When you’re a teenager in need of a job, one of the most difficult things to do is decide how to dress right for a job interview. After all, teens are used to wearing casual clothes nearly all the time, and many of them may not even have an outfit that is appropriate for a job interview. If you’re a teen who wants to present your best impression in an age-appropriate way (without breaking the bank) but aren’t sure how to do this, you’re in the right place. You may know you can’t wear casual clothing, but we’ll do a deep dive into exactly what to wear to a job interview as a teenager to ensure you portray the most polished, professional version of yourself when interviewing for a future job, internships, college, or scholarship.
Job Interviews Have to Be Professional
Regardless of the job you’re interviewing for, you have to have a professional demeanor if you want to make a good first impression, which is crucial and may carry itself through your reputation and rating on the job and in the industry. This means an interview outfit that is appropriate, first and foremost. Of course, even though casual attire is not an option, that doesn’t mean you have to dress up in your Sunday best. There are certain do’s and don’ts for interviewing, and many of them apply directly to what you’ll be wearing while being interviewed.
When you’re planning your outfit, always look at yourself in the mirror after you’ve put it on so you can see what your interviewer will see. You can dress in regular business attire or even business casual, and as a teen you can get away with both. The former means some type of suit or an outfit that has a blazer, while the latter means dress pants or a skirt and a nice top, but absolutely no jeans! Of course, you might be able to get away with jeans if they are dark jeans and completely without any holes or tears, but it probably isn’t worth the risk.
This being said, you should save any pair of jeans for the interviews at burger joints and daycare centers. Jobs that are in corporate offices or other more formal places should never involve blue jean-wearing on the interview. In addition, some big no-no’s for any job interview include:
- Any baseball caps
- Crop top or midriff top
- Casual footwear, including flip flops
- Neon or loud colors (that call attention more to your clothing than your competence for the job at hand)
- Too much makeup or jewelry
- Too much perfume
It’s also best not to wear any open-toed shoes, t-shirts, shorts, skirts that are too short, or anything else that you’d wear when you’re just lounging around at home all day long. The best way to make sure your outfit is appropriate is to remember one word: conservative, even if you present a more professional look than the organization’s dress code for which you’re interview. Dark pants and a dress shirt, along with a nice pair of dress shoes, is a great outfit for office-like interviews. Boys can even get away with a button-down shirt as long as it’s not open all the way!
Your first interview can be a little nerve-wracking, but if you stick with very basic semi-formal attire with solid dark colors and neutral colors that don’t clash with anything, you should be safe. The person doing the interviewing isn’t only going to be looking at your clothes, but that doesn’t mean your outfit is not important. If it’s outlandish, too brightly colored, or even worse, has offensive graphics on it, it can be a real turnoff, so it’s always best to be careful when dressing for an interview.
Regardless of the job and the casual work environment it may present, you should recognize a teen job interview as an opportunity to impress with your professional appearance and come off as more impressive and mature than the typical candidate the job description might attract. In other words, there’s a good chance if you feel overdressed on the day of the interview, you may be giving yourself a better chance than the other young people in the candidate pool, as you’ve clearly taken the interview seriously enough to dress not for the job you have, but for the future job you want, and that long-term focus and mature ambition will undoubtedly make a favorable impression on the hiring manager.
It’s All Easier Than You Think
Your best option when it comes to choosing clothing for your first job interview is to go basic. If you have a pair of black pants and a white shirt or blouse, it is perfect for an interview. To put your best foot forward, you’ll also want to be careful to keep any jewelry and makeup subtle and professional. This means minimal makeup and very simple accessories (if any). When deciding on the most appropriate nice shirt for professional dressing, one decent rule of thumb is to go for the one with a collar, as the collared shirt is synonymous with attire found in the office environment.
This means you can even wear a polo shirt if you like, but of course, without a pair of jeans that is filled with holes or faded. You’ll always make a good impression with subtle, solid-colored attire. Of course, this might require a trip to the store on your part because many high school students only have casual clothes and nothing else. Purchasing one or two of these professional outfits would make a great addition to your closet so you’ll always be prepared for your very next interview, which could come with very little warning, particularly as you near college applications, scholarships, and more summer job and internship opportunities.
