Proper Interview Attire in an Increasingly Casual World

With the rise in startups and tech companies over the past years has come a shift towards more casual work environments. That casualness extends to all areas of the workplace – everything from ping pong tables in the common areas for employees to enjoy during downtime, open work floor plans so no one is behind closed doors regardless of position, and a more relaxed dress code. Gone are the days of buttoned up suits and business casual and here are the days of jeans and a t-shirt as a perfectly acceptable outfit for a Monday at the office. While this is a very welcome shift for employees that are already a part of these companies, it does make it quite difficult to navigate the dress code for an interview. In an increasingly casual world, what should you wear to a job interview?

A recent study conducted by Mulberrys Cleaners dug into the confusion associated with dress codes, polling individuals on what they thought was the most acceptable attire for a variety of common events. According to their findings, 74% of women and 62% of men still think a suit is the most acceptable outfit choice for an interview regardless of the shift towards a more casual work environment. Observing a more traditional dress code allows the interviewer to focus on your experience and the conversation at hand, rather than potentially becoming distracted by what you’re wearing. It also takes some of the guesswork out of the interview prep process for the interviewee, removing the need to try to appear on top of the latest trends in the ‘cool’ startup industry. One of the most surprising results of the study is that 61% of those people think cleave is acceptable in the workplace, though we wouldn’t suggest trying that out in an interview.

While we’ve found conservative attire is the safest route to go for an interview, what types of things should you avoid? Job search experts suggest skipping the heavy cologne or perfume, limiting accessories, and not loading on makeup.

According to nearly 2,100 hiring managers and HR professionals, there are certain colors to wear to make a lasting first impression. These in-the-know professionals agreed that black, blue, gray, and brown are safe bets for an interview, especially in a business setting. Creative jobs, however, are a little different. Wearing brighter colors and shades signals creativity. Should your interview be in a more creative setting, such as a graphic designer or a fashionista, it may be appropriate to suit up in these colors.

Though it may not be as much of a concern for men, it’s important to consider what you’re wearing beneath your suit. Blazers are an appropriate choice for women to wear to an interview, but a v-cut blouse beneath is not as appropriate. As for men, wearing a blazer is no excuse to skip a nice, clean-cut button down shirt. When it comes to your interview attire, go the extra mile.

If you’re awarded the job you’ll likely be able to ditch the stuffy suit and have the opportunity to showcase your personal style. Until then, it’s best to play it safe and go with the more traditional, conservative choice. Keep in mind conservative doesn’t mean outdated. The job market is very competitive, which is to say that everything (even your appearance) matters. Wearing fashion-forward, modern attire that’s flattering will pay off.

Clothing sends signals to your coworkers. If they dress down daily and you opt for more formal wear, it can signal to them that you’re not a part of the team.

You can polish your casual look with accessories. Keeping accessories minimal at work is a good practice because no one wants to listen to bangles clacking on your desk as you type, but wearing a statement necklace with an otherwise “quiet” outfit is perfectly acceptable.

Remember: you are at work. Casual dress has become more and more popular through the years, but that’s no excuse for grungy or sloppy. You can’t quite wear anything to work. Shorts, flip-flops and tank tops are still typically inappropriate attire.

Why is it that companies are going more casual? To attract the best candidates, companies are being a little more creative in how they tempt potential employees. Office culture is increasingly important, especially as companies are getting a little more creative in how they attract employees.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why office attire is becoming more casual as a perk.