After a series of phone screenings, you’ve finally landed a job interview with a company you’re really excited about. Then you realize your de facto outfit is jeans and a t-shirt, and that’s not going to cut it. What do you wear?
It’s a decision that hits everyone in tech at some point. The often-casual atmosphere of many tech offices can give a false sense of familiarity we tend to overlook until it’s time to find a new job. You have to think differently when you’re applying for your next gig.
A Tech Interview is Not a Fashion Show
People at a club will judge your attire on Saturday nights, but your interviewer will judge you even more harshly, and the stakes are higher. Now is not the time to peacock your way into their office or try to ironically dress down in your $700 ripped jeans.
Whatever you decide to wear, try dialing back the ‘trend’ factor. You may really like those weathered jeans that somehow look great with a blazer, but for a first impression… maybe stick to black slacks. That kitschy skirt may be a fun thing to wear on weekends at the coast, but it’s distracting to interviewers.
Keep it neutral. The less attention you draw to your clothing, the more they’ll focus on your skills and demeanor.
Too Casual is Wrong
You may like coding in a big, baggy sweater. Morning stand-ups may be more comfortable in your New Balances. But you’re not there yet. It may be a very laid-back company with an accepting culture, but you’re still there for a professional interview. Even though the job may not require a suit, arriving in jeans or leggings is not okay.
If you’re working with a recruiter (and you probably are), ask them what the proper attire around the office is; then try to get just beyond that line. If they tell you jeans and a collared shirt are de rigueur, slacks and a button-down should be fine for the interview.
Leave the Jewelry to a Minimum
Do you like peacocking around town with five chains on? Great. Good for you, Milo. Leave it at home when it’s time for your tech interview.
Like bright blue pants, too much jewelry is a bad look when making a first impression in a professional setting. It’s distracting, maybe more so than blinding pants or an Ed Hardy shirt. So keep the rings, bling, and other things to a minimum. Don’t go full DJ Khaled.
Pro Tip: Be a Stalker – Then Seek Help!
Imagine this: you land the interview, and you ask the recruiter about the company dress code. They say: “We’re pretty casual here.”
What does that even mean?!
Instead of guessing, do some recon. Hang out at a popular restaurant near the office around lunch time to see what people are wearing. If the company you’re interviewing for has employee badges, look for people with those around their neck or hanging off their belts. It’s your purest indicator of what the day-to-day attire is.
After you’ve stalked your potential future coworkers (and taken a shower to wash the shame off yourself), head to the store. Most interviews for tech pros will be office-casual, which is a good starting point to keep in mind, but don’t go it alone.
Many clothing stores will have people on-hand to help you pick out an outfit or wardrobe. Even nicer department stores such as Nordstroms have stylists available (for free!) to help you navigate the clothing conundrum. And fellas, Men’s Wearhouse is full of helpful staffers. And take a friend if you can; a second opinion is always helpful.
Comfort Helps Performance
The tech interview process can be long and difficult, and they may put you in front of a whiteboard to see how homicidal you are. So our last bit of advice is to dress comfortably. Wear comfortable shoes. If pants that stretch a bit when you sit or move are available, opt for them. If you think you may sweat, don’t wear tight clothing.
Like your attire, there’s a happy medium of comfort. You may have to spend a few bucks on new shoes without the swoosh, but looking and feeling relaxed in your interview will allow you to focus on the task at hand.