New rules for the casual job interview

In these business casual times, here are some tips for what college grads should wear to their first job interviews.

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Chia Lor and Alec Ortiz modeled appropriate interview wear for jobs in social or nonprofit work (Lor) and design and art (Oritz).

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Chia Lor and Alec Ortiz are polishing their résumés and hoping to land the first jobs of their careers. But as more offices relax their dress codes, college graduates such as these two are heading to job interviews wondering what to wear.

“What does business casual even mean?” Lor pondered.

Because both graduates are seeking jobs in less formal industries, their interview attire doesn’t necessarily require a suit. But it doesn’t mean that they can get away with wearing jeans and a hoodie like Mark Zuckerberg.

“It’s a challenge” for students, said Diane Crist, director of career development at the University of St. Thomas. To help them better prepare, St. Thomas holds mock job interviews where students are critiqued on their clothes. St. Thomas also created Pinterest pages to suggest appropriate interview outfits.

When in doubt, “it’s always better to overdress than underdress,” said Kathy Northamer, district president of Robert Half Technology in Minneapolis.

Sandals, shorts and jeans are never OK, she said. Neither are prom dresses. “I had a job candidate who wore a prom-looking dress with a business jacket over it and espadrille sandals that laced up her legs,” she said. “I was so distracted by what she was wearing the entire time that I couldn’t focus on the interview.”

To help Lor and Ortiz, we asked stylist Carly Gatzlaff to show them how to dress for a business casual job interview without looking too casual. The owner of À La Mode Wardobe Consulting added a few affordable pieces to their existing wardrobes, proving that it doesn’t take a lot of money to put together a look that will help land you that first job. □

Chia Lor
Attended: St. Catherine University.
Interviewing for: Jobs in social work or the nonprofit sector, working with kids.

What to wear:
Natural makeup, plus a warm smile.
Simple jewelry adds interest but doesn’t distract.
Tailored long-sleeve blouse, tucked in.
Manicured nails.
Tailored pants, appropriate length for heels.
Polished closed-toe shoes.

For a business professional look:
Add a black blazer or cardigan, or wear a sheath dress with a jacket.

Alec Ortiz
Attended: University of Minnesota.
Interviewing for: Jobs in design and art.

What to wear:
Warm smile.
A subtly patterned button-up shirt adds interest but doesn’t distract. Tuck it in.
Minimal accessories. Just stick with a watch. Appropriate tie — not too loud.
Plain-front pants with a modern cut, matching belt.
Dress socks that match your shoes — not overly colorful, but not white.
Polished shoes.

For a business professional look:
Add a jacket or wear a suit and tie.

Aimee Blanchette • 612-673-1715

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