What Shoes Should You Wear for an Interview?
Some people say you should dress for the job you want not the one you have. While this may be true in the general sense of self-presentation, it’s also (obviously) true when you’re actually going through the process to get a new one.
During a job interview, a hiring manager will focus on your skills, personality, and background but they’ll also consciously (or perhaps subconsciously) be assessing your appearance. This includes how well you groom yourself, your accessories and shoes.
The type of shoes you choose to wear can enhance your appearance — and your appeal as a job candidate — or at a risk of sounding dramatic, ruin your chances completely. In the following, we’ll discuss this in detail, break down what type of shoes you should wear to a job interview and provide other handy tips.
Let’s get started!
Before we get into any specifics let’s acknowledge that a good deal of common sense is in play here. The two primary things you want in terms of footwear for an interview is comfortable shoes, and shoes that don’t stick out (or do if that’s what is called for). They say the best type of flattery is mimicry, so, with that in mind try to emulate the culture surrounding your potential new employer. If ever in doubt err on the side of caution.
Types of shoes not to wear
Job applicants should usually not run out and buy brand new shoes. They should also pass on extreme styles and leave the casual footwear at home. Again, this all depends on the type of message you want to send and the environment that you’re in.
For example, in The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg famously wears pajamas and sandals to meet with venture capital firms. This air of nonchalance is meant to give off a vibe of confidence. Obviously, this will not work in all situations.
New kicks and those with extremely high heels or soles can be uncomfortable and make you walk unnaturally or feel uncomfortable. Open-toe and backless dress shoes, sandals, stilettos, and grungy sneakers are generally not viewed positively in an interview. It’s also safe to assume generally, that toenail polish and toe rings can be distracting, and so can bright colors and certain decorative accents, such as buckles or sequins — that is of course unless the job you’re applying for is a barista in a hipster cafe.
Types of shoes to wear
Employers tend to expect applicants to put their best foot forward during job interviews. This means various things, but as a general rule, it’s hard to go wrong with business casual. Your shoes should coordinate if possible with your clothing but don’t get carried away.
Men should probably consider leather lace-up or slip-on dress shoes in black, brown or gray. Women should probably consider leather or fabric lace-up or slip-on dress shoes. Examples of these would be flats or low-heel pumps with solid, wide heels, in black, or other neutral colors.
With all of the above said it’s still hard to lock down a real definition of business casual. Even Forbes struggles to define it.
So there’s a lack of consensus in what actually defines a business casual wardrobe. All most people know is they don’t want to see too much of a colleague’s body, including feet.
Again, if in doubt go with something conservative and as the quote above indicates one that doesn’t expose too much flesh.
A note on expectations
Some employers want interviewees to wear clothing and shoes that they will actually end up wearing on the job to an interview. If you’re interviewing in an industry in which workers typically wear casual footwear, such as retail, fast food — you’re probably safe wearing whatever similar job descriptions tend to wear. Keep in mind this mantra of emulation, though, if you’re interviewing for a public works job it probably doesn’t make sense to show up in fancy dress shoes as this is just as likely to raise eyebrows (negatively) as it is to win brownie points.
If you’re uncertain about what to wear, you can always just ask the employer about his or her interview expectations. There is no harm in that or perhaps a friend or colleague that works in the field. If you believe the interviewer might ask you to demo your skills during the interview — make sure the shoes you’re wearing are up to the task.
In many cases, the condition of your shoes matters as much or more than the type you select. If the tops, toe-caps, heels or laces appear ragged or worn, go with another pair — wearing blown out shoes is worse than wearing one’s slightly out of kilter with the job/culture.
Sometimes shoes just need a little pick me up to look their best. Try a mild cleaning and repair, remove dirt, dust and scrub off scuff marks and generally make sure things are shipshape. Again, going back to one of our original premises you want the shoes to be comfortable, so if they don’t fit right grab some inserts or scrap them altogether.
Spare a minute to consider which socks you will wear to an interview as well. It doesn’t matter how spot on your shoes are if the socks are off it could throw the entire presentation you’re aiming for. If you’ve ever seen someone wear white socks with black dress shoes you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Interviews are stressful, so the more things you can do ahead of time to prepare yourself the better you will come through this stress. What shoes you wear to an interview may not seem like the most important thing (in many cases it’s not) but in our experience taking care of all the small details tends to equal big picture success. So get the right shoes, and get the job.