How to Dress for Residency Interviews

How you dress for an interview tells the residency programs about you. If you show up in wrinkled, unkempt clothing, you may come off as lazy, sloppy, or that you don’t care about the interview. If you show up in a short dress and six inch heels, programs may wonder if you thought this was a date.

You want your clothing to tell the story of a full-fledged medical professional. Try to think about what you would wear on the job, without the lab coat.

Since there will usually be several different types of events, you will want to bring two types of clothes:

  1. Business Casual – For social events such as a dinner or cocktails
  2. Business Formal – For the interview

Business Casual is slightly easier to manage. Men, you won’t need a tie, just slacks and a nice button up shirt. Ladies, you will want a nice blouse and nice slacks or an appropriate skirt. The key is to be a little more relaxed but still professional.

A good guide to Business Casual is available at:

Business Formal is where many interviewees run into trouble or don’t know what to wear. Below is a list of tips and guidelines for the interview day.  


  • A suit is standard with a nice button up shirt and tie
  • Dark socks, shoes and belt
  • No jewelry beyond a wedding band
  • No cologne or strong aftershave  
  • Clean shaven or very neatly trimmed facial hair


  • Pant suit or skirt suit with a skirt which falls below the knees
  • Closed-toe and sensible shoes
  • Makeup should be light and natural
  • Avoid perfumes in general
  • Jewelry should be minimal, simple, and classy
  • No fancy nail polish, nails should be trimmed with clear polish at the most
  • No exposure — cleavage, short skirts, tight clothes, or high heels
  • If necessary, neutral pantyhouse
  • Purse should be chosen carefully


  • Clothing should be tailored, well fitted, cleaned and ironed
  • Go with dark or neutral with the colors. Nothing too showy or flashy.                                         Examples: Black, brown, grey or navy
  • Avoid any patterns as well, even stripes on a suit could send the wrong message
  • Don’t forget hygiene such as brushing teeth and applying deodorant  
  • Hair should be neat and out of your face
  • Absolutely NO visible tattoos or alternative piercings (face, multiple ear piercings, etc)

If you have ANY doubts if something you want to wear is professional, choose something else.

This is one circumstance where it is in your best interest to play it safe. Now is not a good time to be taking risks with your appearance. What some programs may consider interesting, others may take as a sign of immaturity. You do not want to lose out on an opportunity with an unfortunate wardrobe choice.

Next ArticleHow Your Body Language Affects Your Residency Interview