Interviews aren't about your style, they're about your substance. So play it safe and err on the side of caution, says Coleman. Stay true to yourself and be comfortable, but be professional, too. "Interviews are generally not good venues for fashion experimentation. While creative industries may be more open to a fashion statement, I've seen firsthand candidates lose interviews at investment firms because they decided to wear a bow tie with their suit that day," Coleman says.
What's the best way to know what to wear for an interview? Just ask. "It's perfectly appropriate to say, 'I want to make sure I'm dressed appropriately. Can you tell me about your dress code?' and then wear something one level up from what they say. Extremely casual? Wear a polo shirt and khakis. Business casual? Wear slacks, a button-down shirt, and a tie," says Jason Berkowitz, vice president of client services at recruiting process outsourcing firm Seven Step RPO.
If you show up for the interview and it's clear you've committed a fashion faux pas, it's perfectly acceptable to own up to it, Berkowitz adds. A simple, "I feel extremely under- or over-dressed and I sincerely apologize," can go a long way toward mending a bad first impression based on your outfit, he says.
A final thought: Many candidates nowadays have tattoos, piercings, or other visible body art. Do yourself, and the interviewer, a favor and cover up tattoos or remove as much body jewelry as you can so it's not a distraction during the interview. "Land the interview, nail it, accept the job, and then ease your future employer into your personal expression, like tattoos and piercings," says Coleman.