It’s the age-old question: what to wear to the job interview?

Your appearance can make or break your chances. It’s so much pressure (gah!). Don’t worry, I got your back. Here are 11 tips foolproof tips on dressing for job interview success.

Find out what the office dress code is. Ask around. What does everyone wear to work? Human Resources types and hiring managers are all about “cultural fit.” So, if you look like you fit in, you’re more than halfway there.

Err on the side of formality. Even if everyone wear jeans and t-shirts to work, you should still do a more formal variation. You want to look like you’re making an effort. If you are unable to learn anything definitive about the company culture, go conservative. The thing is, if you show up wearing a suit to a casual office, you could lose out on the position, but it’s less likely to be an issue than if you show up at a more formal office wearing shorts. On the whole you’re safer erring on the side of formality. Men should wear a suit and tie. Women can wear a suit, or, in most cases a skirt/pants and shirt or sweater. In more formal industries such as law or finance, women should wear hosiery with skirts.

Wear clothes that fit. Don’t wear clothes that are too tight or too loose. Both are inappropriate.

Don’t get sexy. The interview is not the time for showing skin. Cover cleavage and thighs. Skirts should be knee length or lower. If we can see up it, down it, or through it, it’s not for the interview. And remember, there is never an appropriate time to substitute leggings for pants.

Wear clean, unscuffed shoes. Men: wear dress shoes. Women: wear nice shoes. Do not wear six-inch heels – they are impractical and make you look like you’re going clubbing. I also wouldn’t wear ballet flats, as I think they look childish, but also, I just hate them. And no sandals. Not to the job interview. Ever.

Be well groomed. Shower, get a haircut if you need one. Clean beneath your fingernails. Make sure your manicure is up to date. Wear deodorant. Do not wear perfume. Brush your teeth. Wear clean clothes.

Wear black or blue. Black is the safest colour to wear to the interview. It’s professional and nobody has an issue with black. Dark blue is also safe. Few people hate blue. Next best choices would be brown or grey – though personally I think grey is better than brown. Orange is a bad idea, since a 2013 survey of hiring managers found it to be the least professional and the “worst” colour to wear to an interview. It’s also just a bad colour for a suit. Anyway, most people would probably say forget colour and just stick with neutrals.

Wear clothing that looks expensive. Research has shown that wearing brand names might increase your chance of getting hired. Employers want to hire people who are already successful. Expensive clothes imply that you have money, having money implies that you are in demand, being in demand implies that you know what you’re doing.

Accessorize with something bold. Here is where I would add a splash of colour or personality, with a pocket square, scarf, or piece of jewellery. It’s OK to have personality. You want to be memorable and stand out from the other candidates and adding a little statement can help with that.

Don’t insist on letting your full freak flag fly. The interview isn’t the time to showcase all your quirky fashion sensibilities. Yes, it’s important to be you. But if you show up with visible tattoos, nail art, and bedazzled vintage wear (that would be me) keep in mind that it might cost you. If you want the job, go conservative. You can be yourself later, after they’ve hired you and it’s already too late…er…I mean, after they’ve hired you and have seen how great you are.

You don’t have to follow all these rules. The more accomplished and in demand you are, the more you can probably get away with – if you’re top in your field, by all means wear sneakers. If you’re not, shine your shoes.
But do shower and wear deodorant. That one is non negotiable.