Levels of Formality: The Five Categories for Interviews

Listed by #artofmanliness written by Antonio

  • Strict Business Dress
  • Business Dress
  • Business Casual
  • Casual
  • Work Clothes

When You Should Interview in Strict Business Dress

If you’re interviewing for a job that requires you to wear a business suit every day, the only way to dress more formally for the interview is to wear a business suit really well, with perfectly executed details. Typically you dress this sharply when you’re applying in industries that already have high standards of presentation:

  • Prominent law firms
  • Most banking and financial positions
  • Executive roles
  • High-level political positions

The common thread here is jobs for powerful people. If everyone you’ll be working with wears suits already, your suit needs to impress.

Elements of Strict Business Dress

There’s no room for error and very little for personal expression when you’re trying to impress a well-dressed employer. Stick to the conservative interpretation of business clothing:

  • The Suit: Worsted wool in either dark navy blue or dark charcoal gray with no patterning. Single-breasted jacket. Tailored fit, if possible; if you can’t afford custom clothing at least have your ready-to-wear suit adjusted for your measurements by a tailor.
  • The Shirt: Plain white with a spread or point (not button-down) collar. Sharp collar points (use stays or starch or both), smooth front, no wrinkles; tailored fit if possible.
  • The Shoes: Plain black oxford balmorals, well-shined. No alternatives. Socks should match the color of the trouser leg, i.e. charcoal gray socks with a charcoal gray suit.
  • The Necktie: Conservative color and pattern – nothing bright or eye-catching. Long enough that the tip touches the belt/trouser waist, with no shirt showing in between, even when moving. Centered, symmetrical knot with a small dimple in the tie just below it.
  • The Accents: Plain black leather belt with a small metal buckle (or dark-colored suspenders if no belt loops are present). White pocket square, crisply folded (point or horizontal style) in the jacket breast pocket. Simple metal or black leather band watch; any metal should match the belt buckle.

Because there’s very little room for personal expression at this level of formality, the details matter more than they will in situations where each applicant is more varied. Everything needs to be crisply pressed, sharp-edged, and very neat, and the fit of your clothing should be as close as possible.

Interviews requiring a strict business outfit are rare and usually high-stakes. You’re playing in the big leagues at this point. Don’t spare time or expense in getting yourself ready. For the kind of salaries involved in any job like that, it’s false economy to stint on your preparation.

Read more on dressing for interviews: https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-dress-for-job-interview/