Careers Prep For The Interview

Follow this checklist below to know what you need to do the evening before and day of your interviews.

What to Wear

There are differences between how you should dress for an interview with a startup or established company and what you should wear if you’re interviewing with a corporation, government entity, agency, or a non-profit. Startups and agencies tend to be very casual (people wear jeans and t-shirts and shorts in the summer). Corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies tend to be either business casual (no jeans or sneakers, but no suit jacket necessary) or business professional. Corporations, financial services institutions, and law firms almost always require business attire (a suit).

In your interview, you want to dress slightly more formal (in the case of startups) or as formal as (in the case of corporations that require suits) your interviewers.

The easiest way to quickly judge what the dress code is at a company is to go to the company’s website and see how people are dressed in the photos there.

If you’re interviewing at a startup, don’t dress as casually as their employees. Up your wardrobe game a bit by putting a blazer over your blouse/button up shirt and wear leather shoes rather than sneakers.

With creative agencies and some startups, they prefer a more casual and creative dress code so use your discretion on how to appeal to the hiring manager or team of that kind of company.

If you’re interviewing at a big corporation and you have a recruiter helping you through the process, it is okay to ask that person what the dress code is if you’re not sure.

Examples of Startup Interview Outfits




Examples of Corporate Interview Outfits

Corporate Interview OutfitSource

Corporate Interview Outfit 2 Source

In all cases though, follow the guidelines below:

  • No sneakers
  • No tank tops without a blazer or cardigan over it
  • No shorts
  • No wrinkles

Wardrobe Tips

Lay out your interview wardrobe the day before. This includes not only your interview outfit itself, but also your shoes, the bag you will be carrying your resume portfolio in, etc. Also make sure that all elements of your outfit itself are 100% clean and pressed, your shoes are shined (yes, interviewers look for this), etc.

Get your interview clothes pressed/dry cleaned done now if need be. Looking messy is an immediate disqualification. If you don’t have an appropriate interview outfit, then purchase one. As first impression is everything, this is not a cost but an investment in your career development.

Plan Your Route in Advance

Know the exact address for your interview and map out your route ahead of time. Know how long it takes to get there, then add 15 minutes of buffer time in case of unexpected transportation delays. Arriving late for an interview is not acceptable.

Don't Arrive Too Early

Similarly, do not arrive more than 10 minutes early for an interview. This will annoy your interviewer. If you arrive too early, walk around the block or sit in a coffee shop until 10 minutes prior. At that point you can proceed to your interview location.

Arrive Looking Fresh and Relaxed

The very last kind of impression you want to make upon an interviewer is that of looking tired/half asleep, stressed, flustered, or sweaty from rushing to your interview. These are all instant turn-offs. Get plenty of rest the night before, wake up early to shower and get ready, use the bathroom before you leave and don’t forget to plan your route well in advance with ‘buffer’ time added in (as referenced above) to ensure you arrive looking fresh and fully present.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Be prepared for unexpected ‘incidentals’ in your commute to your interview. For example, is it raining, snowing or too hot/cold to wear your full interview outfit on the way there? Wear proper outerwear and arrive 15 minutes early to change in a nearby cafe restroom into your clean, pressed interview outfit if necessary. For women, if you’re wearing heels, you can wear comfortable shoes for your commute and carry your interview heels with you to change into in the lobby of the building before you go to the company’s office.

Don't Smoke Before an Interview

Smoking leaves an aroma all over your breath, hair, and clothing that is always noticeable, and interviewers might judge you negatively.

If you must smoke a few hours before your interview, ensure you have brushed your teeth, washed your hands and put on a clean outfit.

Brush Your Teeth and Use Mouthwash

Ensure your mouth is clean before you go to your interview, especially if you have recently eaten or had coffee.

Have Neat and Clean Hair and Nails

No matter who you are, your hair and nails are highly noticeable and are some of the first things an interviewer sees. Be sure your hands are washed, your fingernails are clipped and filed, and hair is clean, out of your face, and fastened neatly.

Bring Copies of Your Printed Resume

Bring at least three printed copies of your resume (in case an interviewer doesn’t have a copy handy). This is also helpful so you can refresh your mind of the particular things that you want to highlight from your background while you’re waiting.

Less frequently do employers ask for paper resumes. It’s not necessary to present your resume if you aren’t asked for it, but you don’t want to be caught empty-handed should it come up.

Charging Your Laptop

Bring your computer to every interview and networking coffee, because everything is an interview. You may not always be asked to present a project, but you always need to be prepared. Make sure it’s charged.

Bonus Tip: Make sure your project links are working on your laptop and on your phone!

Use a professional portfolio and laptop bag

Ideally, bring your resume with you to the interview in a folder or portfolio. The bag should either be new or clean looking, and not worn-out with any rips in it.

Bring a Pen and Paper

Carry a pen and paper with you to take notes on pertinent topics discussed that you want to remember to ask questions about later in the interview. This is also helpful so you can remember specific topics that you will mention in your thank you note/s.

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