Selecting interview attire for a technical job interview

  • According to the book "Programming Interviews Exposed":

    In general, though, a suit is overkill for a technical job interview. A standard technical interviewing outfit for men consists of nondenim cotton pants, a collared shirt, and loafers (no sneakers or sandals). Unless the job you're interviewing for has a significant business or consulting aspect whereby formal dress will be required, you generally don't need to wear a jacket or a tie. Women can dress similarly to men.

    There are a few ways of finding out the appropriate attire for an interview. You can ask a friend that knows the place, or if there is a 3rd-party recruiter you're talking to, I wouldn't feel shy in asking them about this area of interview prep.

    If you don't have a friend, or 3rd party recruiter, is there another way that you could ask directly without coming off weird? Please include the exact language you would use in the question.

    To me, I would rather "play it safe" and be over-dressed at a casual office, than be under-dressed at a conservative office. Is it better just to play it safe?

    On the other hand I read in "The Google Resume" (emphasis mine):

    '[Tech companies] pride themselves on their funky and innovative culture, and they want people who will fit into this. "You have to prove why you are there, and that you know you fit within their community, that you enjoy the lifestyle," said Andre, a (successful) Apple candidate. "The moment my interviewer said, 'We are very informal' I took off my tie."'


    Based on some of the answers below, it's better to play it safe and go with a suit. Should we be conservative in the kind of suit as well? In the market you could find a navy stripe suit, modern fit, light colors, etc. Is it better to play it safe in this regard as well, and not choose a funky color or a light-colored suit?

    In my opinion, you're going in to impress. I would at least wear a tie but wearing a suit may set yourself apart from the other candidates if they don't wear suits. Your interview and attire should work together to help get the job.

    Yes, it's better to play it safe. Wear the suit. You're showing respect for the people who are taking time to meet with you.

    This isn't enough to warrant an answer, but I wanted to point out that even if you don't have a 3rd-party recruiter you can ask, you absolutely have *some* contact at the company you can ask about typical attire (although I always err on the side of over-dressing, but not to the point you're uncomfortable). Asking doesn't make you look unprepared, and no one would bat an eye if you did.

    Thanks for your comment. Who would that contact be, generally?

    Really, anyone who calls (or emails) to set up the appointment would be able to tell you what people normally wear to work. I wouldn't overthink it. :)

    +1 to @jcmeloni for simply asking your recruiter or whatever hiring manager you're scheduling the interview with. I worked for a recruiter for a while, and we always helped coach candidates on their attire prior to their interviews.

    @Abby Shoot. Maybe I should've made it an answer. :)

    I think that there are cultural and regional aspects to this question that could come into play. In some western European countries, the attire is quite casual, even it is for a customer facing position. I mean, some of my sales colleagues even wear jeans to visit clients.

    I almost wonder if this should be on Programmers, but I'm not voting to close it as I'm pretty sure they won't want this question there.

    I always thought wearing a suit without the tie was a nice compromise if in doubt.

    This may be accurate for a technical job with a technical company, but most industries expect a suit & tie or a business suit or dress for women.

    @dreza: if you want to do shabby/smart properly, then for full marks wear black tie / tuxedo, with the tie untied but still draped around the neck. Double marks for women who do this. Black tie is generally inappropriate before evening, but this doesn't apply if you're still up from the night before. If you're absolutely confident that the company is committed to its "casual, fun-loving" public pose, place an empty champagne bottle on the reception desk on your way in. Jerks in turtlenecks and slacks won't know what hit them.

    @tehnyit: *all* of my sales and senior management colleagues wear jeans to visit clients (company in London). It's close to a dress code, although women are allowed a bit more variety. But then, most of our clients are in marketing/creative.

    Your job interview is your first opportunity to show the company that you are prepared to make a reasonable effort to learn what is expected of you and then do it. Ask what to wear to the interview, and follow those instructions as if getting hired depends on it.

  • bethlakshmi

    bethlakshmi Correct answer

    9 years ago

    I'm going to run counter to the answer so far that say "if in doubt, wear a suit". I agree with the referenced quote - developers typically do not wear suits, they wear upscale business casual - slacks, khakis, sweaters, polo shirts, button down shirts or similar (and female equivalents). Rarely in the last 10 years have I interviewed a technical professional in a suit, tie or even a jacket - and those rare occasions are usually college students.

    That said - when interviewing for a management or customer-facing position, I'd say it's still advisable to wear a suit. Similiarly, if you plan to market your strong suit as presentations and/or soft skills to non-technical people - wear a suit - show that you know how to dress well.

    But, by and large, development has become such a dress-down game, that I don't feel a suit works to one's best advantage - it often strikes me as a little too old school or as if the applicant isn't aware of current norms.

    To circle round, though - I really don't think I'd turn down or accept an applicant based on whether they missed the boat on suit vs. business casual. Being obviously dirty, offensively dressed, or vulgar might rule a candidate out, but once we get within the range of professional attire, its what's in the candidate's head that matters.

    Absolutely. If you look put-together and like you gave some thought to your appearance that morning, I don't care what your pants are made out of.

    Wearing a "suit and tie" can never hurt your chances, and if by some random chance is the reason they didn't select you, do you really want to work at that business. I grew up knowing that men wear suit and ties to job interviews and women wear either a suit or a work formal dress ( i.e. not the dress you wear to the club )

    While it's now optional to forego the suit for an interview (I always wear a suit, because I like a nice-looking suit and it makes me feel good), it's always a good idea to wear an outfit that makes you feel good about yourself. Don't go out and buy a suit the day before your interview because you're freaking out. If you have chosen an outfit, make sure it makes you feel good--then get it tailored to really fit your body. This is especially the case for a suit, and even button-down shirts and pants.

    -1 - you can and will get rejected if you don't wear a suit when you're expected do.

    @bharal he covered that in "If in doubt, wear a suit". The inference being that you would only not wear a suit if you've been explicitly told not to. You're right though, nobody has ever been turned away from an interview for being too smart or taking it too seriously (with the possible exception of a clown), but it's possible to instantly lose a job opportunity if you turn up under-dressed to the interview. "If in doubt, wear a suit" is the simplest, most important piece of advice

    @JonStory might be my mistake - i read *I'm going to run counter to the answer so far that say "if in doubt, wear a suit".* as indicating the the OP was disagreeing with the advice to wear a suit when in doubt.

    @Ramhound this may also work the opposite way. I, for example, would never work for a company that rejects my application because I'm not wearing a suit at the interview. If they're THAT conservative about dress code, they might be really conservative about coding too, and that's almost never a good thing.

    This is also really location specific. I work in the UK, always wear a suit to any job interview, and every developer I've interviewed has worn a suit.

    I've worn a suit for a technical interview in the UK - any interview it's safe to wear a suit, a comment like "you didn't need to wear a suit" with a smile is better than a "you should have worn a suit" without a smile

    @bgrworkwr the rule applies to any job though. The saying "You dress to impress" exists for a reason. You should also know who your interviewing for, causal work places at either spectrum are well known

    It totally depends on the company and its culture. "I've worked hard to no longer have to wear a tie" is a positive for some, and a negative for others.

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution


Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM