Less Casual, More Business: How to Dress for Your Job Interview

How should you dress for a journalism job interview? For young professionals who started careers during the pandemic, or others returning to the office, the answers are not so straightforward. Work from home fashion clichés like yoga pants and other athleisure wear can clearly stay at home, but how formal do job applicants need to be?  

Ali Stelzer, an NBCUniversal talent acquisition recruiter, expects job applicants coming in for first-round interviews to dress much the way they did before 2020.  

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“I think going with just a classic basic look, especially for the first interview, is your safest bet,” Stelzer said. 

Talent recruiters like Stelzer want to help job applicants look their best in person, as well as on paper. She gave us some interview fashion do’s and don’ts, which you can check out in the video above and read below. 

If you’re not sure how to dress for a job interview, ask.

Job applicants only get one chance to make a first impression, so Stelzer encourages interviewees to clarify with recruiters how to dress. 

“I’m always a little impressed when people ask that because they’re being thoughtful,” Stelzer said.  

She advises jobseekers to not dress too distractingly, so that the focus stays on their skills.  

An interview suit or dress goes a long way.

Stelzer says it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed for an in-person interview, but many corporate spaces expect business casual dress rather than more formal wear. Basic suits and dresses are fine, as well as jackets, slacks and other professional clothing.

“You could wear a nice, dark denim jean, sleek pair of shoes, sports coat and a nice top underneath,” Stelzer said.

For her own interviews, Stelzer wears a classic black dress that she calls her “Goldilocks” dress.

“I can wear it summer, spring, winter or fall — with tights, flats or heels. It works for everything,” she said. “I can dress it up a little bit more with earrings, hair up, hair down.”

Applicants at virtual interviews can focus more on the waist up. Jeans and sneakers are fine, but Stelzer recommends more professional looks for the upper half, like a sports coat over a button-down shirt.

Should you show tattoos or piercings?

While some newsrooms have an unspoken expectation for employees to not have tattoos and piercings, attitudes are changing. Two-thirds of untattooed adults are indifferent to seeing tattoos on others, according to a Pew Research Center survey from last year.  

Interviewees should ask recruiters for honest answers on how the workplace views piercings and tattoos.  

“If you’re going to have a face-to-face interview, gauge [the recruiter’s] thoughts. Or go with your gut, do a little bit of research,” Stelzer said. “If you’re in a more creative role, I think you’d be OK.” 

Pack an “interview bag” beforehand.

Pack a couple days in advance any supplies you may need, like an umbrella, notepad and pen or business cards.

“If you have nerves, you’re not always thinking about that the night before. And then the day of, you’re frantic and even more nervous,” Stelzer said.

You also free up time and mental space to practice your elevator pitch, further research the job and prepare your answers.

Find more tips on job interviews at NBCU Academy’s Careers page.

Gallery: Interview Fashion Do’s