On the one hand, ‘business’ summons images of power suits and expensive heels. ‘Casual’, however, makes one think of checked shirts and jeans. The use of the two words together creates a dilemma for interviewees- do you wear something casual and approachable, and feel comfortable, but risk looking under-dressed? Or, do you wear something smart and professional, but risk looking up-tight and unoriginal, in your stereotypical ‘formal’ attire?
I recently attended a job interview where the dress code had been described as the dreaded ‘smart casual’, and I noticed a massive variation in the outfits on display. I saw everything from tailored suits- for women as well as men- to blue jeans and a busy, patterned shirt. So, which approach is correct? I’m inclined to say neither.
Personally, I opted for a smart, dark-coloured, checked pinafore, with a similarly-coloured polo-neck jumper beneath, and a long, black coat on top. I wore black tights and finished the look off with black Doc Marten shoes. I felt this look worked because it incorporated some elements of my personal style (everyone knows how much I love dungarees and pinafores, and I never leave the house without my trusty Docs!), whilst still being conservative enough for a job interview setting. The company I was interviewing for were known for having strict, smart dress-code requirements for employees, yet the fact the company was specifically looking for young interns made me think that they’d appreciate a look that still incorporated a little bit of youthful individuality. So, my top tips for perfecting ‘business casual’?
Don’t be afraid to wear something you actually like
Don’t be afraid to wear something you actually like! At the end of the day, ‘casual’ implies you should be wearing the kind of clothing that you actually wear during day-to-day life, rather than sweating in a suit. However, remember not to over-do it with the informality- t-shirts should never be seen at an interview and, in my opinion, jeans should be as dark a colour as possible, rather than the light-blue denim we wear every-day. You should also research the company you hope to join, and their dress-code, and consider whether they’re the type of organisation that is likely to value individuality over formality, or vice-versa.
research the company you hope to join, and their dress-code
As for which items are ‘business casual’ appropriate, I’d recommend chinos and a smart shirt for men, paired with a dark-coloured jumper in Winter. This way, you still look presentable and professional, but you’re also wearing items that could feasibly be worn outside the office. For women, I’d recommend wearing a blazer, but in a slightly more eye-catching colour than the usual black or grey, such as navy blue or cream. Pair this with dark jeans and a smart shirt, or a skater or pinafore dress, to achieve a look that is appropriate for both a day in the office and a coffee with friends afterwards.