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Can I Wear Jeans to an Interview?

3/29/2012 12:53:37 PM

By Angela Rose,

“Proper” interview attire has traditionally meant formal business wear – think suit and tie for men, skirt suit and hosiery for women (even if it’s 100 degrees in the shade). Ask your mom, dad or grandparents what they wore to their last interview and you’ll get the picture. Fortunately, in many industries, extremely rigid dress codes have gone the way of typewriters, pagers and paper memos. Rather than forcing your fabulous sense of fashion or wildly appealing personality into the “standard” boring garb expected by interviewers in the olden days, consider the industry as well as your audience when choosing your interview attire.

Is it a left-brained or right-brained industry?

If you’re interviewing for a job in finance, banking, insurance, law or medicine, or any other industry in which numbers and logic rule hand in hand with a liberal dose of conservatism, more traditional business attire may be expected – even on Fridays. Unless you’re wearing a tuxedo or evening gown, it’s tough to overdress for an interview, so err on the side of caution and dust off that suit.

If you’re interviewing for a job in graphic design, advertising, marketing or an industry where creativity is king, you may exercise a bit more freedom when selecting your interview ensemble – though few interviewers will frown upon you for dressing to the nines. If you elect to take a chance and wear jeans to your interview, make them a well-fitting, dark denim pair. The rest of your outfit should be composed of dressier pieces – no t-shirts, baggy sweaters or sneakers.

Is the interviewer the CEO or the assistant’s assistant?

Regardless of industry, if an executive, the company owner or a panel of management types will conduct the interview, you may want to stick with formal business wear. You’ll perform best if you’re comfortable, so choose a suit in which you feel confident and self-assured.

If you’re going to be interviewed by the CEO’s assistant, the office manager, or a team leader, and the industry is a more casual or creative one, you may be able to wear jeans. Again, however, they should be nice jeans in dark denim without holes or other distressing. Pair them with dressier items (shoes, shirt or blouse, blazer) to create a look that is still business casual in nature.

If you’re risk averse, stick to business.

If you don’t have a clear read on the industry or the person conducting your interview, wearing jeans could be a risky proposition. As mentioned earlier, it’s tough to overdress when you’re trying to make a favorable impression. Even if you feel a full suit is overkill, business casual is universally accepted – jeans are not.

Whether you decide to wear a brand new suit, business casual attire, or jeans, exude confidence. Your clothing will not go unnoticed, but it’s also unlikely to be the final deciding factor in a hiring decision if your skills, experience and enthusiasm steal the show.

About the Author

Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for

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