The Interview Suit – A Practical Guide For Men

Will an outstanding, expensive suit get you a residency position?  No, probably not.   Can a bad suit cause you to feel less than 100% confident in yourself?  Yes.   Will a bad suit give interviews a negative impression on you?  Yes, absolutely.  Can a provocative piece of clothing eliminate my chances of matching?  Yes it can.  We have witnessed this ourselves.  There was one candidate who wore a Christmas sweater instead of a suit.  He did not end up matching.  A sky blue or purple suit may make you look unique but it will backfire.

We wrote this blog post to give you guys a clear, conservative outfit you can feel confident in.  Remember, faculty members in medicine are a conservative group.  They appreciate candidates who respect the culture of the hospital and program by dressing professionally for the interview.  In this blog, we will give you exact instructions on the clothes that will set you up for success.

We understand everyone has a different budget.  Cheap suits look…cheap.  We are going to give you recommendations that should total less than $500 USD.  Remember, this outfit will be used for years after for conferences, other interviews, etc.

Facial hair

Our main advice here is to make sure your facial hair is neat and clean.  This means you should absolutely shave or trim before each interview.  Being clean-shaven is always a safe bet.   A large flowing beard will be off putting.


The only jewelry men should have on is a nice watch.  This means no earrings, no nose piercings or lip piercings.  We also do not recommend necklaces.  Subtle religious bracelets are OK.

Picking a respectable watch to go with a suit can be dizzying with all the options.  There are only two rules you should be aware of.

1) Make sure the watch is conservative with an analog face.  This means that the watch should have hands not numbers.  Yes, there are some very expensive and fancy digital watches.  With a suit in a professional setting, an analog watch will fit much better.

2) Make sure the band of the watch matches with the color of your belt and shoes.  You can purchase a watch with a silver or gold band.   We prefer watches with leather bands as they look more formal.

Fossil, Hugo Boss and Timex are all well-respected brands.  We believe these high quality, affordable brands sets the right tone.   Wearing a thousand dollar Rolex may raise questions.  Wearing a $20 digital watch would raise different questions.

BELTS – Black or Brown leather

The number one mistake we see with belts is that they are too large.  You guys know what we are talking about.  The belt wraps all the way around the other side.  The second most common mistake is the belt is just too old and ratty.  Belts have a limited shelf life.  As soon as the leather section is worn down, it is time to replace it.  Avoid fancy colors and designs on a belt for your interview.  If you picked a watch with a brown band, then pick a belt that is brown too!  This means your shoes should then be brown as well.  We love Cole Haan for their high quality and range of colors.
Shoes are very important.  We saw plenty of examples of candidates with a nice suit and shirt but old shoes.  You have to make sure your shoes are in well kept condition.  Again, you should choose brown or black leather.  If you are interviewing, you will likely be walking around a lot from the airport, bus and hospital.  Sometimes, this travel can be hard on shoes given snow, salt on the roads and other conditions.  The two shoes below survived the torment and were easy to clean.  Cole Haan is a great brand here.  They have Nike technology in their dress shoes making sure you look professional while still staying comfortable.

Professional bag – black or brown leather

This is optional.  You may not need a bag if you just opt to bring a small portfolio with your resume and your notes to the interview.  It’s unlikely faculty will see the bag you are carrying around.  We think every impression you make has importance.  However, a professional bag will be very useful in the future.  We do not recommend bringing a Jansport backpacks with stickers and patches on them.  Here are two bags we love.  They are durable, hold everything you would need to bring along and look very professional.

portfolio case – black or brown leather

Many candidates purchase a portfolio from their medical school campus store.  This is a nice way to show interviewers you are prepared as well as remind them where you are coming from.  David and I saw plenty of portfolio cases with Stanford School of Medicine or Yale School of Medicine right on the front.  As an IMG, this may not be possible.  We do recommend having a portfolio to take with you into interviews.  It is also a useful tool to hold any handouts or brochures you will be given on your interview date.  There were plenty of times that David and I needed to jot down a quick note.  Any professional portfolio will do.  You can probably find a low cost one at a Drugstore even that will do the trick.  Here’s one we like.

PICKING the Perfect suit – 3 basic rules

Rule #1 – All About Fit
The most important thing about the suit is the fit.  It needs to fit your body shape well.  There is no secret that tailored suits look better.  Every body shape is unique.  There are standard sizes but adjustments always have to be made.  If you do not know your suit size (shoulder, chest, length), go to your nearest dry cleaner or Men’s Warehouse and get measured.  It’s usually FREE.  If not, it won’t cost more than a few bucks.  The current popular trend is to go with a slim fit suit.  This is modern and gives you a leaner look.

  • My jacket size is: 32 short
  • My pants size: 31 inch waist, 30 inch length

Rule #2 – The Type
We are not going go into a detailed overview of the type of suits.  There are many varieties with variations on the shoulder style and type of buttons.  For the purpose of the residency interview, we recommend either a 3 button or 2 button single breasted suit.  This will serve pretty much everyone.

A quick suit etiquette tip.  Never button the bottom button of a 2 button or a 3 button suit. It is a fashion faux pas.  If you choose a 3 button suit, you can button either the top 2 buttons or just the middle button when standing.  It’s up to you.  When sitting, you should always unbutton all buttons.  When you get up, button back up.

Rule #3 – The color, not black

We are going to go out on a limb here.  Do not pick a black suit.  You will see many, many people in black suits on the interview trail.  Wearing a black suit will force you into the same sea of candidates.  The two colors that we recommend enable you to stand out exactly the right amount.  Both dark grey and dark blue are very conservative but give you an extra element of style.  A matching vest is optional and completely up to you.  Both black and brown leather go very well with either navy or dark grey.  Brown leather with a black suit depends on the color of brown.  Dark blue and grey give you the most flexibility while adding style and the right amount of uniqueness.

The tie

You have more flexibility here with your tie.  We recommend staying away for overly bright or busy designs.  Some interviewers may like the colors or uniqueness.  Some interviewers may find your tie too loud.  You want to select a conservative, appropriate tie.  Here are some options that would fit for a blue or grey suit.


Socks often times represent the only way a man can add a little bit of charisma to his outfit.  We recommend pairing the color of your socks to a color in your tie.  But, any conservative color will work.  Grey socks with a grey suit is just fine.  Grey socks with a navy suit works as well. Just make sure they are NOT ankle length.

DRESS shirt – so many choices

Dress shirts must fit well.  Like suits, you have to make sure the shirt fits you well.  Tailoring is not as critical but knowing your size helps.  The two important size parameters is the neck size and the sleeve length.  You do not want a sleeve that is too long or too short.

  • My shirt sleeve length: 32 – 33 inch
  • My neck collar size: 14.5

Classic blue shirt will pretty much match with anything including any tie combination you can think of.  A classic white shirt will do great in any situation as well.  We would just go ahead and buy both.  You always want a back up shirt in case a spill or some other accident happens.   Here are two examples we like. There are so many different styles with color and collar permutations.  We recommend you find one that is comfortable and made of high quality material.  Here are two we like.

Out of all the recommendations we have made, here are the most important.

  • Invest in a suit that fits well–we highly recommend dark blue or dark grey to stand out but still stay conservative
  • A solid blue and white shirt will go with any combination
  • Make sure your leather colors match so pick brown and stick with it for your watch, your belt and your shoes!
  • A nice bag and portfolio case are optional but will complement your outfit

We hope this guide was useful for you guys about to start the interview process.  A guide for women will be posted soon.