Cracking the Dress Code


Lifelete Fundamentals

March 11, 2015

What people today view as appropriate business attire varies greatly from the perspective of just 20 years ago. For many industries, wearing a suit and tie is a must for a job interview, while, for other industries like technology, a suit and tie might leave human resources saying, “He’s not a good fit.” But how do you know what to wear to which interview, networking event or weeklong sales meeting? Let us start with some basic definitions.

Traditional Business dress/Semi-Formal: (standard for most interviews)

Suit – traditional style/cut in classic colors of navy, black or dark gray

Shirt – white or blue, patterns should be subtle and the tie should be classic and understated

Shoes – lace-ups, classic and understated

Industries – banking, finance, teaching, and sales

Business Casual:

Suit – not necessary, less classic fabrics and colors, pants and sport coat, no jeans

Shirt – more color and pattern, sweaters and vests; ties are less formal if desired

Shoes – includes more choice of color, texture and style

Industries – consumer products, service-based industries, arts & entertainment


Neat jeans and khakis, not baggy

Collared and polo shirts, short sleeves acceptable

Shoes – may include sneakers, clean and neat

Tips For Cracking The Code

  1. Self-awareness – what you wear is an important part of your brand. Ask a few people what they think of how you present yourself.
  2. Fit – if you are interviewing you are not yet an employee. Dress like you mean business and are serious about being a part of the organization. Even in casual work environments, you must strike a balance between looking like you do not fit in and looking like you are not prepared. Once you land the job, then you can show your style.
  3. Potential -“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Dressing the part is not just about interviewing and presenting a great first impression. You plant impressions on your bosses and co-workers every day with how you present yourself. They should be able to envision you in your next job. Read How to Dress Like a Leader in Any Environment for more insights.
  4. Confidence – you never want to be the one that is underdressed at the office Christmas Party; you don’t want to be overdressed for the company picnic either. If you find yourself in either place, not only will you feel self-conscious but you might make others feel uncomfortable as well. A shot to your confidence is the last thing you need when you have the opportunity to shake hands with your “boss’s boss’s boss.”
  5. Knowledge – if you are unsure of the dress code for an event, including a job interview, ask;, human resources is the best source. Do your due diligence and read the invitation or research the corporate website so you are not asking a question that is clearly answered and easily accessible.