle stripe is acceptable, but anything else is not. Remember your aim is to look confident and professional – it’s your resume and interview performance that will get you the job.

Wear polished black shoes for your interview – yes it’s true that dark brown and burgundy go with gray and navy suits, but black is that bit more formal and therefore the best option.

Interview tips

Stand out for the right reasons

Stand out for the right reasons
Image: Africa Studio

Smile on entering the room, give a firm, preferably dry handshake, look your interviewer in the eye, and give them a moment to appreciate your sensible choice of suit and shiny black shoes.

If you’re required to bring in a CV, then do so in a smart portfolio or new folder. Don’t fold it up and put it in your breast pocket. This is the sort of attention to detail that will really help you make a good impression.

Pay attention to your personal grooming. A haircut, and a close shave are essential if you’re to shine at interview, and go for a subtle aftershave –nothing too overpowering.

Now you’re ready for your interview, it only remains for us to wish you the best of luck.

Posted in Men's Style Guides.

Leave a Reply