How to Make a Strong First Impression for an Interview – Tips for Men and Women

Los Angeles – New York – London (September 3, 2010) – As the saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a great first impression.” So be prepared by reviewing the following tips for men and women.  Interviews can be very stressful for many job-seekers. Remember to showcase your unique abilities and demonstrate that you are a perfect match for the company. Certified Image Consultant Michelle T. Sterling suggests that in order to project your best first impression, you must feel good in your clothing, have a positive outlook, and remember that when in doubt, boring is better. The general guidelines for proper interview attire vary by gender, job industry, and sometimes, season.

The following are some tips for women and men on how to look your best for an interview:


1. How should I dress for an interview in a conservative industry, such as banking, corporate law, and government?

In general, you want to appear as neat and professional as possible and aim to wear a tailored, structured suit. Women should wear a dark colored suit such as charcoal, navy, or black. A good fabric of choice is virgin wool because you can wear it for 2-3 seasons. Skirt suits are for more formal industries. The shirt should be crisp, tailored, and buttoned-down in white or light blue.

2. How should I dress for an interview in the engineering and science industries?
Depending on where you are in the country, you should wear a well-structured jacket and if not, a button-down shirt and slacks. Interview attire tends to be more formal on the East Coast.

3. What are some things that women should not wear to an interview?
Just say no to: fishnet stockings, tight undergarments, midriff tops, strappy sandals, stilettos, bright nail polish, hats, and long finger nails. Peep-toe shoes may be acceptable during summer months. Clothes with polyester, spandex or shiny fabric are not recommended for this occasion. Avoid frilly tops as well. For nails, we suggest subtle colors from the Essie nail polish line.

4. How should I dress for an interview in the retail and service industries?
A general rule of thumb is to look as neat and put together as possible. For the retail and fashion industries, you can dress slightly more fashion forward. In the hotel and service industries you should dress more professional.

5. Should I dress according to the job that I am applying for?
You should dress one level above the position that you are applying for in order to build your credibility. Dressing this way will show that you are taking initiative and that you want to move up in the ranks.

6. What are some guidelines on makeup and grooming?
For positions in the conservative industries, you should aim for a Bobbi Brown Cosmetics minimalist look. Remember that you can define your features while looking natural. For fashion industry interviews, you can be a bit more dramatic with the makeup application.  Piercings are best if they are for your ears; if they are anywhere else on your body we recommend that you remove them for more credibility.

7. What about accessories?
Your shoes should be leather, and closed-toe with a non-chunky heel (no more than 2 inches high).  Jewelry should be simple, tasteful, and small – like pearls. If you are wearing a skirt, pair it with simple hosiery.  Pack your things in a black structured tote bag for functionality as you can carry more in it.

8. How do you exude power and confidence without being too bold?
Women can do this by wearing pinstripes and creating dark/light contrasts within their outfit such as black and white.

9. What if you cannot afford a tailored suit?
For your professional career, it’s best to invest in well-tailored, flattering suit. You can find an affordable Tahari suit at Macy’s.


1. How should I dress for an interview in a conservative industry, such as banking, corporate law, and government?
Men should wear tailored suits: 2 buttons for a more conservative look and 3 buttons for a modern look. Interview suits are best in navy, charcoal grey or khaki beige (in the summer). Pinstriped suits appear more authoritative and are common in conservative industries. The suit should be paired with a white or light blue buttoned-down shirt. Vests and double-breasted jackets tend to be too formal.  For a more formal and polished look wear cufflinks.

2. How should I dress for an interview in the engineering and science industries?
Men can wear a navy blazer with a white or light blue collared shirt and khaki pants. You can finish this outfit with brown or black leather soled shoes – either lace ups or loafers are fine.  When wearing khakis, we recommend wool gabardine ones to look more professional.

3. How should I dress for an interview in the retail and service industries?
For the service industries, you can wear a bold tie with a birds eye suit.  For retail, you can wear a fashion forward sportcoat, button down shirt layered with a sweater, nice slacks, and coordinating shoes.

4. What are some things that men should NOT wear an interview?
Men should not wear dark colored shirts, big sports watches, or chunky rubber-soled shoes.

5. What are some guidelines on grooming?
Your facial and head hair should be neat and clean-cut. You look more credible if you remove all facial hair.

6. What about accessories?
Your belt and briefcase should match your shoes. Dress socks should match the shoe or the pant color.  No white gym socks please.  To project the most professional image regardless of the industry, men should not wear any earrings or necklaces. You can wear a watch- either metal or leather- strapped. Rings are only suitable for married men.

With these tips, your appearance will be one less thing to worry about. Remember that your clothing is a reflection of you. If you look good, you’ll feel good and others will react accordingly.

Click here for more information on how to project executive presence.

About Global Image Group

Global Image Group’s mission is to deliver the most cost-effective, high-impact image consulting services to forward-thinking individuals, professionals and corporations that want to define and refine their brand identity. Headquartered in San Francisco with offices in New YorkMiami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Dallas, Houston, London, and Dubai, Global Image Group is strategically located to serve clients worldwide. Established by Image Consultant Michelle T. Sterling, Global Image Group has been providing individual and corporate image expertise for over 15 years. We are a full-service consulting firm specializing in style makeovers, wardrobe evaluation and management, personal styling, and personal shopping. Our team of professional wardrobe and style consultants will help you increase confidence, develop successful business and social relationships, and achieve your goals from the boardroom to the living room. For more information, visit Global Image Group at or email us to schedule an appointment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *