Michael Sterling



When you hear ‘business casual’ what comes to mind? Business casual has become a standard dress code in many offices. Yet, many professionals are really unclear on what the term means. And far too many people emphasize the casual and forget about the business.


Your appearance doesn’t determine your professional competency, but it does determine how others perceive you. There’s really no widely agreed upon definition of business casual. In fact, there are lots of valid variables, such as the size of an office, the industry, whether you are customer-facing and the climate. What’s good in one office may be completely off-the-mark at another.


My team and I, at SterlingFreeman, get asked regularly about appropriate professional attire. We provide career coaching and recruitment services exclusively within Public Accounting. Historically, the accounting profession has been very reserved in attire. However, many CPA firms are adopting business casual as the norm. Furthermore, many firms are inviting job candidates to come for interviews in business casual.


So, let’s tackle defining business casual in a job interview.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Business Casual Job Interviews



  • Wear well-fitting clothes
  • Wear slacks, khakis, skirt or dress
  • Wear collared shirt or blouse
  • Wear a sport coat, blazer, vest or sweater – as appropriate and often based on climate
  • Wear appropriate shoes, loafers or heels
  • Wear a tie – if you prefer, or if a sport coat or blazer is considered out of the norm due to climate or location
  • Insure clothing is clean & pressed
  • Insure you are well groomed i.e.: hair style, facial hair, nails, personal hygiene
  • Err on the side of being more business than casual
  • Ask what’s appropriate if you’re uncertain i.e. the interview is on a weekend or it’s at an unusual venue – such as on a golf course. (Those plaid, lime green golf shorts may not be the ideal choice.)



  • Wear trendy or out-of-style clothing
  • Wear anything revealing – this goes for men and women. Men: make sure your shirt doesn’t ride up and your slacks don’t ride down.
  • Wear a t-shirt, shorts or sundress
  • Wear sandals or inappropriate style boots
  • Wear too much cologne or perfume
  • Wear too much make-up
  • Over accessorize
  • Wing it – planning a professional look is an important part of preparing for an interview.


You Can’t Have Just One


Interview outfits should be like potato chips – you can’t have just one! Remember, it’s common to have a second and even a third interview. Plan ahead and have at least two sets of professional interview clothes.


Hate to shop or just literally don’t have a clue what to buy? Ask for help from family or friends – or a knowledgeable store employee.


As a career coach and recruiter, working exclusively with Public Accountants, I help professionals with issues like this daily. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website.



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