Business casual or suit to interview?
June 6, 2009 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Business casual or suit to interview? More inside...not as black and white as one would think.

I recently graduated with my MBA and like so many graduates this year, I am still seeking gainful employment. I have an interview on Monday morning that I normally would wear a suit to, but the hiring manager called me and said, "Don't worry about wearing a suit to the interview. We understand that you are coming from out of town and business casual will be just fine." I was a little taken back and just said "OK".

This interview is on the way to a wedding I need to be at later in the week. I am taking a suit with me for the wedding, so I will already have it with me.

Here's the issue as I see it. I would have worn a suit to the interview if the hiring manager had not said anything. But since he has said something, if I wear it now will it come across as me disregarding what the hiring manager said? Or, will the hiring manager see me wearing a suit as putting in the extra effort to impress them when they clearly said I didn't need a suit? Obviously, these questions are unanswerable since each person, including the hiring manager, will interpret the suit differently.

I guess my question to you all is: In your opinion, is it safer to just wear business casual to the interview since I have the go ahead by the hiring manager, or should I wear a suit since I will have it with me. If you recommend the suit, when I get to the interview to I explain to the hiring manager why I am in a suit even though he said I didn't need to be in one?

Thanks a bunch!
posted by mjger to Work & Money (18 answers total)
Definitely do what the hiring manager suggested. Business casual.

The risk-reward on some kind of suit/joke/apology/explanation isn't worth it.
posted by rokusan at 11:38 AM on June 6, 2009

Find out the dress code of the company and dress accordingly, though no more casual than business casual. If it's business professional, wear your suit. He didn't tell you, "I don't want to see you in a suit." He said, "We understand your situation, so it won't count against you if you don't."
posted by katillathehun at 11:41 AM on June 6, 2009

Wear the suit, don't explain anything. He gave you an opt-out of the suit, not an order NOT to wear one.

If you feel uncomfortably overdressed when you get there based on what everyone else is wearing (which I doubt you will unless everyone has on bermuda shorts and tevas), ditch the suit jacket.

Being a little overdressed and wearing a suit is never a bad thing. It telegraphs your stature, seriousness about the job, and your ability to present yourself professionally. If you have your MBA, I am assuming this is a corporate situation and not a non-profit art studio, and a suit will be a good thing.
posted by rmless at 11:43 AM on June 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

A step above what would normally be required on the job should be fine. Makes it more like a meeting than an 'interview'. Everyone is more casual and relaxed and can get down to the business at hand which is whether you're a good candidate.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 11:43 AM on June 6, 2009

At the risk of sounding ridiculous: whatever your decision, be sure you're tidy, pressed, and polished. Looking like that will go unnoticed, but arriving with pant whiskers, knee creases, and scuffy shoes will. Nice he's trying to cut you slack but showing them you know how to use the hotel room iron and shoe polish kit can only be a good thing.
posted by variella at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2009

Wear the suit. Absolutely. This is a test, whether he means it be or not. Even when given the opportunity, don't be seen as someone who takes the easy route.
posted by jefficator at 12:04 PM on June 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

I would just wear the suit! He wasn't telling you to NOT wear it, he was just saying he understands if you don't. So a suit would be the usually-appropriate thing to wear, and you wouldn't look out of place wearing it. And if you guys do get chit-chatty and friendly, or he makes a comment about the suit just say casually that yea, you were on your way to a wedding and it wasn't a big deal for you to have the suit.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:05 PM on June 6, 2009

Thanks! A suit it is.
posted by mjger at 12:13 PM on June 6, 2009

He's giving you an out, not an order.
posted by barnone at 12:21 PM on June 6, 2009

You will likely be interviewed by people other than the hiring manager, too, and they might be surprised to see you dressed casually.
posted by grobstein at 1:42 PM on June 6, 2009

Why don't you just wear the pants without the jacket? It's the perfect compromise.
posted by B-squared at 2:04 PM on June 6, 2009

What to wear depends on the company. At some (ok, many) places I've worked at, showing up in a suit would be a big negative. So if you can, find out how people dress at the company. Either call the hiring manager, or in a pinch, check the "about us" management page and see what the management team are wearing in the photos.

If you can't get enough info, I'd recommend that you wear the suit and be prepared to ditch the jacket and tie once you get to the office.
posted by zippy at 2:35 PM on June 6, 2009

Where is the company?

I made the mistake of wearing a suit to my first interview in the valley. huge mistake.
posted by rr at 3:04 PM on June 6, 2009

If it's just the hiring manager making the decision, that's one thing, but if it's other who will be contributing to the hiring decision, then they will likely know nothing of what the hiring manager has told you. Dress for everybody, and your position in the company. That the manager said it this way, kind of suggests that the suit would be the norm. Go with the norm. If the hiring manager is considerate enough to give you an out, he's not going to hold it against you for wearing the suit.
posted by kch at 6:59 PM on June 6, 2009

Wear a suit and if someone makes a comment tell them you have a formal engagement later in the day.
posted by dfriedman at 9:51 PM on June 6, 2009

This is a test, whether he means it be or not. Even when given the opportunity, don't be seen as someone who takes the easy route.


It's just as likely he sees someone who ignored him and tried to be false and impressive, or to 'show him up' by wearing as uit anyway. You can't win at this expectations game, because you don't know this fella's personality or what kind of test it might be (hey, look, the idiot can't follow my advice!)... which is why I still say you do business casual exactly as he suggested.

Either way, the thing I do agree with above is don't explain or address it all. Again, it's a low probability of helping and a higher one of harming the reception.

RR's point is also funny. I do a lot of hiring (East Coast, but creative field). I have trouble not laughing at applicants in suits. Different industry, of course.
posted by rokusan at 11:03 PM on June 6, 2009

I think b1tr0t has the essence of the issue: you are looking for a job in Business Administration, and business administrators wear suits when they are trying to make a good impression.

Also, it might be a test, it might not. Doing the right thing shouldn't matter whether it's being "graded" or not.

(Not for nothing, the "right" suit makes a difference. Wear something that doesn't look like someone else picked it out for you.)
posted by gjc at 7:14 AM on June 7, 2009

I ended up wearing the suit. The first thing the hiring manager said was, "Oh, so you still wore a suit, huh?" I sidestepped the comment and changed the subject. I still don't know if not wearing a suit would have been OK. I guess it doesn't matter because I got the job.

Thanks to all for your wisdom.
posted by mjger at 9:55 AM on August 30, 2009

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