Context: North-America, hot summer, urban park, networking party.

An international mid-size consulting company is inviting future graduates (Msc in E-business at a top tier school in the area) at a sort of garden party bbq in an urban park.

It's presented as an opportunity to network, not necessarily getting a job right there, but getting to know this not so well known company and think of it when it's time to apply for internships or jobs when students will graduate in around one year time.

I'd know how to dress for a bit more formal networking event, but in this unusual setting I'm at a loss: no indication in the invitation, no indication from the school's job service.

Could you suggest –or is there– a dress code for a professional bbq party meet and greet ? Is that kind of event different from a normal networking cocktail?

  • 4
    @MelBurslan Answers belong in the large box below, not the comments. :)
    – Lilienthal
    Jul 26, 2016 at 20:30
  • @Lilienthal, it started as a short comment. What can I say ? :P
    – MelBurslan
    Jul 26, 2016 at 21:16
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    @MelBurslan That sounds about right to me, except I wouldn't shy away from a pair of stylish (not stupidly high or garish) heels or wedges. Just be wary of sinking into soft ground with heels :)
    – Jane S
    Jul 27, 2016 at 6:37
  • 1
    Related: What's typical dress code for an interview with a medium-sized tech company?. The answers have some hints on what to do if you don't know the exact dress code.
    – sleske
    Jul 27, 2016 at 6:42
  • thanks @sleske I know how to dress generally, I'm asking here because of the very unusual context for here up north (bbq in a park) I thought maybe someone from meat counties (Texas etc.) may have direct experience of such things.
    – P. O.
    Jul 27, 2016 at 11:43

5 Answers 5


If in doubt, contact them and ask. You can't guess reliably, we can't guess reliably, and there is no need to guess.

If you are excessively terrified of asking: chinos, a button-down shirt, decent shoes and a sports coat or blazer can instantly go from somewhat formal to somewhat informal just by taking the jacket off. (And the tie, if you wear ties. I don't; I'm a cat, and cats don't wear choke collars.)

  • 1
    Assuming the OP is male ;)
    – Jane S
    Jul 27, 2016 at 6:56
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    Good point, Jane. But I am guessing that some similar adjust-by-accessorizing compromise exists in women's garb....? (I'm also assuming modern Western garb rather than an SCA event, come to think of it, and there are people who will put on a blazer over jeans and T-shirt and call it formal enough). But the real answer is, if concerned, ask.
    – keshlam
    Jul 27, 2016 at 7:03
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    Yes, almost certainly a summer dress or skirt and blouse with open toe shoes. Slacks are acceptable but not as common.
    – Jane S
    Jul 27, 2016 at 7:06
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    I'm a male, but I may borrow a summer dress from my wife, that would be a perfect solution: looks nice, does not look casual, not warm (I sweat like a pig) and i'll be the focus of attention. I don't have the shoes for that though and no time to shop for them. Ah, too bad.
    – P. O.
    Jul 27, 2016 at 11:46
  • As it happens, I know someone who does cross-dress when he can get away with it, and who has a remarkably good sense of style in that mode... but I'm guessing that isn't quite the impression you are interested in making at this time. :-p
    – keshlam
    Jul 27, 2016 at 12:11

Get on their website and do a bit of "legal espionage" If there is a directory with photos, get some names and faces and see if they are on LinkedIn and other social media. Get a VERY good idea of what this company is all about, right down to how they dress.

If this is E-business, this is most important to learn because the dress varies from Jeans and a polo shirt all the way up to suit and tie. Find out as much as you can, and then best guess.

If you can find anyone you know who has been to one of these or something like it, ask. If you can find anyone who knows abut the company, ask them.

Do your research now, and be thorough. Not only will that help you with the dress code for the meet and greet, you'll also be able to ask intelligent questions and carry on relevant conversations with the people there.

  • I tried the website first, but no luck. Though, getting names and going on Linkedin seem a good idea. I'm asking here, because usually these type of meeting take place at school or in conference room. Thanks.
    – P. O.
    Jul 26, 2016 at 19:00
  • @P.Obertelli If you know where their offices are, you can drive by around starting time and see what the people wear going into the building, just don't lurk long enough to get spotted. Jul 26, 2016 at 19:07
  • That's just a bit too stalkyish for me :~)
    – P. O.
    Jul 26, 2016 at 19:15
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    I found 14 profiles on Linkedin in my area, none except one wore a tie, mostly unbuttoned shirts, even senior management. That's a good hint.
    – P. O.
    Jul 26, 2016 at 19:21
  • @P.Obertelli yep! Good work on the research! Jul 26, 2016 at 19:28

Is there any harm in taking two sets of clothes? Think of it like winter, if you take more clothes, you can always dress up or dress down yourself as you require. This can work as when you get there, you can see what other people in the party are wearing.

Example could be, take a pair of smart trousers and jeans, shirt, and a tie. If you get to the party and find they are all decked out, change into the smart trousers. Otherwise, jeans and a shirt should work.

This is assuming you can find a place to change, if you're going by car, change in the car or find some nearby toilets.

It's a hassle, but if you can't find out any prior info, it can work.

  • I'd go there straight after work, in city center, no car, no place to change. Good suggestion though.
    – P. O.
    Jul 27, 2016 at 13:11

If this is being treated as a networking opportunity, you should treat it like a chance to meet a future prospective employer - in other words, dress like you're going to get interviewed by those people, but still comfortable enough not to suffer in the hot urban summer.

Now, this can vary depending on how 'formal' it is meant to be, and how formal the event is meant to be, but in general, business-casual should suffice. The exact nature of 'business casual' depends on the industry you're in (for some, like the fashion industry, there is no 'casual', only well-dressed or not dressed!) so try to research and find out what people dress like in your industry - and maybe dress slightly better than that, to impress the people you'll be meeting.

  • see my answer, I nearly went too formal, compared to how the managers were dressed, particularly in e-commerce, my advice really seem to be working.
    – P. O.
    Aug 4, 2016 at 17:34

I'm answering my own question as I tried or thought about the various suggestions and none fit exactly or were too general to be of any use ("dress nice"...). Also nowadays, in the same industry you may have largely different ways of dressing up from rags to bespoke suits depending on a particular company.

Looking up dress culture info of the company you're meeting seem a passé thing: corporate web-sites do not necessary reflect the real culture, more the wishes of someone in marketing or hr , depending on whose responsible for content.

Sites such a Glassdoor, contain too much ex-employees to be really interesting on current affairs.

But I noticed that people having a job tend to dress the way they do for work on their Linkedin profile, at least for those I checked.

So speaking from this particular experience, in the end the best practical, quick and reasonable (no stalking or waiting in a parking lot) thing to do seem to go to Linkedin and see how people working there dress, then adapt a notch down or up depending on the occasion.

For example, if you see people wearing mostly suits but no tie and unbuttoned shirts in their profiles and you're going for a formal interview, dressing a bit up would be to put a tie on.

On the opposite, if you're invited in a less formal setting (such as was this get-to-know-you-bbq-gathering I went to) you could drop the jacket but keep a nice buttoned shirt (no polo).

In the end, the activity I was invited to went well and I blended in perfectly, clothes wise, by following the advice above.

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