Betts Recruiting

Get our new Compensation Guide for 2024!


Business Casual – Tech Startup Edition

The Betts Team
May 9, 2016

The phrase “business casual” is an elusive depiction of the ideal interviewee. Yet when it comes down to picking something out of your closet the day of, business casual doesn’t translate into one specific outfit. Men and women are both struggling to adapt to the evolved nature of what polished means in the startup tech space. Although many startups champion the idea of wearing jeans (or even sweatpants!) to work, this doesn’t apply to the interview process. We’ve compiled some basic tips from our recruiters here at Betts for both male and female candidates.

Rules of Men's Business Casual

Updated Rules of Men’s Business Casual:

  1. Absolutely no jeans! No matter how dark the denim is, or how many people in the company wear jeans, an interview calls for khakis or dress pants. Take your interview seriously and present your most professional wardrobe. Remember, a suit and tie is always safe.
  2. Wear a button-down shirt. A tucked in shirt is an easy way to elevate your style. Leaving your shirt untucked can indicate sloppiness or a lack of interest in the position. Don’t forget to iron your shirt ahead of time. Wrinkles indicate a lack of planning!
  3. Make sure your shoes are presentable. Don’t wear the same pair you wear out every weekend. Keep one pair of shoes shiny and clean for interviews.
  4. Take pride in your appearance. Style your hair, smooth your collar, and any other daily rituals your normally follow. Give yourself plenty of time to make sure you are putting your best face forward.
  5. Cologne is a thing of the past. Having an overpowering smell can be off-putting for a hiring manager and can take away from your presence in the interview.
  6. Come prepared. Remember to bring your resume, writing supplies, and any other materials you need to your resume in a professional bag. Using the same backpack you threw around all throughout college diminishes from your overall appearance.

In sum, for men it is better to overdress than undress. It’s easy to blur the lines between business casual and just casual, so make sure you make the extra effort to portray your keen interest in the position.


Updated Rules of Women’s Business Casual:

    1. Forget the pantsuit!  The old-fashioned mandatory pant suit is a thing of the past. Wearing dress pants is completely acceptable, but there are a lot of other options to wear to an interview. Focus on what fits you best and don’t try to wear styles you won’t be comfortable or feel confident in.
    2. Don’t over pack. Instead of bringing your usual purse full of your everyday materials, take the time to sort out what you actually need to bring. Downsize and only include interview related materials to avoid appearing cluttered, struggling to locate a specific pen or piece of paper, and to keep the attention focused on the conversation at hand.
    3. Accessories matter. Make sure you’re not wearing necklaces or bracelets that can be distracting. Adding some decoration to an outfit is ok, but make sure you aren’t overdoing your presentation. Watches, long earrings, and the like can often distract from what you’re saying.
    4. Avoid patterns. Wearing loud prints or bright colors can be off putting when sitting face-to-face in an interview. Opt for more classic looks and fabrics, and make sure you are the focus of the conversation, not what you’re wearing.
    5. Keep it simple. The same guidelines above go for hair and makeup. Natural looks are the best way to go. Tame your hair, get it out of your face, and forget the evening eye shadow. Anything that is noticeable can draw away from your experience and professionalism.
    6. Shoes shouldn’t be noticed. Your shoes shouldn’t be a focal point of your outfit. Wearing flats or heels is personal choice, but avoid flashy colors, open toed shoes with brightly painted nails, or sandals with excess straps.

Personal style will come out once you’re incorporated into a company’s culture. Don’t worry about making sure your entire personality fits into one interview outfit.