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Employment advice for job seekers.

July 7, 2014 at 7:49 AM

What to wear to a ‘business casual’ job interview


By Aimee Blanchette / Minneapolis Star Tribune

Chia Lor and Alec Ortiz model looks after a job interview makeover. (Richard Sennott / Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Chia Lor and Alec Ortiz model looks after a job interview makeover. (Richard Sennott / Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Chia Lor and Alec Ortiz are polishing their resumes and hoping to land the first jobs of their careers. But as more offices relax their dress codes, college graduates such as these two are heading to job interviews wondering what to wear.

“What does ‘business casual’ even mean?” Lor wants to know.

Because both graduates are seeking jobs in less-formal industries, their interview attire doesn’t necessarily require a suit. But wearing jeans and a hoodie like Mark Zuckerberg would be a big no-no.

“It’s a challenge” for students, says Diane Crist, director of career development at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To help them better prepare, St. Thomas holds mock job interviews in which students are critiqued on their clothes. St. Thomas also created Pinterest pages to suggest appropriate interview outfits.

When in doubt, “it’s always better to overdress than underdress,” says Kathy Northamer, district president of Robert Half Technology in Minneapolis.

Sandals, shorts and jeans are never OK, she says. Neither are prom dresses. “I had a job candidate who wore a prom-looking dress with a business jacket over it and espadrille sandals that laced up her legs,” Northamer says. “I was so distracted by what she was wearing the entire time that I couldn’t focus on the interview.”

To help Lor and Ortiz, stylist Carly Gatzlaff showed them how to dress for a business-casual job interview without looking too casual. The owner of A La Mode Wardrobe Consulting in Minneapolis added a few affordable pieces to their existing wardrobes, proving that it doesn’t take a lot of money to put together a look that will help land you that first job.

Chia Lor

Interviewing for: jobs in social work or the nonprofit sector, working with kids

What to wear:

• Natural makeup

• Simple jewelry that adds interest but doesn’t distract

• Tailored long-sleeve blouse, tucked in

• Manicured nails

• Tailored pants in an appropriate length for heels

• Polished, closed-toe shoes

For a more professional look, add a black blazer or cardigan, or wear a sheath dress with a jacket.

Alec Ortiz

Interviewing for: jobs in design and art

What to wear:

• Subtly patterned button-up shirt, tucked in, that adds interest but doesn’t distract

• Minimal accessories; just stick with a watch and appropriate, not-too-loud tie

• Plain-front pants with a modern cut and matching belt

• Dress socks that match the shoes — not overly colorful, but not white

• Polished shoes

For a more professional look, add a jacket or wear a suit and tie.

More in Resumes & Job Hunt | Topics: attire, etiquette, interviewing


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