What’s the Dress Code for Job Interviews These Days?

Your outfit could show employers whether you fit in

2 min read

Several men and women sitting in a line for a job interview.
Photo: iStockphoto

THE INSTITUTEThere’s a lot of confusion about what job candidates should wear for interviews at today’s tech companies and startups. Are suits and skirts too formal? Are jeans and sneakers too casual? Does anyone even care how you dress as long as you can do the job?

I decided to ask a few IEEE members who started their own companies about what they tell job candidates to wear.  I also checked several career-related forums to see what others say about interview attire.

Member Anurag Garg, cofounder of Dattus, an industrial Internet of Things company, says to dress for the job you’re interviewing for, while also being considerate of the company’s and industry’s culture.

“We don't have hard guidelines on what people should wear to interviews,” Garg says, “and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to interviewing at startups. I personally prefer an outside salesperson be dressed well, but wouldn’t mind a developer interviewing in a T-shirt and shorts. There are startups that would prefer everyone dress casually, others where you’re expected to dress formally for interviews, and some where a suit jacket would be considered too formal and not a cultural fit.”

Wear somethiong that represents your personality, says Member Samantha Snabes, the founder of re:3D, in Austin, Texas, which makes the Gigabot, an industrial-strength printer. 

“At the end of the day the interview process is as much about whether the applicant identifies with the culture as it is whether the employer thinks they will fit in,” she says.

A post on the recruiting website Ivy Exec, “What to Wear to an Interview at a Startup (So You Don’t Embarrass Yourself),” says candidates need to show that not only are they professional but also that they’ll fit in with the company culture. “Showing up too casually dressed suggests you are not taking the interview seriously, and overdressing implies you are rigid with a corporate attitude,” it notes. The article advises candidates to investigate what the company’s culture is by checking its website and social media pages for pictures or videos of employees.

The smartest move is to ask the HR department, according to tips from experts in a Bostinno post on the startup network American Inno.

“Even if you are sure what to wear, ask HR what you should wear to the job interview and wear exactly that,” Ronjon Bhattacharya of Kendall Staffing says in the post. “From the interview point of view, this is a really common question and shows good judgment on your part.”

Recruiter Douglas S. Benson wrote in a post on a Quora forum to keep in mind that “the clothes don't make the woman or man. Your skills and your fit for that role do. The goal of dressing appropriately is to match the impression you’re out to give, rather than either detract from it or mask your weaknesses.”

What is your advice for how to dress for an interview?

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