How to Dress for a Business Casual Interview

Landing a job interview is exciting! You celebrate – and go straight to your closet for your suit.

But then you find out that the office dress code is “business casual.”

Woo-hoo!

Except… How are you supposed to dress business casual for an interview?

You don’t want to appear stuffy and uptight by dressing too formally for a more casual office.

On the other hand, the last thing you want to do is dress down so much that you look unprofessional.

So how do you know how to dress for a business casual interview? Here are a few tips and tricks to nail the look.

Dress Up/Dress Down

If all you’ve got in your closet are dry-clean-only formal office clothing and clothes you’d wear out on a Saturday night, it’s time to go shopping. In the meantime, pick something in your wardrobe and either dress it up or dress it down to meet somewhere in the middle. Try dressing down your suit or blazer and slacks by matching them with a printed, striped or graphic blouse. Pair with some fun but practical shoes for the confidence boost you need to rock your interview.

Match Up Without Suiting Up

If you want to look put together for your business casual interview without the stuffiness that comes with wearing a suit, try colour matching your outfit. Try going bold and clean with bright, solid colour separates. Having the same colour on the top and bottom is a fresh take on an interview-appropriate outfit. Make sure your shoes and bag match, but don’t match the same colour as your clothing. You don’t want to go too matchy-matchy and risk a colour overload.

Leave a Good Footprint

Your shoes may seem like an afterthought, but you should consider your whole look from the ground up when trying to decide what to wear for a business casual interview. It may be okay to wear shoes that aren’t your best heels or shiniest oxfords, but the “casual” part of “business casual” doesn’t give you license to wear your old TOMS to an interview. Women can dress in kitten heels or flats, and men can opt for more casual boots or loafers. Leave the sandals and gym shoes at home.

Tie Up Loose Ends

Accessories are an important part of any outfit, and job interview style is no different. Make sure that your accessories are tasteful and appropriate. For women, this means keeping jewelry to a minimum with simple necklaces, stud earrings or tiny rings. Your jewelry should accentuate your outfit, not overpower it. You don’t want the only thing your interviewer to become sidetracked by the clinking bangles around your wrist or the gigantic statement rings on your fingers. For men, it can mean the choice of a watch or other piece of jewelry, but it also means exercising judgment when wearing a tie. You can wear a tie to a business casual interview without it looking too formal.

Skip the Blazer

For many of us, wearing a blazer to a job interview is foolproof, but it’s also kind of old school. These days, “business casual” doesn’t always mean jacket required. Sometimes, you don’t need to wear a blazer to an interview.

For women, if you’re wearing a nice blouse or dress, it can often stand on its own. No need to layer on the sweaters or blazers to look more professional. As long as the sleeves cover your shoulders, it can be appropriate for an interview.

For men, going without a jacket is a little riskier, but you can definitely pull it off. A tip for this could be to opt for a pullover or cardigan sweater to top off your look for something a little more casual, or go for a tie without a jacket. If it’s business casual for an interview, chances are your interviewer won’t be wearing one either.

Keep It Clean

Whatever you wear, make sure it’s clean, without wrinkles and without holes or other deterioration. Plan your outfit a few days before, and check the clothing you plan to wear. If anything is dirty, clean it. If it’s not washable right away, pick a different outfit. If you want to make a good impression, you don’t want to show up in a sweater that’s pilling and shedding all over your interviewer’s office or walk in wearing pants covered in dog hair or a shirt with a coffee stain on the front.

Business casual attire should be about what all other fashion is about: making a good impression. If you don’t overthink it, chances are you’ll be just fine.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum

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