Ever since innovative tech leaders started appearing in public professional conferences in jeans, t-shirts and hoodies, casual attire has become ubiquitous in the tech workplace.
“In recent years, with the increase of Millennials in the workforce, there is a much more casual approach to work attire. For the Baby Boomer generation, casual Fridays may have been a novelty; today, many companies embrace the jean and T-shirt approach in tech offices,” says Shane Lamb, SVP of CyberCoders.
But when it comes to job interviews, choosing the best attire can be tricky.
There are conflicting opinions floating around the web on how to dress for a job interview at a technology company.
In fact, this issue surprisingly sparked a mini debate among our very own tech team. If you dress too stiff and formal, you may come off a bit old school (e.g. Bill Gates, circa 1995). And too casual, and you could be perceived as immature.
It really depends on the company culture.
“A small company in New York may have a very buttoned-up culture and work style (so a suit may be appropriate for an interview), but a large tech company in Silicon Valley can have a relaxed workwear style (where a suit may look a little overdressed),” says Elise Armitage, who is a Googler by day and a fashion blogger by night.
There’s a premium on how you dress. In studies that measured how dress affects success, dressing well almost always correlated with higher salary for men. For women, dress influences job security.
So, we asked Armitage and a couple other fashion experts on what to wear to your next job interview:
“Ask the recruiter you're working with if a suit would be appropriate or business casual,” Armitage says. “Most will say business casual.”
Be sure to inquire specifically about the interview attire—not just company attire. Even if the workplace is casual, if a candidate shows up to the interview in casual clothes, the hiring manager may read this as a lack of seriousness and commitment to the job,” says Matt Miller, CTO at CyberCoders.
Dawnn Karen, MA, fashion psychologist, explains that “the tech industry as an entire entity tends to have a level of comfort in the companies’ fashion culture,” she says. “Please ensure you are comfortable.”
Karen recommends checking out Banana Republic’s Startup Guy collection for men and The Limited Scandal Collection for women.
No matter what the culture or day-to-day dress code may be, you should prove that you have what it takes to meet with important clients for business development. This comes with the job.
Keep in mind, experts say:
Also, showing way too much skin (for the females) is another fashion faux pas. It’s hard for your interviewer to take you seriously if your outfit’s too revealing.
“A tip for wearing skirts for business: Make sure they're not too tight or too short. A couple inches above the knee is about as high as you'd want to go,” she writes in her casual workwear post.
After all, the point of the job interview is to show them that you’d be a great cultural fit—someone they wouldn’t mind being stuck at an airport with. Show them you’re human with a little individuality rather than a stiff, boring candidate.
Here’s what Armitage wore to her Google interview (left), though she switched the Chanel bag for a black tote bag:
Or, she’d wear an outfit (on the right), mixing neutral colors like black and grey with a pop of turquoise for an interview.