Casual for an Interview

When every day is "dress down," what should you wear?

These days, it’s more common to see professionals dressed in khakis and sport shirts than in suits. As casual office wear continues to be embraced, the requisite suit and tie of yore may very well go the way of men in brim hats and women in gloves.

In a recent poll, over 42% of hiring executives indicated that the suit and tie will eventually vanish from the workplace. The poll, conducted by Management Recruiters International (MRI), also revealed that of those who believe this to be true, more than 87% say it will happen within the next 10 years. While this relaxed atmosphere is great for those already employed, it can be confusing for job applicants.

“We’ve seen casual dress policies move from Friday and summer to year-round,” says Allen Salikof, president and CEO at MRI. This has had an interesting impact on the job interviewing process, he notes. In the past, candidates would naturally wear a suit and tie, but this is no longer an ironclad rule.

Many companies, particularly those in the IT, fashion and entertainment industries have virtually abandoned the “corporate uniform.” Others encourage candidates to dress as the interviewer does, meaning it is acceptable to come casual on dress-down day.

If you’re interviewing with a company whose dress code is business casual, here are some tips from Trina Frazier Madry, senior recruiting manager at Procter & Gamble, a Fortune 500 company with a relaxed dress code:

  • Ask what is appropriate. Jeans and short sleeve shirts at one company might mean khakis, dress shirts and blazers at another. Before you meet, ask your interviewer what attire is apropos, suggests Madry. The purpose of the interview is to get to know you better. You and your accomplishments-not your clothes-should leave the lasting impression. When in doubt, your best bet is to stick with a suit or appropriate business attire.
  • Be well groomed. You should be polished and professional, despite being casual. But what about hairstyles? “Wearing a style that reflects your heritage is perfectly acceptable, as long as it isn’t extreme,” notes Madry.
  • Let your personality show. Most companies want to know who their employees are as individuals. We work mostly in teams, so getting to know someone well is crucial in creating teams that will perform well together, where the various players will complement one another, notes Madry. All considered, getting in sync with a company’s culture early on can only better your chances of landing the job.
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