What we wear while working is how people perceive our confidence, work ethic and professionalism. How we dress brings credibility and trust into the workplace - and can make us feel good at the same time. When dressing for business, whether for an interview, a day in the office or while remote, it is essential to research the type of company you are working with.
Many businesses are changing dress codes and expectations as the traditional workplace evolves. When shopping for appropriate work attire, consider the culture of the work environment, the expectations of the role, and the location and type of work (meetings or activities, indoors or outdoors). What we wear sends powerful messages and can be used as a tool to create a personal identity.
Below are three common dress codes encountered in a business setting.
Business professional is recommended for job interviews, social events such as banquets, business presentations and Trulaske Business Career Fairs. When business professional attire is requested, this typically means two matching pieces, such as a suit, a dress or skirt and a jacket. Wearing darker, neutral colors is recommended (more forgiving, compliment most complexions, don’t show sweat). Keep accessories to a minimum – you do not want what you wear to take center stage during an interview.
Truman's Closet allows students to borrow professional business attire and clothing.
Business casual includes matching separates, like slacks and a blazer, that provide a professional presence including groomed hair and no open-toed shoes. Smart business is typically trend-forward fashion with unique patterns, chic styles and bold accessories like scarves, bracelets and socks that can look nice in the right setting but might not always be appropriate for interviews.
Casual wear is everyday wear, like jeans, sportswear, T-shirts and tennis shoes. Casual wear is the most relaxed dress code you will encounter. Remember that you represent the Trulaske College of Business and the University of Missouri and want to make a good impression, so dress for a future employer.
Many employees will now virtually meet with co-workers, bosses, clients, and customers. As companies continue to hire remote employees, hiring managers will make decisions exclusively from your virtual impression. Maintaining your professional presence is arguably more important when working in a virtual setting. Some keys to a good virtual presence:
- Wear professional attire
- Look into the camera
- Use a professional background in a brightly lit room
- Leverage hand gestures and posture
- Speak with confidence
- Limit distractions (turn off notifications, communicate with your household)
- Practice using Zoom/Skype/Teams, etc.
- Be present
If you have an upcoming virtual interview or want to improve your virtual office, this YouTube video includes a 4-step guide.
What do the experts think?
The resources below link to expert advice, research about business attire and the importance of a professional presence.
Nicolette Leiby, MS '21, is an instructor and academic advisor at the Department of Textile and Apparel Management. In the video linked below, Nicolette shares what color choices say about you, how to spend your money wisely on clothing, purposeful dress, and why what you wear matters.
Wall Street Journal style reporter Ray Smith talks about new research pointing to the old adage of dressing for the job you want and the truth behind it.