Men’s Interview Attire – MBA-Level

MBA Interview Attire

MBA Interview Attire

It should be noted, that although the suggestions listed below are wardrobe “rules of thumb”, it does not mean that venturing from these suggestions will look tacky or out of place. Ultimately it is most important that you feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing, rather than simply following the “rules.” When entering into an MBA interview your first impression is key, but this impression is made not only by how you look, but also by how you feel and represent your confidence. Dress in what feels the most comfortable to you, and simply keep these general guidelines in mind if you have any questions. Dress how you feel most confident and ultimately that is the “appropriate” interview attire.

You can find the general MBA interview attire assessment below (in the post), or I have also included links to more specific analyses below:

 

Interview Suits: Some people view purchasing an expensive suit as the best way to soothe their interview suit anxiety or uncertainty. While this may subconsciously grant the wearer an added bit of confidence, it is not necessary to spend thousands of dollars on custom suits to get the job done. In fact, it is unlikely that a hiring manager will have any clue how much you paid on your suit anyways. Instead, the only thing that will be noticed will be fit, color, and style.  Therefore, it is most important that you focus on these three attributes and not the price. Below you will find the summarized recommendations for interview suits, but I have also written a more thorough post on Interview Suit Tips.

– Suit Fit

  1. Shoulders – The shoulder fit will ultimately determine which suit you choose, simply because this is the hardest (most expensive) part of a suit to tailor out or in. The shoulder should fit snugly, while also allowing for comfortable shoulder motion. There should be no dimpling at the sides of the shoulder as this is a sign that the suit is too small.  One commonly overlooked point here is the fit of the armhole. Oftentimes, “slim fits” will mean that the arm holes are smaller than standard (while the shoulder may still fit appropriately). This should be taken into account if your arms are muscular, or you intend to work out a lot in the future. The arm holes should be non-restrictive or this will cause discomfort and riding up of the suit sleeve.
  2. Sleeves – The sleeve of the suit should allow for a small portion of the underlying dress shirt to be exposed (1/2 – 3/4″), when the arms are at rest and at the side of the body. This allows for a slight color contrast at the bottom of the suit, and will ensure that you exude a professional look. This spacing also allows for the exposure of cuff links if they are being worn — more on cuff links below.
  3. Chest/Lapels – The general rule of thumb here is that no more than a fist should fit between your chest and the buttoned suit. To test the sizing, button the top button of your suit, and ball your fist. Slide your fist under the suit and place your fist like you’re holding a microphone to your heart. The suit should have this amount of “play” at absolute most. The suit should not be too tight arond the chest, however, as this will result in flaring of the lapels and/or cinching of the underlying dress shirt.

– Suit Color

  1. Charcoal or Darker – unless you’re interviewing for a “creative” role, or perhaps a sales position, the ideal suit colors are charcoal, black, dark brown, or dark blue. The darker the color, the more professional the look.
  2. Pinstripes – Pinstripes are acceptable, but they are becoming far less common/fashionable. Avoid diagonal or overly thick pinstripes, and pinstripes that are bright in color. Pinstripes, if present should be similarly colored to the suit’s base color, and extremely thin. Pinstripes can be done tastefully, and if you feel confident in pinstripes, do not be afraid to sport them in your next interview. Just make sure that they aren’t the only thing your interviewer can remember about you (i.e., no gawdy/overly thick pinstripes).

– Suit Style

  1. Lapels – There are two predominant lapel types: notched and peaked. While either lapel type is appropriate, the notched lapel is far more common. Thinner lapels are also much more in style than thicker. Lapels at their widest point are typically 3.0″ or less in current trends (this will change slightly, however, based on your own style/size.)
  2. Buttons – The button policy is simple. Three buttons or less! The surest way to show you are wearing a cheap suit, is to be wearing a suit with more than three buttons. Four button suits are viewed as cheap or childish in the business setting. The buttons on the sleeve of the suit, however, are far more a factor of personal taste. Some wear three, some wear four. Some wear three on one side, and four on the other. Realistically, no one will notice the sleeve buttons unless you are interviewing for a fashion-based position, and even then it’s unlikely. As for the buttons on the front of the suit, when wearing a two button suit only the top button should be buttoned. On a three button suit only the top two buttons should be buttoned. Upon sitting, all buttons should be undone, and the suit may be allowed to open.
Suit Lapel Styles

Notched Lapel

Suit Lapel Types

Peak Lapel

 

 

Interview Dress Shirts:

Color

  • The gold standard for interview dress shirts is white or blue. You can’t go wrong with either of these colors regardless of the color of suit you’re wearing. If you venture from one of these two colors you must ensure that the color of the shirt does not clash with either the tie or the suit. Dress shirts worn for interviews should have few to no patterns and should error on the side of simplicity. Just because a dress shirt is “nice” or “expensive” does not make it appropriate for an interview. Colors should be simple and patterns avoided if possible.

