Best Advice on How to Portray a Strong Professional Image at an Interview

Choosing what to wear for your job interview is important. Why? Because your clothes say a lot about who you are, what you want, and what you are like. Common tips that people give on how to dress for an interview include quotes like:

millennial in professional suit
It is always better to dress up than down.
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
Dress in power colors.

Though some tips may seem like common sense, it is important to understand the ‘why.’ Why should you wear red instead of orange? Why does the dip in your neckline or the wrinkles on your shirt say more about who you are than your resume? Let’s take a closer look at some tips on how to dress for an interview and delve into the psychology behind them.

Dress in More Conservative Colors to Convey a Professional Image

According to a CareerBuilder study, “… many employers felt more conservative colors such as black, blue, gray and brown conveyed a sense of professionalism.” The colors you wear portray different images to your interviewer. Below is a list of what some of the different colors may convey to interviewers:

choose some color for professional interview attire

Black portrays an image of leadership, authority, and power.

Blue means you are a calm and loyal team player.

Brown says that you are solid, reliable, and dependable.

White portrays cleanliness, organization, and simplicity.

Your appearance counts for a lot, in fact, according to “Dress for Interview Success”, an article on, the “halo effect” was studied in the 1900s by psychologist E.L. Thorndike. He noticed that when a person is thought to have one desirable trait, that same individual is assumed to have other traits that are also desirable. In other words, when your overall dress and appearance are perceived in a positive way, it is assumed that you have will have other desirable traits as well. According to Kim Zoller in the same article, "Other factors that affect hiring, such as being prepared for the interview, researching the company and following up after the meeting, are all trumped by appearance.”

Tailor-made for Men

How Men Should Dress for an Interview

In a study done by, 300 adults looked at images of a man in different suits – one tailor-made and one bought on the street - for three seconds and made judgments about what they thought of him. The tailor-made suit was preferred as, “They rated him as more confident, successful, flexible and a higher earner in a tailor-made suit than when he wore a high street equivalent.”

Conservative for Women

dress code - woman in suit - cartoon pic

Plunging necklines and short skirts are a no, no when dressing for an interview. Dressing more conservatively is a common job interview tip given to women. Why? Because, in the study done by, “People rated the senior manager less favorably when her dress style was more ‘provocative’ and more favorably when dressed more conservatively…”

When in doubt, opt for more conservative styles: knee length skirts, conservative blouses (nothing sleeveless), shorter heels, etc.

Shoes and Accessories

Did you know that your shoes can tell your story?! According to an experiment recorded on, observers were asked to provide their most frequently worn shoes, and “63 observers were then asked to look at each pair and guess the gender, age, social status and different personality traits of the owner…”  The observers did well in guessing these things; thus, the researchers concluded that “…people do wear shoes that reveal their personality, whether they intend to or not.”

Psychologists from the University of Kansas also discovered some interesting insights about what people think of you based on your shoes in a study. Here are some of the findings according to

professionally dressed staff
  • Expensive shoes suggest high earners.
  • Flashy and colorful shoes mean you are an extrovert.
  • Clean shoes which may not be new, signify that you are conscientious.
  • Functional shoes mean you are agreeable.
  • Brand new and well-kept shoes sometimes meant that you are more anxious.
  • Less expensive shoes tended to belong to more liberal thinkers.

When it comes to high heels, the French sociologist Marcel Mauss did research and according to, “the high heel repositions the posture, lengthening the calf muscles, pulling the hips inwards, tightening the bottom muscles and pushing the chest forward. The result is a feminine and disciplined body. In contrast, a flat shoe like a Birkenstock allows the foot to spread and the body to relax.” The article goes on to discuss how the types of shoes you wear affect the way your body looks and feels and will, in turn, effect how you feel and present yourself.

Choose your shoes for your job interview based on how they make you look, how they make you feel, and by what they will tell your interviewer at a glance.

First Impression

positive or negative first impression

You have about two seconds to make a positive and professional first impression, and the primary thing your interviewer will base that on is how you look – so make sure your clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories are sending the right message.

Learn more tips on how to dress for an interview by contacting a recruiter at Brannon Professionals or checking out our website at today.