Polo shirts are versatile – it’s what makes them so appealing. But are they always appropriate? More specifically, can you wear a polo shirt to an interview?
A polo shirt would usually be too casual to wear to an interview, even for jobs where the workplace has a more casual dress code. It’s best to dress a level more formally for the interview, which would make polo shirts inappropriate most of the time.
While that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
I wanted to create a more step-by-step approach to deciding whether you can actually wear a polo shirt to an interview.
What you don’t want is your choice of clothing to give off a bad impression and even prevent you from getting the job. It’s a bigger decision than you might think.
So, let’s get to it.
How To Decide Whether To Wear A Polo Shirt To An Interview
Consider these factors when deciding whether or not a polo shirt would be appropriate for the specific interview you’re attending. Sure, most of the time it won’t be – but there are exceptions.
1. The Industry
Put simply, there are certain industries where a polo shirt would never be considered appropriate clothing if you were to start working there.
Here’s a solid tip for you to remember whenever attending an interview:
When dressing for an interview, dress one level more formal than what you’d wear when doing the actual job.
Take corporate workplaces like investment banks and law firms, for instance.
These workplaces usually demand that a formal suit be worn. Attending an interview for a job like this in a polo shirt is probably not going to end well. It’s pretty much a recipe for disaster.
If a formal suit would be required if you were to get the job, you’d want to go one level above for the interview. This doesn’t mean black-tie – wearing a tuxedo to an interview would just be awkward and eccentric.
But you’ll want to wear the highest quality suit you can reasonably afford – dark, worsted wool, dry-cleaned, etc.
There are, on the other hand, more “modern” workplaces where the dress code is more relaxed. Tech start-ups, marketing agencies – they can really vary quite a lot.
You could say these workplaces were “business casual”, because a pair of chinos or dark wash jeans, an Oxford shirt, and a cardigan may be absolutely fine there.
These ones are trickier to figure out when it comes to the interview, but a polo shirt would still be dressing down rather than dressing up for most of them.
Avoid polos for these more “modern” workplaces too. A more casual suit would be a safer option. Alternatively, go for an Oxford shirt, dark chinos, a knit tie, and a sports coat/blazer.
Finally, you’ve then got much more relaxed workplaces where you know for sure that you could reasonably go to work in a T-shirt and jeans.
These would really be the only interviews where a polo shirt may be acceptable. The reason for this is that a polo shirt would actually be dressing a level up.
Be careful, however. Do some online research, ask some people who know the workplace well, and be extra certain that the dress code really is that casual before you take the risk.
2. Uniform Vs No Uniform
Bottom line – if the job requires a uniform, don’t wear a polo shirt.
If the job you’re applying for requires a uniform, it can be tough to know what to wear for the interview. After all, you can’t get hold of the uniform for the interview itself. In fact, that would be downright strange.
So, what do you do instead?
There are plenty of workplaces that aren’t “formal”, but do require a uniform to be worn on the job. For example, custodial services, maintenance, emergency services, etc. So, what do you wear for the interview?
In these cases, it’s best not to wear a polo shirt because it’s not worth the risk.
The workplace may not be formal, but a polo shirt would be too casual to wear safely, and know that it won’t work against you at the interview.
Strongly consider a suit, as you really can’t go wrong with it. It’s pretty rare to come across “too formal” for an interview, no matter how casual the workplace you’re applying to work in is.
However, if you feel as though a suit may be too much, go for a classic business-casual outfit. An Oxford shirt (ideally with a tie), a pair of chinos, and brown leather shoes (monk straps or Derbys).
3. The Other Items You’re Wearing
There’s a chance that you may not know what you need to wear as a shirt, but you do know what you need to wear for the rest of the outfit.
For example, you might know or at least have a strong feeling that you need to wear leather shoes, a sports coat/blazer, and slacks.
You just get that vibe from the workplace. Or, someone who actually already works there has given you that impression.
