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Interview Attire

I have an interview coming up and I was curious to ask others about appropriate interview attire.

The job is an embedded software development position.  The company seems to be small and laid back.  I strongly suspect that most of the developers wear T-shirts and jeans to work on a daily basis.

Historically, I have worn a proper suit and tie to my interviews, but I have gotten comments occasionally about being over dressed.  It doesn't seem to be a problem, but it is occasionally uncomfortable to be dressed so much more formally than the people with whom I am interviewing.  Honestly, I think it makes the interviewer more uncomfortable than myself, which is slightly worrisome.  At the same time, it projects confidence, and generally seems like appropriate attire when trying to 'put your best foot forward.'

Thoughts on this?  I was considering stepping down to dress pants and a dress shirt without tie (so-called business casual).  Is that appropriate, or is it better to stick with the suit and ignore any comments about being overdressed?
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Dress police
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
No suit. Don't dress down either. Something nice, clean, that shows you are a normal person.
son of parnas
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Wearing suit to an interview shouldn't be a problem.

Though best thing to do would be to ask HR person about appropriate attire for interview. By talking to them you should get idea whether suit is a must or not.
JD Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
When I interviewed for my current position I was in a full suit. The owner of the company interviewed me in jean shorts, sneakers and a polo shirt.

When we were hiring a year later, not a single applicant came in a suit. Khakis and a buttoned shirt seemed to be the norm.

In the end, though, it's better to overdress than underdress.
Yoey Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I'd personally always wear a suit to an interview. I'd say that the number of companies likely to mark you down for wearing one are far outnumbered by the number that would mark you down for not wearing one.

The only exception of course would be if they explicitly ask you not to wear one or say not wearing one isn't a problem. In that situation I have still worn a suit. I certainly wouldn't not wear one based on what I thought the company may or may not be expecting based on the companies general dress code.

First impressions are important, even if the interviewer doesn't think he's bias with regard to dress code it's a lot easier to look smart in a suit than it is even in a very smart t-shirt and jeans.
gilf Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
If you're interviewing with a game company, don't wear a tie.

Other than that? I'd go with the "ask the HR department" and then step up one notch from what they suggest.
Chris Tavares Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Dress Police --

That guy has some outrageous restrictions on attire.  I agree that looking professional is of high importance, but restricting to a pressed *white* shirt?  I regularly wear conservative solid colors with my suit and I think it helps me stand out without being over the top.  I intend to wear a solid maroon shirt to my interview, but I've worn tan, brown, gray, and blue shirts before.  (Don't get me started on blue, though.  Men with no creativity sense drove the blue dress shirt into the ground, and now blue is the new white -- boring and passe.)

I also can't afford a Rolex.  I guess I'll just never be able to properly give off that image of success.  My conservative metallic Fossil watch will have to suffice.

I'm currently leaning towards wearing the suit.  If it seems overly formal, I'll remove the jacket.  As was correctly pointed out, overdressing is rarely as much a potential problem as underdressing.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
What about a suit without a tie?  It offers the versatility to step down a notch by removing the jacket.

Just throwing out some ideas.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Dress Police -

Is that site intended to be humorous?  It feels backwards on a number of levels.

OP -

You have two choices:
  1 - wear a suit;
  2 - get instructions from the interviewers as to what level of dress they expect.

Follow one of those two choices and you will do fine.
Colin Dellow Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I think it's absolutely worthwhile to ask the recruiter or HR contact what they recommend. They have no incentive to lie to you, and they work with candidates every day. They will know what people wear.

I have worked in companies where people may have missed out on job offers because they came to the interview in a suit. People would say they're not a good "cultural fit." I personally think that's incredibly stupid, but I also didn't have sole say in the hiring process. Dressing nicely is important, but dressing too nicely can be perilous. If the people who will be interviewing you can never picture themselves in a suit (even for an interview), they may think that a candidate in a suit isn't "one of them" and thus won't fit in.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I recommend what "Interviewee" mentioned -- except go ahead and wear a tie, but also wear something that looks good if you take off the jacket and tie. That way you have the most versitility without being unprepared.
Dr. Mario Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Instead of trying to peg an absolute dress code, it's simpler to follow this relative rule of thumb: be one level more formal than the manager/person interviewing you.

