What Is the Casual Dress for Men at an Interview?
At a time when more people than ever are working from home in their sweats, and meetings and interviews are conducted by teleconferencing – when some people forgo pants for even greater comfort – the word “casual” has been reopened to interpretation. Does the word suggest a look that reflects executive casual, business casual or smart casual? And will confusing terms like “mainstream casual” and “baseline casual” go away along with the pandemic? Times were indeed simpler when men were expected to show up for most job interviews in a suit and tie, but it doesn't take long to learn the “new normal” of casual interview attire.
Find Clarity in Attire Names
As much as it may feel like times have forever changed in the workplace, the need to do your homework before an interview hasn't. Before you swing open your closet doors and assemble your interview-day wardrobe, reread any emails you received from the hiring manager to confirm your interview. It should contain instructions about what to wear. If it doesn't, you can always call and ask. Indeed suggests that you review the company's website (which you're probably reading anyway) for clues about how employees dress every day.
But there's a risk in going too far by wearing less. For example, if you see that men wear superhero T-shirts and gym shoes, file away this wardrobe tip until after you get the job. For an interview, you want to go for a snappy, business casual look and forgo your favorite superhero shirt and “tennies” because:
- You should present yourself as a serious professional.
- You're being judged partially on how you present yourself.
Hiring managers overwhelmingly say that it's better to risk overdressing than underdressing. Besides, it's not as though business casual interview attire calls for wearing a tie.
People expect interviewees to look well-dressed. Consider it a point of pride if the receptionist instantly identifies you as a job candidate as soon as you walk through the door or appear onscreen. You obviously look the part.
Assemble Your Business Casual Interview Attire
If the word “casual” is still throwing you for a loop, consider the delineation outlined by The Interview Guys:
- Smart casual is the most relaxed classification, where you can get away with wearing jeans, a collared shirt, a solid-colored T-shirt (no logos) or sweater and gym shoes.
- Executive casual is the next most casual, where dress slacks, a button-up, dress shirt, blazer and dress shoes are the norm.
- Business casual puts you right in the middle, with only the blazer or sport coat being a matter of some debate. But the consensus is: Wear the blazer. It will polish your appearance. And if by some chance you're drawn into an impromptu free-throw contest, you can always remove it. But at least you'll have it as you talk face to face with the interviewer. It may even imbue you with a measure of confidence; you'll look the part and feel like it, too.
Taking it from the top, then, Work Near You suggests a casual ensemble that includes:
- A navy or gray blazer; since contrasts look appealing, wear a navy blazer with light or medium gray trousers and a gray blazer with navy trousers (avoid black, which can look severe on many men)
- A light-colored, button-down shirt with a collar, free of a tie
- Black or navy socks
- A black belt
- Matching black shoes (which will look more professional than brown); as your mother may have told you, belts and shoes should always be the same color, and she was right.
Rehearse and Tweak First
All of these pieces are important – and worth making an investment in if you haven't already. You may well end up with a go-to “interview outfit” that you turn to time and again.
But before you assign it a special, “untouchable” place in your closet, conduct a video rehearsal first with your laptop. It's important to see how you look through the lens of a camera so that you can see what a hiring manager will see before a video interview. For example, the shirt in your interview ensemble should be a recommended “light” shade, not white, because white can sometimes come across as too stark onscreen.
In addition to making any tweaks to your look, a rehearsal can give you the chance to adjust the lighting – before you prepare to say goodbye to ties forever.
<p style="margin-bottom: 0in">Mary Wroblewski earned a master's degree with high honors in communications and has worked as a reporter and editor in two Chicago newsrooms. She launched her own small business, which specialized in assisting small business owners with “all things marketing” – from drafting a marketing plan and writing website copy to crafting media plans and developing email campaigns. Mary writes extensively about small business issues, and especially “all things marketing.” </p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in"><br> </p>