How to Dress Smart Casual for a Job Interview
Smart casual is a bit less dressy than traditional business casual and a bit more comfortable and practical. If you have an interview at a company where the dress code is casual, nix the business attire.
Although the dress code at some companies can be more casual than other offices, in an interview especially it's important to look professional and polished. Your goal is to make a good impression, so that means taking care to choose the right outfit, even in a casual workplace setting.
Sharp But Easy-Going Casual Attire
The men and women featured here are sporting a mix of jeans, chinos and corduroys with a selection of tops—from short-sleeve button downs shirts and ties—a good representation of smart casual.
The flexibility of a smart casual environment allows office workers to create their own look with clothing that they will look good in but still feel comfortable.
Jeans Dressed up With a Blazer
Here's a fun, trendy approach to smart casual. Although her jeans aren't dark-wash, their hue is fashion-forward. Paired with a blazer, the denim becomes dressy enough for the office. When you're interviewing, take it up a notch with a dressier pair of pants.
The collared shirt dresses it up a bit more, contributing to the overall professional appeal of the outfit.
Button Downs and Khakis
Despite the casual ambiance of a startup office, for example, button down shirts and dark jeans or khaki pants do have a place in a smart casual workplace. While pleated chinos and pressed, tucked-in button downs are more in the arena of business casual attire, you can easily modify that look for a more casual environment.
The checkered button down is fun, but still professional. Worn over a pair of dress jeans or relaxed-fit khakis, the look is practical and comfortable but still appropriate for an office.
If you're going to interview at a company that strikes you as more established than a startup (it has a formal office space and an organized structure with multiple employees), then you may want to add a tie to your ensemble—or even a jacket.
Cotton Blouses and Skinny Jeans
This is a great smart casual look for women. A pair of well-fitting, slim-fit dark-wash jeans is an essential in any woman's smart casual wardrobe.
The tailored look of the jeans mirrors that of dress pants, and do wear the dress pants for an interview, but denim is more comfortable and also has a more relaxed look suitable for casual work environments.
A nice cotton blouse, like the one here, works well with jeans or khakis. With a cut that's slightly more dressy than your average t-shirt, the blouse looks polished but feels just as comfortable as your favorite cotton t-shirt.
A pair of tasteful heels will round out the look. Choose shoes that are simple enough to go with an array of pieces but comfortable enough for long days at work.
Dark-Wash Jeans and Flats
This is a great example of smart casual clothing for women. Her button down blouse fits well but looks relaxed and comfortable, with a relatively loose fit and rolled sleeves.
Although she is wearing jeans, they are exactly the type of jeans that would be permissible in a workplace: clean, polished, and tailored.
The dark wash lends a professional feel to her pants, which are also quite comfy. For an interview, upgrade the jeans to a slightly more formal pair of slacks.
A few modest accessories work well with a smart casual look. Her flats, for example, are cute and expressive, but are also comfortable.
A Blazer and T-Shirt
This is a look pretty popular among men at smart casual workplaces. While a t-shirt is comfortable and casual, the blazer adds a professional edge that makes the outfit office-appropriate.
Dress pants, jeans, or khakis are appropriate for a smart casual dress code when paired with a blazer.
While the look could be just a touch too casual for a job interview, it's a good place to start.
To make it suitable for an interview, you could swap out the t-shirt for a more refined cotton shirt, or even add a button down.
Pants and Plaid
This woman's funky take on clothing actually works well in a smart casual environment. Swapping a traditional button down for a plaid one is a bold move, but the dressy black skinny jeans give her a fashion-forward look.
Ditching the sneakers, and adding a pair of dress flats or a solid pair of heels would dress the look a touch without compromising comfort, as flats and wedges are far more easy on the feet than traditional pumps.
The end result is a look that is smart and polished.
A Nice Top and Tailored Jeans
This man's innovative combination of clothing creates a look that is perfectly in tune with a smart casual dress code. His jeans are medium-wash, well-fitted and have a tailored look.
Although the fabric is denim, the jeans are designed with a cut similar to that of khaki pants or chinos.
Because his jeans are so dressy, his simple top relaxes the look. The shirt has a relaxed fit, making it comfortable for long days at the office, but it is wrinkle-free and made with a nice fabric.
Choose shoes that lean toward the dressy end of the spectrum to give yourself a polished look without overdoing it.