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Relaxed Dress Codes in Job Interviews

A more relaxed dress code has crept into job interviewing, reflecting a similar trend in the general workplace. But casual or relaxed interview clothes does not mean sloppy. Both women and men should expect every nuance of their appearance to be noted at a job interview.

The basic categories of work wear

For many people, the notion of what dressing conservatively means has changed. Traditional suit-and-tie wisdom is no longer universally and automatically correct. Conservative in many cases now means nicely pulled-together business casual apparel.

When you’re getting ready for your interview, choose your attire from these four basic fashion categories:

  • Conservative: Examples of conservative dressing environments include banks, accounting firms, management offices — especially in big corporations, law firms, and offices of elected officials.

  • Business casual: Business casual environments and career fields include information technology, sales, government agencies, education, retail, real estate, engineering, small companies, and certain dot-coms.

  • Casual: Casual environments are those such as construction, trucking, maintenance, repair, landscaping and other jobs where work clothes may end the day stained and sweaty.

  • Creative fashion: Examples of creative career fields include entertainment, fashion, graphic design, interior design, and popular music and other arts.

Studies on workplace dress codes

A number of studies over the past decade confirm that workplace dress codes have become more liberal than they were back in the starchier twentieth-century days:

  • A 2001 poll by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that 87 percent of U.S. companies allow some form of casual dress in the workplace.

  • A 2003 survey by the Business Research Lab, a research and management consulting firm, noted that about half of respondents said the dress code where they work had changed in the previous two years, and by three to one, they said the code had become more casual.

  • A 2006 tally of employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers revealed that companies seem to be considerably more relaxed about appearance these days. Just 12 percent said that a male job candidate wearing an earring would be a negative and only 28 percent said they’d frown at weird hair color (like blue, green, violet, pink). Two-thirds of employers surveyed said that body piercing would not strongly influence a hiring decision.

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