Dressing for a job interview is the best way to make a good first impression. However, how do you make a lasting impression if your interview takes place in front of a screen? As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything about the hiring process got far more complex beginning in 2020—including the interviewing process.

In 2021, job interviews have taken a virtual approach. Interviews may be conducted over Zoom or some other video conferencing platform. Some employers may take a hybrid approach to the interview process: the first interview could be online, while later rounds are in person.

There is no simple answer to what to wear to an interview in 2021. There are many variables to consider. That said, here at The College of Health Care Professions, we want to help our students excel in every way — including nailing the interview. Below, you will find our best guidance on dressing for a job interview in 2021 — no matter what format the interview takes.

Does Interview Attire Still Matter in 2021?

One common question is just how much interview attire matters. After all, you might be taking a virtual interview from your couch or even your bedroom. And the employer really wants to know about your skills, not your fashion sense. Does interview attire really still matter?

The short answer is yes. While the world has gotten more casual in the past few decades (and especially in the past year), what you wear still matters. Yes, employers are primarily interested in your skills. But most likely, you are not the only one being interviewed. If you and another candidate are essentially equal in skills, then other considerations come into play. One of these is appearance.

Showing up underdressed to an interview can communicate to a prospective employer that you aren’t entirely serious about the opportunity. So, take the time to dress appropriately. Dressing up will never hurt your prospects but appearing sloppy or too casual can and often will.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding What to Wear to an Interview

Not every interview scenario is the same, so it is essential to ask some questions before planning your interview outfit.

Do you Have a Virtual Interview or In-Person?

Of course, you need to know this so that you show up in the right place if the interview is in person. But the answer to this question can also affect what you wear and how you prepare. If you are doing a virtual interview, spend as much time setting up an appropriate, well-lit location for the interview as you do on your wardrobe and appearance. You want to present yourself as polished and professional. Your video environment is just as much a part of that as your outfit.

Do not fall into the Zoom trap of business up top and PJs below the camera. You will not feel as confident that way, and there’s always a risk that some unexpected part of you will show on camera.

What do People at the Company You’re Applying to Wear?

You will not always be able to know this, but if you can find this information, you’ve nearly settled what to wear. Some medical offices have a casual office environment, while others are dressy business casual. Offices serving upscale clientele may even expect business suits for men and women.

If you cannot find out the culture of the place you are applying to work, then aim for the nicer end of this spectrum. Also, it is OK to ask the interviewer about the workplace dress expectations. Most hiring managers would rather you ask than guess wrong.

Is this a working interview? 

Often those working in trades or medical fields often must complete a working interview where they demonstrate competence on machinery or equipment. In this case, it is not appropriate to wear a business suit to an interview that includes interacting with medical equipment.

Working interviews are less common in health care, but they are not out of the question. Often, they occur as a second or later interview, once you’ve passed an initial screen. In that case, your interviewer should explain the nature of the interview. But again, it is better to ask if you should wear scrubs or business casual attire.

What to Wear to an Interview in 2021: Interview Outfits for Women

Women applying for a job in the health care field in 2021 will want to follow these general tips.

Clothing: Whatever level of formality you choose, go for the dressier variety. If the office is business casual, wear dressy business casual (blouse and skirt or tailored slacks). If the office is more informal than that, wear smart business casual. Whatever you wear, make sure it fits appropriately, neither too loose nor too tight.

For in-person interviews, make sure the shoes match the outfit in terms of formality. If the interview will include lots of walking, factor that in as well.

Accessories and Jewelry: Keep accessories and jewelry to a minimum, such as a nice watch or bracelet and a smallish pair of earrings.

Hair and Makeup: Makeup is something to think through for the job interview. Go for light applications of neutral tones, just like what you see when you visit other professional office environments.

As far as hairstyles, all sorts are acceptable in health care environments. That said, the more professional your look for the interview, the better. Opinions on what counts as a professional hairstyle vary widely. But think about the styles you see on your professors and instructors and on medical professionals in the field. Keep your hair styled neatly, and if it is long enough, pull it back as you would in the course of your normal job duties.

Working Interview/Scrubs: If you are taking part in a working interview, you will likely be instructed to wear scrubs. Even here, your appearance matters. Choose professional (generally, no cartoon characters or fun patterns) scrubs that are in good condition.

Wear your nice work shoes, and style your hair, jewelry and makeup as you would for a day at work where you know the higher-ups will be around.

What to Wear to an Interview in 2021: Interview Clothes Men

Interview attire for men used to be simple: a blue or black suit, end of story. But in 2021, the rules for men have gotten more complex as well.

For most professional jobs in healthcare, a suit is still an appropriate choice for interview attire. But there are settings where something less than a suit will work just fine.

Above all, the most important guideline is this: Whatever you wear, it needs to look good and fit you well.

Clothing: Whatever the norm is at the place you are applying, go for an elevated take. If men in the office wear button-down shirts and khakis, add a blazer to your ensemble. If they wear blazers with no tie, you can add a tie. If they wear jeans and polos, you wear a button-down.

Accessories: Rarely should men wear any accessories other than a black or brown belt and a maximum of one ring per hand. Earrings are rarely considered business attire for men, so if you wear them, consider leaving them at home for the interview.

Hair: Whatever your style, make sure you take time to groom it well for the interview.

Shoes: Do not wear tennis shoes. Stick to brown and black casual shoes, dress shoes, or hybrids— whatever coordinates with your outfit (plus its level of formality).

Interview Preparation Checklist

Don’t wait until the morning of your interview to get your outfit put together. Do it several days—even a week—in advance. When you do, here’s a checklist:

  •        Physically try it on (make sure it fits)
  •        Press or dry-clean the outfit
  •        Check shoes and accessories
  •        Send a picture to a friend in the field and ask for input
  •        Don’t wear perfumes or colognes

We hope this guide for what to wear to an interview in 2021 is a help as you seek to land that dream job. If you need further education to pursue that job, The College of Health Care Professions can help you reach those goals. Learn about the programs we offer and the difference we can make in your career path.