Business Casual vs. Business Professional (What to Wear to an Interview)

August 28, 2019 4 Corner Resources 4 Corner Resources

We’ve all been there before. We show up to the event, interview, meeting, or dinner, and we are clearly underdressed. Or maybe you were overdressed. Whatever the occasion, there’s no denying that dressing differently than everyone else in the room can be a bit awkward. That’s why it is so important that your attire is appropriate for the occasion. But how do you know what attire is appropriate for what occasion?

This article is an amazing resource that we highly recommend you save, and reference for any special occasion in your life. You never know where you’ll be invited, so it’s crucial to know what to wear in every situation.

What Should You Choose and When?

First, in order to know what to wear, we need to know where you are going. Below we will break down a few common settings where you might be wondering what to wear.

Please keep in mind that our recommendations are for those who have not yet been advised on what to wear. If you were asked to wear a specific type of attire, you should wear that attire.

In-Person Interview

Recommended Attire: Business Professional

While some interviews specifically recommend that you wear business casual attire, especially in tech companies such as Google, you are better off being overdressed than underdressed. If you weren’t told what to wear in your interview, go with business professional attire.

Video Conference Interview

Recommended Attire: Business Professional

Just like an in-person job interview, it’s important to make a great first impression on the recruiter(s) or hiring manager(s) interviewing you. Dress to impress and unless otherwise stated, wear business professional attire. 

Phone Interview

Recommended Attire: Business Casual

If you have a phone interview coming up, you might think it doesn’t matter what you wear. While it’s true that the person on the other end of the phone won’t know what you are wearing, studies show that one’s physical appearance can affect their state of mind. If you choose to dress down for your phone interview, make sure you are mentally “dressed for success”, even if you aren’t physically.

Business Lunch/Dinner

Recommended Attire: Business Casual or Business Professional

Whether you have been asked to attend a business meal with your colleagues or it’s time to wine and dine a client, it’s important to wear the right attire. In most cases, your company should advise you on what to wear. If they didn’t, we recommend contacting the venue where you will be eating and asking what the dress code is (if any).

Company Event/Party

Recommended Attire: Business Casual or Business Professional

Company events can range in attire from quirky Halloween parties where everyone is dressed in costumes to formal black-tie fundraising events. Since the attire can vary so widely, it’s more important than ever to check with your colleagues to determine what to wear.

Business Attire for Women & Men

Both The Balance and Notre Dame University provide some great images explaining how to dress appropriately in a business professional and business casual setting. Take a look at these images below and keep reading for some additional tips. The image below is from a great article written by The Balance and can be found here

 

Business Attire #!

 

The image below is from the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Career Development and can be found here

 

Buisness Attire #2

Business Professional Attire for Women

Business professional attire for women can be simplified with a few generalizations.

What to wear: 

  1. Wear dark colors
  2. Wear a matching suit
  3. Wear closed-toe shoes or a low heel
  4. Wear a formal blouse

What not to wear:

  1. Do not wear open-toe shoes
  2. Do not wear khaki pants
  3. Do not wear short sleeve jackets
  4. Do not wear low-cut clothing

Don’t forget that your professional appearance goes beyond your attire. Make sure that your hair is done, your nails are presentable, and your makeup is applied conservatively. Also, it may sound obvious, but make sure you are clean and that your body is not the source of any foul odors. 

Business Casual Attire for Women

Business casual attire for women can be simplified with a few generalizations.

What to wear for women:

  1. Wear blouses or shirts with a conservative cut
  2. Wear solid color sweaters or cardigans
  3. Wear twill or cotton skirts, pants, or dresses that fall below the fingertips
  4. Wear closed-toe shoes or peep-toe shoes

What not to wear for women:

  1. Do not wear ripped clothing or pajamas
  2. Do not wear gym or athletic attire
  3. Do not wear jeans or shorts
  4. Do not wear flip flops, sandals, or sneakers

Although business casual attire is much more relaxed than business professional, it’s still important to look beyond the clothes that you will wear. Be conscious of how you smell. Are you wearing too much perfume? Were you sweating after a hard workout? Did you just drink a large cup of coffee? It’s important to be aware of how you present yourself beyond what the eye can see.

Business Professional Attire for Men

Business professional attire for men can be simplified with a few generalizations.

What to wear for men:

  1. Wear a solid color, fitted suit
  2. Wear a long-sleeve button-up shirt
  3. Wear a conservative tie without excessive graphics or colors
  4. Wear dark colored socks and black or brown dress shoes

What not to wear for men:

  1. Do not wear jeans or shorts
  2. Do not wear short-sleeve t-shirts or athletic attire
  3. Do not wear khaki pants
  4. Do not wear flip flops, sandals, or rundown sneakers

Business professional attire for men is pretty standard across the board. A suit, button-up shirt, tie, dress shoes and socks, and maybe a nice tie clip or watch is all you need to look professional and impress your future employer. Continue to be conscious of your body odor, breath, and other important factors while preparing for your interview.

Business Casual Attire for Men

Business casual attire for men can be simplified with a few generalizations.

What to wear for men:

  1. Wear khaki or dark pants with a black or brown leather belt
  2. Wear cotton long-sleeve button-down shirts tucked in
  3. Wear a professional looking tie (optional)
  4. Wear leather shoes in black or brown

What not to wear for men:

  1. Do not wear jeans or shorts
  2. Do not wear short-sleeve t-shirts or athletic attire
  3. Do not wear a tie with unprofessional images
  4. Do not wear baggy or loose clothing

Business casual attire for men offers a huge variety of customization and typically allows for a lot more comfort than business professional attire. As always, remember that your presentability goes beyond your attire and extends to your physical cleanliness, smell, hair, and more. Make sure that you are clean shaven, showered, teeth brushed, and when all else fails, run to the store and grab some deodorant and mints prior to your interview.

Additional Tips Beyond Attire

While your attire is important and surely one of the first things that will be noticed, there’s a lot more to a person than the clothes they are wearing. The most important thing is to be confident in whatever attire you choose.

If you are interviewing at a company that requires you to wear a suit and tie every day, but you absolutely hate dressing in professional business attire, you may want to reconsider whether that company is a good fit for you. 

All in all, remember that you are unique. While these recommendations are meant to apply to a large general audience, you know your situation the best. If you were advised to dress a certain way that contradicts this article, by all means, go with the recommendations that you were given by a representative of the company you are interviewing for.

We hope that you found this resource to be extremely helpful, and we wish you the best of luck in your upcoming meeting/interview. For more tips on how to sell yourself in an interview, check out our blog. If you are looking for your next job or career move, be sure to look through our open jobs and contact us with any questions!

 

 

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