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Is business casual okay for an interview?

You have scored a job interview, but forgot to ask about the dress code. With no idea what to wear to the big interview, you may think the default is to wear business casual attire. In many cases, this is actually incorrect.

Business casual is risky for a job interview.

What is business casual?

Let’s start out with a definition of what business casual is, so we are all on the same page. Business casual for men is generally considered as being a collared shirt with slacks and closed shoes. Your shirt may be short sleeved and it may even be a polo shirt. You do not wear a tie. Some even consider jeans as being appropriate for business casual attire. The idea is to be neat, but not dressed up.

It may be too informal

For a professional or office job interview, business casual is likely to be much too informal. You would be better off in a suit. It is always better to be overdressed rather than underdressed, especially when you want to make a good impression on your interviewer.

If you do decide to wear business casual, take pains to look sharp. Polish your shoes, avoid jeans and ensure you are clean-shaven.

When should you wear business casual to an interview?

Wear business casual if they have specified that this is the dress code. If you do not get the chance to ask, it is best to err on the side of caution and dress a little more formally than business casual. However, some interviews may be perfectly suited to neat but casual attire. A young startup company or a hip coffee house would be examples of this.

How to dress for a casual job interview

You wouldn’t turn up to a job interview for a position at your local supermarket dressed impeccably in a three-piece suit. You always need to look neat, but the key for casual job interviews is to dress slightly more formally than the employees that work there.

But what if I don’t know how they dress?

It could be that you’re going for a position at a small business where there are too few employees to gauge the style requirements, or where you’ve never seen the employees and therefore have no idea what is expected. This is a little more challenging- if you can, find out from someone that works there what the dress code is. At the very least, you can try to determine what to wear from observing employees at other businesses in the same industry.

Assuming that you have no way of finding out what style is appropriate, dress intermediately. Don’t go all-out by wearing a full suit if you’re going for, say, a manual labour or retail job. Wear a fairly nondescript but moderately tailored outfit. A pair of fitted jeans, a shirt and dress shoes is a foolproof outfit if you have no idea what calibre of formality is expected.

Don't wear a waistcoat if this is the job you're applying for.
Don’t wear a waistcoat if this is the job you’re applying for.

Why you need to dress like an employee

If you turn up in a completely inappropriate outfit, the interviewer will think you’re an idiot before you’ve even opened your mouth. This goes for both dressing too informally and dressing too formally. You need to show that you have a grasp on what’s expected of you, and that you’re aware of the company’s culture.

Neatness is key

The most important aspect of how you dress for a job interview is being neat and tidy. Every piece should be freshly washed and ironed, everything that is meant to be tucked in should be nicely tucked, there should be no inappropriate accessories. Don’t forget a belt- unless you are going for a position in the trades where asscrack is desirable, ensure that your pants stay where they’re meant to.

No slogan tee shirts

Steer clear of any item that could be offensive, such as a funny slogan tee shirt or one of those awful naked woman tee shirts. You also want your outfit to be distraction free so your interviewer concentrates on you rather than the interesting stains on your shirt.