By Katrina Belda, LiveCareer

What determines a great first impression at an interview? Believe it or not, your appearance may matter as much as your qualifications. There is no “golden rule” for interview attire because dress standards vary across all industries, but these simple guidelines can help you avoid a fashion fail that can cost you the job.

Before you start scrounging through your closet, consider the industry of the job you’re applying for. Depending on industry, you ultimately have three options when it comes to dressing for the interview.

1. Corporate Dress: Dress code is serious business for traditional industries such as law, medicine, government, finance and accounting. For job interviews in these careers, follow these dress tips:

 

  • A conservative business suit is almost always expected.
  • For men, stick with a dark suit with a neutral color shirt and tie—don’t forget matching socks!
  • For women, a pantsuit or skirt suit is usually expected—tights included.
  • Avoid flashy colors and loud prints

2. Business Casual: This term can be translated many ways for more creative industries such as advertising, architecture, media, cosmetology, academics, and restaurant, which have a more relaxed approach to dress code, but still maintain the professional look.

 

  • For women, this means wear a conservative shirt or sweater with dress pants or skirt. If you have a dress that falls around the knee, this is acceptable as well.
  • For men, stick to a collared shirt with dress pants or khakis–no tie required.
  • Creative touches for companies in these industries are acceptable, so feel encouraged to make yourself stand out with small touches that reveal your personality.

 

3. Casual Attire: Don’t be misled with this term! When used in the context of a job, “casual” doesn’t mean ripped jeans and wrinkled shirt. Casual is acceptable in fairly laid-back industries such as construction, retail (depending on the type of store), automotive and trades, and personal services such as nannies, personal trainers, tutors, cleaners and caretakers.

 

  • This is the only time jeans are acceptable, but make sure they aren’t ripped, baggy, or extremely old and faded.
  • For women, if you go with jeans, wear a nice blouse or sweater to dress it up a little.
  • For men, a polo shirt or crisp oxford is necessary if you wear jeans. Going casual shouldn’t take away from looking neat and clean.

When in doubt, remember these basic rules across all industries:

 

  • Iron, iron, iron! Winkles can kill any outfit, whether it cost a million bucks or not.
  • Men- always wear closed toes shoes. Sneakers are acceptable only if they fit the nature of the job.
  • Be minimal with perfume or cologne; you never know what allergies you could trigger.

Still nervous about looking out of place? It’s perfectly acceptable to ask the hiring manager about the company’s general dress policy when you are first contacted for your interview.