Internship interviews: How to Dress to Impress [Students]

Interviewers and internship candidates have been bickering with each other over “professionalism” for generations. Whether centered on haircuts, visible tattoos or piercings, or appropriate dress in the workplace, it’s been an evolving, but continuous, discussion. Today’s most prominent professional attire-related dispute seems to focus on a more core concept – whether anyone should really be “dressed up” to go to work at all.

Beautiful girl stands against the wall with coffee.

It’s true. A growing number of large corporations and small businesses are doing away with the old professional dress standards in favor of something that falls even below “business casual.” Emerging companies on the West Coast have led the way, and images of young billionaires at work in jeans have made it tough to convince internship candidates that professional dress is truly still the standard. Here’s the bad news: it is.

Standards across industries

Certainly the type of internship you land will affect the style of clothing you wear to work. Interning in an accounting or law firm, for example, will require conservative suiting, while an intern at a weightlifting gym will likely wear gym clothes. But for interview purposes, none of that matters. Always err on the side of more professional.

Business handshake at office meeting, contract conclusion and su

Dress it up, not down, for just one day

One great tip: step it up at least one level from what you know you’ll need to wear to work every day should you land the job. If you’ll be in an office where the staff are largely in business casual attire – a public school is a great example – you should anticipate wearing a suit to your interview. Your interviewer won’t expect you to dress similarly for work, but she’ll be impressed that you’ve taken the time to step it up. Interning at a restaurant or brewery? A suit may not be necessary, but business casual for the interview is a bare minimum.

Part of earning that internship experience is gritting your teeth and being uncomfortable, knowing that it’s only for a few hours, and that in the end it’ll be well worth it. Let’s face it – nobody likes putting on heels or a tie for a meeting. Do it anyway, and you’ll be glad you did.


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Bridge is a program that focuses on connecting employers and students in Rhode Island. The goal of Bridge is to match Rhode Island employers with talented students looking to gain valuable professional experience. Applying knowledge and skills acquired in college to a professional setting is a vital component of a student’s college education. Students who gain relevant internship experience are better prepared for full-time employment after graduation. By hiring interns, employers gain qualified, career-driven young professionals as employees. Student bring with them exposure to cutting edge practices and technology, new insights and philosophies, flexibility and a thirst for knowledge. bRIdge has a particular focus on connecting students and employers from specialized fields such as Business, Science, IT, Technology, Health, Design, Engineering and Manufacturing. The bRIdge website allows employers to post paid or unpaid internships online and directly reach out to a vast and talented pool of students. College students and recent graduates can sign up and start looking for an appropriate professional learning opportunity in minutes. bRIdge is a program of the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) and RISLA’s College Planning Center of Rhode Island. RISLA has joined up with Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island (AICURI), the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education (RIBGHE) and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to bring together academia, business and community. If you have any questions about this program or if you need any assistance, please feel free to contact us.

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