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How to dress for an interview: Business casual, formal, what does this mean?

Updated on January 10, 2014

Dressing For Success: Know Your Industry

Dressing for success means many different things in different industries, office cultures, and world regions. The best thing you can do is find out about how people dress before you make an appearance, but if you have to stick with one rule of thumb; you're better off overdressed than underdressed. If you are in a position that gets dirty, wear what they give you if possible. Protect your nice clothing with the lab coat. You may take off your expensive coat if you are wearing your lab coat. Try to avoid wearing anything on your head if at all possible. If you are required to wear a particular head covering for religious purposes, get it cleared with your HR department to avoid trouble down the road.

If you want to get the big job, your best bet is to wear a suit. Both genders should have a professional, traditional hairstyle in a traditional color. Hands and nails should be clean, no perfumes or colognes and clothing should always be neatly pressed. Either gender can carry a portfolio or briefcase. Hairstyles should be traditional. It is recommended for men to have short hairstyles. Women can wear their hair longer, provided it is pulled back.

Business Formal


  • Solid color, conservative suit with a blouse or high-necked shirt. Skirt suits are acceptable, although pants suits almost always seem safer.

  • Shoes: have a small heal and be color coordinated. Dress boots or dress heals are generally acceptable. If you are interviewing for any type of laboratory position, make sure the shoe has a closed toe.


  • Solid color, black, navy or dark brown suit, long sleeve shirt, conservative tie, dark socks.
  • Shoes: Oxfords or Loafers
  • Facial Hair: Must be neatly trimmed

Business Casual


  • Pants: Khaki, corduroy, twill or cotton. Skirts may also be worn. Length should be at or below the knee. Capris length pants may also be worn in summer months.

  • Tops: Sweaters, cardigans, polo shirts

  • It is important to limit branding. Stay away from clothing that is shiny or fluorescent in color


  • Pants: Khaki or cotton pant with leather belt.

  • Shirts: polo or knit shirts with collars may be worn. Conservative sweaters are also appropriate.

  • Shoes: should be leather

  • Tie is optional

Your appearance is your first impression

Like it or not, your appearance is the first thing people have to make assessments on your demeanor. You want to portray that you are professional and will represent the company well. Don't make up stories, but do try to speak in a professional manner. Save the catcha latta's for at home.

Pay attention to the local culture. If you are selling cattle feed to cattlemen, cowboy boots would be a good bet. When I was in Asia, I found out the hard way that dress clothing at a conference is Black and White. Period. Maybe a colored shirt if you are a girl, but I would stick with white to be safe.

How important is the dress code to your company's culture?

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