We have all heard the advice to dress to impress. In the job hunt process, this lesser considered step in preparation can have a big impact on your professional perception.

It takes only a tenth of a second to form an impression of a complete stranger from just the appearance of their face and cues from their nonverbal behaviors. The majority of people form an opinion on others within the first minute of their introduction. In the face of a job interview this makes the process even more competitive.

Office culture and employer dress codes can often feel as though you are navigating the battlefield trenches. Have you ever stared deeply into your closet with no certainty or confidence for what you should be wearing? In many cases we wonder what actually defines business formal from business casual? For past generations of workforces this subject was not as complex, professionalism once had a uniformed appearance. Today, there are many more creative jobs, digital start-ups, internet companies, shared work spaces, and a rise of on-trend offices. All complicating the question of what attire fits most appropriately for my place of employment. Of course, dress codes will vary across locations, positions, lines of work and company cultures. Eventually you go from interviewee to proud employee and decoding the dress code comes more natural with ease. As a prospect or candidate for a desired position, crafting the perfect professional image can feel daunting. Beyond receiving an employee handbook (which often comes once we accept an offer), defining professional dress code and company culture is ambiguous. Imagine if we wasted less time worrying about what to wear and focused more of our energy on preparing to sell ourselves for a position.

The Five Most Common Office Dress Codes in Job Listings

Business Formal

Always dress Business Formal for interviews. Use your best judgement when including subtle pops of personality. Men should wear a two or three-piece suit in a neutral or dark color along with a plain (white) formal shirt, solid tie, cufflinks (or watch) and black/brown shoes (your belt should match your shoes). For the ladies, A pantsuit or skirt-suit is suggested, complimented with a button-down blouse, modest accessories (small, fine jewelry), dark tights and a closed-toe heel.

Business Professional

When dressing for any position you want to avoid dressing more than one tier above your respective office dress code, this will avoid an overdressed feeling. Dark colored suits, formal shirts and conservatively-patterned ties are acceptable options for men in a Business Professional setting. For women, conservative length skirts with solid colored blouses and neutral-tone accessories are most common.

Business Casual

Business Casual is the most commonly misconstrued dress code. Casual does not mean leggings, denim nor athleisure wear. This business setting is more versatile in terms of color, prints and pops of personality. Men can be comfortable in formal shirts in any color/pattern. Sweaters and cardigans are comfortable alternatives to a dress shirt. Ties are optional and chinos are a nice substitute for dress slacks. For women, a Business Casual environment is more inviting of statement jewelry, flat footwear and loafers.

Small Business Casual

Small Business Casual is very similar to Business Casual with a more creative flair. Differences include, the ability to wear denim (dark colored), open toe footwear (nice sandals), well-kept sneakers, as well as polo shirts or collarless shirting. Small Business Casual allows room for aspects of personal style and individual personality. Although as professionals we must remain conscious of becoming too relaxed with our image.

Creative

Creative Dress Codes are the most undefined. Specific niche dress codes will depend on the specific culture and field of the company. Trendy fashion items including layers and stylish accessories are acceptable. Although sneakers and T-shirts are also acceptable, your clothing should always be wrinkle free, appropriate in size/fit, and of course, clean.

Even the most prepared candidates who research the prospective role as well as the company background, will commonly forget to consider the office dress code. While at an office, either for a tour, to drop off a resume or for your interview rounds, be sure to get a sense for what others are wearing.  That said, no matter how formal or informal, you should prioritize comfort, fit and confidence, first impressions are powerful. Your potential employer is not only looking for candidates who fit a skill set but also seek individuals who embody a positive energy (a well-tailored outfit and a sharp pair of shoes might be the dignified suit of armor to empower you on interview day).

Quick ways to gain the insights on company dress codes prior to your interview

  • Be Observant. If you know someone already employed, use them as a resource. Take note of what others in the company are wearing on a daily basis.
  • Explore the company’s social accounts. Here you can gain a perspective for the culture and day-to-day office life. Employee headshots are often formal and don’t depict the true standards of dress for that business.
  • Visit the surroundings of the office. Watching people pass through the lobby or an employee parking lot will give you a better sense for what people are wearing.

T.M.Lewin, London-based tailors established in 1898, have been historically recognized for their invention of the “coat shirt,” the first shirt to feature buttons down the entire front of the garment. Fashions have surely changed since then; the dress shirt has cemented itself as a true staple in professionalism. The T.M.Lewin have embraced this connection and are seen to be experts in office-ready work-wear. T.M.Lewin a helpful guide to help us Crack The Office Dress Codes allowing aspiring professionals to navigate the working world with style and ease. If you happen to be in need of an impressive look for your upcoming interview or first day on the job; T.M.Lewin has a premier selection of men’s shirts and timeless blouses for the ladies.

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