What to Wear to a Business Casual Interview

You get a call for a job interview at a company you would love to join. You start to prepare for the big day when you realize they are business casual. What do you do? Do you wear a suit? Is that too much? How casual is too casual?

Over the last almost ten years, we have dressed dozens of clients for job interviews. While a suit is the easiest way to go, wearing one to a more casual company may send the message that you are either (1) too junior for the position or (2) do not understand the company’s culture.

You see, how we dress is a form of messaging. Your experience and abilities far outweigh your appearance, but people see you first, and then everything you have to offer. Particularly in an interview with a company that takes pride in a more causal nature, you have to come looking the part.

For interviews in a business casual office, focus on a few things: modern fit and details, suiting accents, and updated separates.

If you are in the midst of a job search and you know the companies in your industry lean casual, consider having at least one, but better yet two, outfits hanging in your closet so you have one less thing on your worry list.

What to wear to a business casual interviewOutfit 1: Blazer: Tahari ASL One-Button Ponte Blazer; Pants: Classiques Entier® ‘Verona’ Suiting Trousers; Shoes: Coach Tamera Pump; Bag: Ivanka Trump Mini Turner

Outfit 2: Blazer: Lafayette 148 New York Amia Winsome Novelty Jacket; Pants: Theory Fixture Ponte Garetto Pants; Shoes: J. Renee ‘Braidy’ Kitten Heel; Bag: J. Crew Tote

To start, any of these outfits would work with the skirt equivalent of the pants. We just find that most clients prefer pants and they tend to be more difficult to find. I created these two looks because they demonstrate some great tips that you can use in creating your own business casual interview outfit.

Outfit 1: The blazer is in a bold color and modern cut. You could buy this to go with the black pants you already own for a quick update. I happen to like the gold button, but if you wanted something neutral you could very affordably have the button changed to a red covered button. Remember if you keep the gold button you need to make sure the rest of the hardware in your look is also gold. Make sure the fit of the jacket is perfect. Take it to a tailor to ensure your sleeves are the correct length and that your shoulder fit you properly.

I would keep the under piece simple. Eileen Fisher does a beautiful tank that wears like iron. It’s well worth the price and you can hand wash it, saving you money on dry cleaning.

You can absolutely wear a red blazer with your black pants, but if you’re in need of a new pair of pants consider a dark grey. They look richer and more sophisticated than black.  Once again, the model is too tall for the length of these pants. Have them hemmed so the point of your shoe just peaks out from below the pants.

Speaking of shoes, I’m crazy for the stud detailed Coach pumps. Coach makes a solid shoe without a lot of fuss or fanfare. I love that the stud detail goes back to the gold of the blazer button. Finally, a simple black bag rounds out the look. Avoid bringing overtly designer bags to an interview, like LVs or CCs all over your bag. Keep it understated.

Outfit 2:  We often feature pieces from Lafayette 148 because they are so darn pretty. They also fit a grown women perfectly. They are expensive so set your sale alerts and pick these totally wearable pieces up as they get reduced. I love texture in a blazer. It adds depth and sophistication to your look.

To keep this appropriate, I would wear the same Eileen Fisher tank from the first look. I went with classic navy trousers with a slight boot cut. If you are unsure of how modern or casual the office is, avoid a skinny legged trouser. Instead, a slim boot cut works just as well and looks more professional. If Theory is out of your budget, Halogen has a fantastic option for $88. (Need a new suit? Finish the look with the Halogen Notch Neck Jacket for $150 and you have a suit for under $250!)

You can totally wear your standard black pumps with your navy pants. No worries. But, if you wanted to add something extra, or just need a wearable pair of navy heels, I’m a big fan of these kitten heels.

Looking for an under $100 bag to carry your interview essentials with you? This J. Crew tote has you covered and you’ll get tons of wear out of it after you land the job.

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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  • A simple, classic sheath (currently 50% off) is a wardrobe workhorse. Today on the blog see how we make it work for the office now and in the cold weather. Follow the link in profile. All designers and retailers are tagged!

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