So if they wear a non-suit jacket, trousers, tie, you need to interview in a suit. If your future manager wears jeans and T-shirt, you just need to wear Dockers and a button-down.

(Don't worry about the boundary problem: if they wear a suit, you need to wear a better, more stylish suit. If they wear a superduper stylish tuxedo, you can loop back to zero and go naked.)
slava Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Yes, that Oracale-DBA site could almost be a spoof. Except that looking at the rest of the site I don't think it is.

The guy actually comes across as a complete jerk. Instead of having a brief 'we expect you to be smart, and that usually means a suit, as many of our customers are banks etc' he goes off on that ridiculous spiel. Complete with stupid photos and everything.

It looks to me like he's got too much time on his hands. After all, if somebody's got such definite ideas about how his staff ought to dress why put it on a public website. Shouldn't that be in the 'staff handbook' or even better just be handled in a face to face.

And if he's talking about contractors, well, I'm sorry, but the whole point about being a contractor is just that. All he has to say is 'It's Chase Manahtten, and you'll be dealing with the CTO so best to look smart, eh'. But dictating to contractors every little item of dress is just not on.

And as for women can't wear slacks. It's 2005 for god's sake! All my male staff are allowed to turn up in dresses.
Dress police
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
dress one step above the dress code for the role.

eg. it would be silly to interview for the role of janitor in a tux.

its not about class, either.  if you're interviewing as a common salesperson (minimum wage) in a cheap suit store, you should wear your best suit.

most development environments are business casual, so go in dressed like you're seeing a client.  ie. a sport coat and khakis should be fine (or nix the sport coat if its a hot day).
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Just wear clean and well pressed trousers and shirt. If you are an engineer, a suit is an overkill. Engineers who done come in contact with customers hardly need to wear suits. So why bother wearing something that is not required for your job? You can wear shorts and other beach wear but lots of people out there would take this to be a slack/casual approach to the interview from your side. So I wont risk it.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Listen to microsoft..........

"Wear whatever makes you comfortable in an interview. Microsoft prizes intelligence and contribution over style. The people who interview you will probably be dressed like the people on your college campus"
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
As an interviewee, I always wear a suit simply because I like to wear it on any appropriate occasion.

As an interviewer, I'm not even sure that I even notice whether or not a candidate is wearing a suit.  When I interview someone, I'm more inclined to think things like "How well do they know C++?", "Are they smart?" and "What are some projects they've worked on in the past?" rather than "How nicely are they dressed?".  The kind of places that won't hire otherwise good people for silly reasons like what they wore to the interview probably aren't the kind of places I'd want to work at anyway. 

On the other hand, the idea of wearing a suit to an interview is standard enough that it's easy to see how a candidate who doesn't wear one could be perceived, even if only subconsciously, as lazy or presumptuous.  Getting a suit, keeping it tidy, and putting it and a tie on takes much more work than khakis and a dress shirt so it at least demonstrates on some level that the candidate cares enough about the job to put in some effort. 

I think asking HR is a useless idea.  I've never worked at a place, or heard of a place, that has an explicit policy "Interviewees MUST wear a suit" or "Interviewees MUST NOT be discriminated against on the basis of suit or no suit" so I'm not sure what value the HR person's opinion would be.  In every situation I've seen, the suit thing is left to the personal opinion, possibly subconscious, of the interviewer.  The HR people I've worked with as an interviewer have had no clue what I'm thinking with regards to suit or no suit.
SomeBody Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I vote for the Wear-a-suit-and-loose-the-jacket route.

If you walk into the room, and everyone is wearing T-shirts and Jeans, you can make deliberatly (but unobtrusively) remove your jacket and place it on the back of your chair. This subcontiously brings you closer to their level.

If you walk in, and everyone is wearing a 5 piece suit with tripple starched collars at least you dressed at close to the same level
Code Slave Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I wore a suit and no tie to interview for my current position (this is Los Angeles).  It looks nice, but I didn't stand out in an office where the dress code is casual (jeans/slacks/polo, etc). To me, a jacket is "nice but not overdressed", whereas adding a tie pushes it into "overdressed".  Even a tie without a jacket, to me, screams "interview costume".  YMMV, of course.
EAW Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
> The kind of places that won't hire otherwise good
> people for silly reasons like what they wore to
> the interview probably aren't the kind of places I'd
> want to work at anyway.