Collar

  • After doing research into dress shirt collars, I was astounded by the variations that existed in the collar world. Luckily,
    Different types of collars

    Collar Styles

    however, most department stores and online merchants only offer the most common collar types which are almost all acceptable for an interview. The only commonly offered collar-types that should be avoided for interviews are wingtips and button-downs — wingtips are too formal (i.e., they are typically worn with tuxedos) and button downs are too informal. Did you know that button downs were originally buttoned down so that athletes (mostly polo players) could keep their collars in place? While button downs are acceptable if they are the only option, they are typically shirts worn by themselves and free of a blazer, suit, or tie. This “suggestion,” however, is so often ignored that most people don’t know this looks out of place/style.

  • The wider the opening in the collar, the larger the knot should be on the tie. If you’re looking for a visual here, think Michael Irvin on NFL pre-games! He has some of the largest tie knots on TV.
  • If the shirt allows for collar stays I would strongly recommend keeping and using these. Collar stays are the small pieces of plastic that slide into the tips of your collar and help them to lay flat. Also, you may consider splurging on dry cleaning prior to an interview so your shirt is crisp and starched, if you can stand it.

Cuff

  • Different types of Cuffs

    Cuff Styles

    Much like collars, there are many cuff types (many of which you’ve probably never seen or even heard of.) The standard cuffs that are offered on the majority of dress shirts available are all appropriate for interviews. French cuffs with cuff links should be worn with caution depending on the position and industry. These could be viewed as flashy and pretentious, and actually may hurt your job chances if flashy doesn’t match the company culture. The only thing to really keep in mind with regards to cuffs is the length. Make sure the cuff falls to the wrist when arms are slack and to your side. Roughly 1/2″ to 3/4″ of the dress shirt cuff should show past the suit cuff when the arms are resting at the side.

Size 

  • Similar to suits, the appropriate sizing of a shirt is far more important than the cost. You can have a dress shirt tailored just the same as a suit. If a dress shirt is too baggy around the torso, consider seeing if it can be tailored in. The collar should fit snuggly around the neck, while remaining comfortable. While a loose collar may feel more comfortable, if it is too loose it will “cinch” up when a tie is worn (envision a belt cinched around a baggy pants waist.) The cuffs should fit snugly but comfortably, and fall naturally at the wrist. The shirt length should be long enough to tuck into the dress pants and provide a little slack for the slight un-tuck that will naturally occur when sitting. The shirt around the chest should be tight enough that it does not bunch up when the suit jacket is buttoned closed.

 

Interview Ties:

Color

  • You can never go wrong with a plain red or blue tie. These are the most commonly worn colors worn in business and they each have their own connotations. Red is viewed as a “power” color and blue is viewed as more as friendly and inviting. I would recommend a red tie if the job has direct reports or the company’s culture is confrontational. If teamwork, and friendliness is more important to your future job, I would recommend a bluer toned tie. Typically the lightness/darkness of the tie should match the seasons. A lighter hue is appropriate for warmer months, and darker tones are more applicable for winter and autumn months. Small tweaks to these guidelines, however, could easily (while still tastefully) help you stand out in an interview.  Other colors and their connotations include: Brown = Maturity & Experience; Green = Awareness & Empathy; Pink = Passion & Love; Orange = Intensity; Yellow = Playful & Cheerful. These colors are far less common, and should be worn with care depending on the company you are interviewing with. (For example, I would not wear a tie that is the color of the interviewer’s largest competitor.)

Pattern

  • Interview tie patterns should be simple or non-existent. The tie should be worn as a positive additive to your outfit, and not as a distraction. Absolutely no writing or logos should be displayed on your tie. This is tacky and distracting. It may spark a conversation or two, but it is very amateurish-looking and will likely not be perceived as you envision it will be.

Knot

Interview Attire: MBA

Tie Dimple

  • The knot is a matter of personal preference, but it should also appropriately match the collar type. The wider the collar, the larger the knot needed. Typical interview tie knots are: The Full Windsor, The Half Windsor, & The Four-In-Hand Knot. Once the knot is completed attempt to “dimple” the tie by pressing in the material immediately below the knot as you pull the knot taut around your neck. Squeeze in the remaining tie fabric around the finger depressing the tie.  The end result should be a slight dimple just below your tie knot, as the picture to the right depicts.

