Dressing for an interview can be stressful. The thought of your outfit having an impact on whether or not you land a job can be a scary one. So, can you wear a hat to an interview?
In general, hats should never be worn to an interview. They can be distracting to the interviewer and might also suggest that you care more about style than you do about work.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
After going through the main reasons why it’s usually a bad idea, I’ll list a couple of exceptions where it might be OK.
Let’s get to it.
4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Hat To An Interview
These reasons will almost definitely make you decide against it.
1. It’s Distracting
Hats, no matter what style or size, will distract the interviewer.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
One reason is that they’re pretty rarely worn to interviews. It’ll take the interviewer by surprise, leaving them wondering why you’ve chosen to go against the grain.
Standing out during an interview is a good thing, but not when you’re standing out with what you wear.
The interviewer will most likely be focusing on your odd choice of attire instead of on your CV and what you’re saying.
In general, it’s best to dress sharply for an interview, but in a subtle and understated way.
This usually means dark and neutral colors, traditional and conservative style choices, and very few (if any) accessories.
Good principles to stick to would be to avoid large or distracting jewelry, loud pocket square folds, and hats.
Don’t distract the interviewer, even subconsciously. Let them focus on what really matters.
2. It Suggests A Bad Hair Day
When worn in more appropriate settings, hats can suggest that a man cares about style and knows how to wear accessories.
When worn in more unusual settings such as interviews, a hat can suggest something completely different.
It could suggest that the interview candidate is trying to hide a poorly-groomed head of hair.
Messy, untidy hair that he or she didn’t have time to brush or comb this morning because of a late start to their day.
Even if the risk of this assumption is pretty low, it’s just not one worth taking when you’re trying to impress someone.
Poor grooming and disorganization aren’t good traits when it comes to applying for a job.
Sure, you could argue that an interviewer should focus on your qualifications and not your sense of style.
But it’s no secret that how you present yourself face-to-face has a big impact on someone’s first impression.
3. It Comes Across As Eccentric
The trouble with taking daring or unusual style choices when dressing for an interview is that it can come across as eccentric.
Standing out with your sense of style can be encouraged in the right circumstances. But when it’s so unusual it can actually cause some problems.
You don’t want to come across as attention-grabbing or someone that intentionally makes a point to stand out with what they wear.
Wearing a hat to an interview could suggest that you’re trying hard to be a focus of attention, even if this is probably completely untrue.
Overall, this isn’t a great trait to have when you’re joining a team and an interviewer may latch onto that when making their decision.
4. It Suggests Style Over Substance
Let’s say you were wearing an extremely stylish hat in a color that perfectly complements the rest of your outfit.
It’s dressy, but not too loud. Overall, if you were wearing it anywhere else, there’s a good chance you’d be praised for it.
In an interview, however, you’d probably still be criticized for it.
Because it can suggest that you care more about style and looking good in a setting where your work should be the top priority.
At the end of the day, the person hiring you won’t really care how good you look while you’re working.
They’ll care more about what you would contribute to the team and the quality of your daily work.
To sum that up, wearing a hat to an interview will usually indicate that you care more about style than you do about substance, no matter how great the hat might look.
2 Exceptions When A Hat Might Be OK For An Interview
I’ll start off by saying that a hat generally wouldn’t be a good idea, even with these potential exceptions. If you had the choice, don’t do it.
However, these are exceptions when a hat probably won’t be as bad as it would be in most instances.
Manual Labor Jobs
You might be applying for a job as a skilled tradesperson, but one where what you’d be wearing to work really doesn’t matter at all.
You could wear most things and potentially get away with it.
For these jobs, wearing a hat to an interview usually won’t be as big of a deal. You could get away with it if you stuck to a couple of basic tips (we’ll go through these later).
Jobs Where Headwear Is Required
There’s probably quite a lot of overlap with the previous exception, but it’s worth considering too.
If you’re applying for a job where headwear will be required as a safety measure or anything else (eg. construction), a hat probably won’t draw too much unwanted attention.
It still probably isn’t worth doing, but it won’t look too out of place given the industry and settings you’re likely to be working in.
3 Tips For Wearing A Hat To An Interview (If You Had To)
Once again, if you had the choice, don’t do it. It usually isn’t worth the risk of offending an interviewer and potentially affecting the outcome.
But if you had to wear that hat, stick to the following tips.
The Smaller The Better
The less distracting and in-your-face the hat is, the better.
You’ve got plenty of hat styles to choose from, but avoiding hats that the eyes will immediately be drawn toward is usually a good tip to stick to.
So, go for a small hat – one that won’t be too attention-grabbing.
Wide-brim boonies, Panama hats, and cowboy hats would be too big.
Fedoras and trilbies, on the other hand, might be OK. The pinched crown reduces the overall size and makes them look more compact.
Dress Hats Are Usually Better
When attending an interview of any sort, you want to try and make it clear to the interviewer that you’ve made an effort with what you wore.
This is usually best achieved by dressing conservatively and subtly.
But if you had to wear a hat, choose a dress hat instead of a comfort hat.
Comfort hats are those that prioritize comfort and function over style. They’re great for lounging around, relaxing, and the outdoors.
Examples include baseball caps, dad caps, beanies, and bucket hats. These should always be avoided when attending an interview.
They really suggest that someone hasn’t made any effort to try and dress up for an important event.
While most dress hats would still probably be too large (as per tip #1), trilbies and fedoras are dressy enough to make it clear that you still care.
While other dress hats such as bowlers, ascots, and panamas might be dressy enough, they’d usually be too large to be considered appropriate.
Trilbies, fedoras, and even flat caps are the hats that would usually fit the criteria of being small and dressy enough for the occasion.
Dark, Neutral Color
No matter what hat you wear, the darker and more neutral the color, the better.
There’s nothing worse than wearing a hat in a bright and bold color – this would immediately draw attention and distract the interviewer.
Instead, choose a hat in a dark, muted color such as black, charcoal grey, or navy blue.
These are easy to color match with other items in your outfit. They’re also subtle and not as distracting or attention-grabbing.
There you have it. Hopefully, that’s everything you wanted to know about this rarely-discussed topic.
In general, wearing a hat to an interview would be a bad idea. Focus on dressing stylishly, yet conservatively, and avoid accessories such as hats if possible.