If you’re a young man or teenage boy, you might wonder if wearing a tie is necessary. That depends on where you’ll be working if you get the job. It’s always a good idea to wear a tie if you’re being interviewed for an office job; otherwise, you won’t need one. That said, being overdressed and “too professional” rarely has a downside, though the opposite can be a job killer. Young women never go wrong if they wear blazers because a nice blazer can make any outfit look even dressier. While you never want to dress in “after 5” attire, you’re better off going too dressy for an interview rather than not dressy enough.
What Is the Interviewer Looking For?
A potential employer is looking for a lot of different things when interviewing you, and your body language tells them a lot. When sitting across from them, sit up straight, sit still, and try to keep your hands in your lap. Turn off your cell phone and put it in your purse or wallet, and if you forget to do this and it rings while you’re being interviewed, just ignore it (if it’s a tolerable vibration); if it’s too great a disruption, you can discretely and apologetically turn it off. Always make good eye contact with the interviewer, and when asked a question, wait a few seconds before answering it to ensure you think through the ideal response.
T-shirts were mentioned earlier as a no-no because they are very casual, but you can still wear a t-shirt or plain white shirt without a collar if you wear a blazer over it. Both teenage girls and boys have lots of t-shirts in their closet, but if you’re going to wear one underneath a blazer, make sure it’s a solid-colored t-shirt and not one that has graphics on it, though a subtle printed fabric may be permissible.
Keep in mind that your hiring manager is only human and will therefore understand if you make a mistake and wear the “wrong” article of clothing or don’t have the means to purchase a brand-new professional wardrobe with all-new pieces. Nonetheless, the goal is that your outfit should not detract from the interview or make the hiring manager question your professionalism or your judgment, so it really is in your best interest to wear the right thing and allow your confidence, competence, and hunger for the job to set you apart and make you memorable. As much as we’d like to believe that “looks don’t matter”, in a professional job environment, you may be to some degree judged by clients, colleagues, and a prospective employer on your dressing style, and that starts at the interview, whether you’ll be working in the service industry, a fancy office, or a retail store.
A Few Other Tips That Can Help
It takes a lot more than just a good outfit and good luck to land a job post-interview. You’ll have to interview confidently, come across prepared and knowledgeable about the role, the company, and the industry, and gain the trust of the hiring manager. That said, you don’t want to psych yourself out with the anxiety of needing to be perfect and thus, coming across stilted and inauthentic. Instead, concentrate on looking and sounding professional, which should increase your odds of getting the job. You might also want to research the company a little so you can know what questions they might ask, and in most cases, you can find this information with a Google search and on job board communication sites like Glassdoor.
When it comes to your outfit, you should definitely have professional attire (both for the interview, and that required to show up to the job), and for the first impression, you’ll want to pay attention to details as well. For a retail job interview or an office job, make sure your blouse and pants are ironed, make sure there are no stains or tears on them, and make sure that even your shoes are clean and polished. For a very professional setting, attention to detail is a must, and having the right outfit actually may be the dealbreaker in the hiring process, since once you’re hired, you’ll be representing the company and possibly in a client-facing role. Alternatively, if you’re interviewing in an arcade or dimly lit fast food restaurant, you can wear dark-colored, nice jeans and a polo or slightly dressy shirt. Proper dressing varies by job, but it relies upon your ability to read the room and make logical judgment calls about the work environment.
It’s always a good choice to research what to wear for a job interview, but as long as you remember to wear clothes that cover up as much as possible, are far from casual, and are made with subtle or neutral tones, you should be fine. Now that you know what to wear to a job interview as a teenager, it’s time to focus on what’s arguably the most important thing: What you say and how you act, so you should be sure to practice your interview skills many times before showing up to face the hiring manager. Whether the interview is for a summer job or a permanent part-time job, think of it as a serious commitment on your part. Interviewers always prefer someone who’s more professional rather than less so. Finally, relax and be yourself while you’re being interviewed. This is always an excellent choice and a great way to win the interviewer’s trust, as they’ll be looking for a genuine, honest, humble, teachable candidate who’s both qualified for and appreciative of the job.