Dress To Impress: How To Master The “Casual” Job Interview

By Amy @BubbleJobs

Apart from the amazing career prospects, cool mix of people and cutting-edge techniques and technology, one of the major perks of working in the digital industry has to be the sector’s somewhat relaxed attitude to work-wear attire. Yep, just like the creative industry, lots of employers in the digital industry impose a strict no-uniform policy and instead urge employees to dress in a smart/casual fashion in a bid to encourage digital innovation and development.

Now, I for one am a major fan of the industry’s relaxed attitude to work-wear. On a Monday morning when you’re a bit sleepy from the weekend, there’s nothing better than throwing on your favourite jeans, trainers and hoody and heading out the door for another (fingers crossed!) successful week of work in the ever-changing digital sector. And it seems I’m not alone. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg is notorious for loving the old jeans-trainer-hoody combo – and even turns up to the social network’s important press conferences sporting a subtle variation of that very look.

That said, while casual dress is amazing when you’ve actually got the job, it can cause a bit of a headache when it comes to actually getting the job. Picture the scene: you apply for a job with a trendy digital industry and they invite you for an interview. Great. On the invite they mention they have a “casual dress policy” and tell you to “wear whatever you feel comfortable in”…. Uh-oh! You’re in trouble!

You see, while it might sound great on the face of it, being told to dress casually can actually cause more headaches and raise more questions than the actual interview itself. I mean, what do they class as “casual”? How casual is casual? You know what you feel comfortable in – but could you ever actually wear that to the job interview? Should you just forget the “casual” element and dress smart?

interview clothingNow, while every agency and digital company is going to have its own interpretation of “casual”, there are a few general tips we can give you that should help to steer you right, no matter who the employer. First up, they’ve basically told you to dress casually so under no circumstances should you dress smartly. There are a few reasons for this; first up, if you dress smart, you’ll be going against their wishes – something which is never advisable when it comes to a job interview.

Secondly, when it comes to job interviews, they’re looking for candidates who will fit into their existing business – by dressing smart, you’re making yourself stand out from the “norm” of their business and instantly setting yourself apart so there’s a chance they’ll struggle to picture you among their existing employees. Similarly, a smart suit can make you feel uptight and formal – two words which aren’t really favoured in the digital industry these days! By dressing casually, you’ll naturally be more relaxed and as a result you’ll be able to portray a better, more confident image.

OK, so now we’ve established you definitely have to go for the casual look, there are a few things you have to remember. First up, like we mentioned earlier, everyone has a different interpretation of casual – so it’s a good idea to do your research. You’re going to need to research the company before the interview anyway so you can effectively kill two birds with one stone. When looking at their website or social media profiles, keep your eyes peeled for photos of their employees and offices – and check out what everyone is wearing. This should help to give you some guidance on what is/isn’t acceptable.

Once you’ve done this, it’s time to start reviewing your options. When it comes to the casual job interview, it’s fair to say it’s definitely all about balance. While a suit and tie is out of the question, holey trainers and stained jeans aren’t exactly an option either. Smart/casual is the look you’re aiming for, so start off with a super-smart option and then slowly swap items out to make it more casual.

Whatever your gender, a jeans and shirt combo is a nice middle-of-the-road option – the jeans show you’ve considered the casual aspect, while the shirt shows you’re keen to portray a professional image. Similarly, a skirt and t-shirt can also work really well. Then it’s up to you – you can either dress it up with heels and smarter shoes or keep it casual with pumps or smart(ish) shoes.

When it comes to digital job interviews, employers normally want to get a sense of who you are as a person so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through in your outfit. Just to clarify; quirky things like unusual jewellery and accessories are fine, but explicit t-shirts are definitely not!

So there you go; a few top tips to help you master the illusive casual interview. At the end of the day, first impressions do count – but it’s important to remember that you’re being interviewed for a job at a digital agency/business – not a fashion house – so your outfit really isn’t the be-all and end-all. When it comes to digital jobs, enthusiasm, qualifications, core skills and confidence count for a lot more than fashion sense – so try and bear this in mind next time you start obsessing over what to wear for that casual job interview! 🙂

Comments 2

  1. I have to disagree that you will feel naturally more relaxed wearing casual dress. People who prefer to wear casual dress may be more relaxed if they dress that way to an interview, but those of us who prefer more formal business attire will most likely be nervous and fidgety in casual attire. In addition, if a candidate is not willing to wear casual attire at work, it is dishonest of them to wear it to the interview.

    However, you are correct in pointing out that formal business wear may not be welcome in many workplaces in the digital industry today. I have been made to feel so uncomfortable for dressing in formal business attire in several different digital industry jobs that I finally left the industry for much lower paying employment where I am appreciated for who I am instead of how I dress, and where formal attire is not only welcome but required.

    1. Hi Harry,

      That’s a really interesting perspective. I think a lot of people prefer casual dress and so feel more comfortable in that attire, however I realise that other people might feel more comfortable in formal wear so I definitely agree that it’s all about the right option for the candidate both in and out of the interview.

      In terms of the digital industry, it’s true that a lot of work places impose a casual dress policy, however this isn’t always the case. I think a lot of the time it comes down to the individual role and how much ‘client-facing’ time that particular employee has. I’m sad to hear you’ve left the digital industry – but like we’ve said before, it’s not the right industry for everyone. Good luck with your current role 🙂

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