If you feel the need to wear more “formal” items such as this to the interview, don’t wear a polo shirt.
One reason for this is that the casual nature of the polo shirt will simply clash with the (overall) formal appearance of the rest of the outfit.
But also, it sort of answers your question for you. If you feel as though items such as those are necessary, there’s a good chance that a dress shirt or an Oxford shirt would be necessary at the very least.
A polo shirt just won’t cut it.
How To Wear A Polo Shirt To An Interview (4 Tips)
So, you now know that there are plenty of instances where a polo shirt just wouldn’t be appropriate for an interview. At least you now have a method for figuring that out yourself.
If you do end up deciding that a polo shirt would be fine for the interview, stick to the following tips to make it work.
1. No Branding
Polo shirts can often come with some pretty heavy and in-your-face branding. The main culprit is usually the logo. It can be large and occupy a significant portion of the shirt itself.
Ralph Lauren polos are a classic example. That logo is iconic, but too bold and casual-looking for any sort of interview – no matter how casual the workplace may be.
So, if you’re going to wear a polo shirt to an interview, try to find one with no visible branding whatsoever. Just a simple, solid color and nothing else.
No logos, no writing – nothing.
Also, avoid golf shirts when attending the interview. While they look very similar to polo shirts, golf shirts have clear differences and tend to look more sporty.
2. Neutral Color
When wearing a polo shirt to an interview, it’s important to wear one in a simple, neutral, minimalist color.
Being a classic smart-casual stape of summer attire, it’s common to find polo shirts in bold and striking colors like bright yellow or pink.
While these would pair perfectly well with a pair of shorts and aviator sunglasses, they have no place in any sort of interview whatsoever.
The color of the polo should draw as little attention as possible.
So, choose a neutral color such as off-white, beige, navy blue, or olive green. These colors aren’t just plain and subtle. They’re also pretty easy to color match with the other items you’re going to be wearing.
3. No Other Casual Items
The polo shirt should be the most casual item you wear to the interview. The rest of the outfit should be smart enough to compensate for how casual the polo shirt looks.
So, don’t go for jeans and sneakers. It’ll just make the entire outfit look too casual – like you weren’t even trying.
Go for smart-casual items instead, such as chinos and Derby shoes.
Chinos look great with polo shirts – they’re not as casual as jeans and they won’t look as laid back. Dress pants would be fine with a polo shirt too – but again, if you feel the need to wear dress pants – there’s a chance that polo shirt may be too casual for the interview to begin with.
Also, do wear an undershirt with that polo when attending the interview to avoid issues with sweat.
4. Consider A Blazer
Finally, consider wearing a blazer or sports coat over that polo shirt.
It’s a simple way to make that polo shirt look smarter and less casual, even the more “casual” looking sports coats.
They can look pretty great worn over polo shirts and just show that you’ve made an extra effort for the interview.
Can You Wear A Polo Shirt To A Zoom Interview?
Polo shirts would not be appropriate for most Zoom interviews as they will usually come across too casual. Much like with a face-to-face interview, consider the industry and dress code of the job you’re applying for and dress a level more formal for the interview.
Most of the time, this would mean a polo shirt would be inappropriate. However, if a T-shirt and jeans would definitely be appropriate for the job, you may be able to get away with a polo shirt for the Zoom interview.
It should really make no difference that the interview is over Zoom and not face-to-face.
You still want to impress and give off a good impression.
Therefore, the same “rules” when dressing for an interview apply for Zoom interviews. You don’t want to come across too laid-back or too casual, despite potentially conducting the interview from your living room.
In many ways, it’s even more important to dress appropriately for a Zoom interview, to make up for what is likely to be a relatively casual home setting in the background.
There you have it. Hopefully, you now have your answer in detail.
While in most cases, a polo shirt just wouldn’t be appropriate for an interview, there are certain instances where you might be able to pull it off.
If this is the case, you now know how to wear it in the most effective way possible.