Interview Attire

What to Wear to Your Business School Interview

I recently sat down with Earl Raehsler to get some practical advice for prospective students who have made it to the next phase of the admissions process. Earl is the Assistant Director of Admissions for the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, so this advice is coming straight from the source! He’s shared some sound advice on how to prepare for your big interview at the GSM, which I have summarized for you here.

Before I dive in to specifics about wardrobe, however, I thought I’d share an extremely important piece of insight I got from Earl – if you take anything away from this blog post, it should be this: the admissions team is looking first and foremost for candidates who can tell their story in an engaging and authentic manner. Ultimately, Earl and his team are looking at the person you will become two years down the road if you are accepted. They are evaluating you today, but also what you will look like to job recruiters when you graduate. Savvy candidates will keep this in mind every step of the way!

And now, on to the fashion! Read on to learn specific tips that came up in our conversation.

Women in Business

Dress to impress

While it might sound old-fashioned, this is your chance to impress the admissions team, so you want to dress appropriately for the occasion. Of course, the tricky part of this is determining what is “appropriate.” Earl says to always err towards business formal if you’re not sure. It’s better to be overdressed than under dressed. Here are some hard and fast rules to follow: 

  • For women
    • Women have a bit more freedom
    • Pants and skirt suits are always appropriate
    •  Professional looking dresses are okay too, but keep it simple
    • The blazer is optional, a nice cardigan will also do
  •  For men
    • Wear a classic dark suit, white shirt and a subtle tie
    •  No matter what you wear, the blazer is not optional

Never, ever, ever…

Here are some things to avoid at all costs. Earl says to let your words speak for your personality in the interview. For example, if you’re really passionate about surfing, definitely feel free to bring it up in the conversation. Just don’t “wear” this aspect of your personality or you’ll risk losing points. Here are some specific things to avoid:

  • Don’t be flashy (gentlemen, no bright or goofy shirts or ties; ladies, avoid funky nail art)
  • Don’t wear dirty shoes—they don’t have to be brand new, but they should look clean
  • Ladies, no tight forming stretch pants! Really!
  • Don’t look sloppy—shirts tucked in, hair brushed

Definitely, always…

You really don’t have to spend a lot of money to look like a million bucks. Here are some things that always impress: 

  • Sport a well-tied tie
  • Present the best version of yourself
  • Focus on your story and how you can contribute to GSM community

At your own peril…

  • Open toed shoes are controversial for women because some people think it’s unprofessional. Better to play it safe.
  • Some people have pulled off wearing jeans, but Earl doesn’t recommend it. It can work but it’s a gamble!!

Parting thoughts

Some of you might be wondering, “Okay, but how much does my physical appearance really play into the admissions process?” Well, Earl admits that from an admissions standpoint it’s not really a factor unless you really show no effort. You can absolutely overcome not having fancy clothes, but you can’t overcome a bad personality.

Good luck to everyone applying!


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