 

 

 

Interview Dress Shoes:

Style 

  • Wear what makes you feel the most comfortable! The only stipulation is that you must ensure that the shoes do not clash with the belt or suit. Square toed shoes are okay, but they are slowly moving out of fashion and make your feet look shorter and unnatural. The can be difficult to polish at times also. On the polishing front, your shoes should be immaculate on interview day (and always for that matter). If you feel comfortable polishing your shoes yourself, go for it…or if you are flying to an interview, most airports offer this service, as well. Make sure that both the front and BACK of your shoes are polished and neat. While you can only see the front of your shoes, others (like your interviewer) will also see the backs of your shoes. What I’ve learned from my interview experience is that this is particularly important when interviewing with someone from the armed forces. Having polished shoes is ingrained in the armed forces community, so they tend to notice this part of your wardrobe first, and will make assessments based on what they see. (Some people also equate shoe and hand care as a litmus test for overall hygiene and style. Whether this is right or wrong, just know that some people think in this way.)

Color

  • Typical interview shoe colors are black, brown, burgundy, or some variation therein. Keep the color simple, and matching all other leather-components of the wardrobe  (i.e., belt or suspenders).

Interview Accessories:

Belt

  • The simple rule of thumb here is that the belt should match the shoes. A brown belt with black shoes, or vice versa is considered a basic fashion no-no. Make sure the belt matches the shoes! Also, the sizing of a belt should be as follows: the middle hole of the belt should be the hole used (and should match your waist circumference). Only 1.5″-2.0″ of the tongue should be exposed past the “keeper.” (The keeper is the portion of the belt that you slide the excess belt tongue leather under. (These finer sizing details are unknown to most, so you wouldn’t look out of place if they were incorrect — they are simply nice to know.)

Cuff Links

  • While cuff links are entirely okay to wear for an interview, make sure you understand the culture of the company before you opt to wear these “flashy” accessories. If the position and company you are interviewing with is  team-based and blue-collar in nature, I would avoid wearing cuff-links as they may make the wrong first impression. If you are interviewing for an IB (investment banking), consulting, or white collar job, cuff links may be more acceptable and even thought of highly.

Pocket Square

  • Pocket squares can add an excellent accent to your interview attire. The pocket square should match the color of the tie, and should remain only modestly exposed above the pocket opening. The exposed pocket square should lay flat on the wearer’s chest. Ensuring that the pocket square matches the tie, will promise that the pattern remains simple or non-existent. The pocket square should accent the tie, and the outfit as a whole. It should not distract the interviewer’s attention.

Suspenders/Braces

  • While suspenders, or braces, are perfectly appropriate for an interview, you must remember the likelihood of them being seen is unlikely. Some suspenders have their own clips to attach to the pant’s waistline, or they may require specially placed buttons to work properly. If the latter is the case, you can have a tailor position the buttons to your liking on the inside of the pant’s waistline. Remember if you’re wearing braces/suspenders then you DO NOT wear a belt. These accessories perform the same function, so it looks out of place to wear both. Suspenders may be more appropriate during a full day interview process, when you suspect that you may be asked to “relax” or take off your jacket throughout the day. The suspenders will allow for a maintained professional look, even with the suit top being removed.

Jewelry

  • Jewelry should be kept at an absolute minimum, if not non-existent. All earrings, bracelets, and necklaces should be removed or hidden beneath your clothing. Whether it is right or wrong, many people (interviewers) can and will make assumptions based on male jewelry. While these assumptions could be neutral to negative, there is rarely a situation where the perception will be positive. Avoid any need for a negative perception by simply removing or hiding the jewelry from view. If jewelry is important to you and you feel compelled to wear it visibility, attempt to match the color of the jewelry with the metal on your belt, cuff links, tie bars, and or shoes (if applicable).

Tie Bar/Tie Pin

  • Tie Bar – This is the small piece of metal that rests across the middle of the tie parallel to the ground. While this accessory may add a nice accent to your outfit, I would recommend viewing these similarly to cuff links. If cuff links aren’t appropriate for your interview, then neither are tie bars. If tie bars are worn, all accessory metals should match (i.e., all silver colored or all gold colored.)
  • Tie Pin – This accessory is worn across the collar opening and below the tie knot. It helps to ensure the collar remains in place and the tie knot is predominantly displayed. The guidelines for tie pins are the same as for tie bars and cuff links.
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