This is a popular (and sensible) type of thing to say. But I honestly don't think it holds up very well in the real world.

First, most companies have dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of people who might potentially be involved in an interview process. If any single one of them has a problem with the way a candidate dresses, it might hurt that person's chance of being hired. No company can control the thoughts and actions of all of their employees, and that's exactly what would be required to avoid ever turning away a candidate due to their clothing.

Secondly, and more importantly, companies that might not hire someone because of the way they dressed would virtually NEVER do it consciously. It manifests itself as "not a good cultrual fit," "didn't seem like part of the team," "didn't have a connection," "something just didn't seem right," etc. Even if an individual interviewer is consciously against someone because of their dress, they're unlikely to say it out loud. So they may make negative comments that cause the candidate to lose out on an offer, but not say that it's because of their clothing. Then the company has not hired someone "for silly reasons" without even knowing it. Again, this is impossible to control in a company larger than one employee. Humans are involved.

Finally, every company of any significant size has weaknesses. Granted, a weakness in hiring is big. But it's not practical for most people to refuse to work for a company that has weaknesses. One just has to choose which weaknesses are acceptable to them.

I'd be willing to bet significant money that any employer with more than 50 people has decided against hiring at least one person due to the way they dressed, even if it was never consciously spoken. It sucks, but that's human nature. If no company with more than 50 people is the kind of place you'd want to work, great. Otherwise, it's best to just accept the fact that hiring is an imperfect process and do your best to get through it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
If you perspire, the jacket will cover up the pitstains. :-)

When I did my interview at Amazon back in the late-middle 90s, the HR person coordinating my day told me specifically that "a suit would be inappropriate," which was a little offputting. (I hadn't even asked.)

This was after working at Microsoft, where the person wearing slacks instead of jeans or shorts was asked where they were interviewing that day.

I like suit-no-tie, for the same reason as the previous poster, and because you can regulate temperature with layers so you're physically comfortable.  If your suit is uncomfortable to wear, you need a better-fitting one.
Art Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I used to go for button-down shirt, khakis, and no tie.  But later on I started wearing a suit to every interview.  What I've found is that while a suit won't get me the job, it never hurts to wear it.

At my current development job I wear jeans every day, and I knew that would be the case after the first interview, but I still wore a suit to both interviews, and I plan to do the same at any future interview.  While it may be petty of people to judge a candidate by whether or not he wears a suit, I'm at the point where I just don't care; let somebody else worry about whether he'll rule himself out because he can't stand to wear a tie for two or three hours.
Kyralessa Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I've got an interview tommorow at a small ISV and I'm going in a suit, but losing the waistcoat and the tie.

I'm actually kinda like having an excuse to wear it, cause girls love it.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Burleson Consulting Dress Code : "Skirt Suit - No pants allowed, ever. [...] You should always shave legs (_f wearing skirts_" . Mmmm..

BTW, what's the point of requiring people to wear a suit for interviews, while letting them dress down once they're hired?
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Because someday they might have to meet with a client, and it shows you they know how to dress up when they need to.
Kyralessa Send private email
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I think it's also a cultural thing, here in the UK and Europe a suit is very much order of the day. My current job is the first place I have worked in IT that doesn't require a suit.
gilf Send private email
Thursday, July 14, 2005
OK, it's the 21st century and all that, but I've been interviewing recently; correlation between wearing a skirt suit vs a trouser suit and offer vs rejection is 100%.

I'd have to say that taken over my career, wearing a skirt to the interview about doubles my chances of getting an offer. I'm not sure it's a conscious decision by the interviewers, but there's definitely an effect...
Katie Lucas
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Cultural indeed. Here in Israel, you'll get funny looks if you walk around a hi-tech company in a suit. I've been in the industry for 5 years, and have never worn a suit. I don't do clients, though.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
I'm pretty sure the whole dba-oracle article is a joke.  That, or this article is ALSO not a joke: (scroll down to the "working naked" part near the bottom, you can't miss it)
pds Send private email
Friday, July 15, 2005

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