What to Wear to an Interview

Response to What to Wear for an IT Job Interview?. Is this just a huge bit stereotypical?

Who can blame them for not wanting to bother with their wardrobes? Fashion is fickle. Fashion is expensive. Fashion requires imagination and inspiration, and let’s face it, after a long day spent debugging code or trouble-shooting computer problems, there’s not a lot of creativity left for clothing.

But if there’s one professional occasion when a tech worker should think fashion first, it’s the job interview. CIOs says so. According to research conducted by Robert Half Technology, more than one-third (35 percent) of CIOs surveyed say that IT professionals should sport a suit for a job interview.

I don’t see any harm in wearing a suit and tie or such business attire if you have no other information to go on for IT, or other employees. That advice to candidates is perfectly fine. Asking what is appropriate attire when the interview is set is also a good idea. In fact, that is all you need to take from this post as an interviewee, in my opinion.

Is there any value in you wearing a suit? If so, then not doing so might be a negative. The psychology of what makes people uncomfortable is tricky. And dress is one of those factors that may seem trivial but to differing extents most people base opinions partial on dress (even if they claim they don’t). Some organization with casual dress codes may also look at being too dressed up as a bad sign (out of touch…). Basically they are experiencing the same discomfort with your dress even though most likely they would profess to find those making judgments based on dress to be superficial. The Manager FAQ does a good job of looking at the thought process behind some managers thinking on the topic.

My manager seems to dress funny. Is there any way to impress upon him the pointlessness of corporate appearance?

Your manager is probably aware that, in the abstract, the way she dresses changes nothing. However, part of her job is to interact with other people, and there are rules of etiquette for these dealings. Your manager’s clothing, even when she’s not dealing with other people, is selected in part as a way of telling you that she takes you seriously; it’s just like calling people “sir”. It’s a convention, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real convention, and your manager is honoring it.

Even if there is no value to doing so there are many people who make judgments on silly factors like clothing.

Now for the most important point for manager’s, from this post, if you evaluate software developers on how they dress please quit and go work in some other line of work. You really don’t have what is needed to manage software developers or system administrators. If you are hiring someone to sit in meetings with MBAs and translate technology to them, then maybe being comfortable in a suit is a valued trait. But if you are hiring someone to create code 90+% of the time the suit is a completely silly measurement of value.

Related: Curious Cat Management Improvement JobsIT Talent Shortage, or Management Failure?Hiring the Right WorkersGoogle’s Answer to Filling Jobs Is an Algorithm

When looking for a job you might decide you don’t want to work at a place that would make decisions on factors that don’t matter (if they are hiring based on non-sensible factors they definitely will be using that same management style in many other areas) so then not wearing a suit would be fine. If you are still looking for a job 6 months later your standards might change 🙂

More from the article, What to Wear for an IT Job Interview?:

Almost all Hiring Manager CIOs advise candidates to ask the hiring manager, recruiter or HR contact about the dress code if they’re unsure what to wear. Here are some of the more interesting responses CIOs interviewed for the Hiring Manager gave to the question, What should candidates wear to an interview?

Accellent CIO William Howell: “I think the individual organizing the interview owes the candidate the courtesy of telling them what dress code is expected—unless he is using that as part of his evaluation of the candidate. I’ve interviewed for jobs in informal companies and have felt very out of place when I arrived in a suit and tie. In today’s world, proper business attire is so confusing that I don’t think anyone should use it to evaluate candidates. They should instead give candidates a heads up of what is expected.”

Joel Spolsky’s latest post has some related points, Another resume tip

Now, there’s a lot of resumes I see where, actually, I suspect that the candidate may have been (ahem) slightly overemphasizing the management/leadership/”architect” parts of the job, and slightly underemphasizing the banging out of code. And that’s fine if you’re looking to jump to a management position at a big company that, inexplicably, doesn’t have anyone to promote from within.

But for startups, everything about your resume has to scream getting your own hands dirty. Otherwise your resume makes you look like you’re looking for the kind of job where you can call meetings that take people away from coding all day long, which, to a startup, is about as useful as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

6 thoughts on “What to Wear to an Interview

  1. I’m a CIO and I don’t think dress is important. However, I *do* think it’s important that candidates are interested in the organizations they are visiting. Therefore, they should try to make an estimated guess on how to dress properly for that organization. Wearing a suit when you’re interviewed by an organization where people don’t wear suits shows that you only thought about yourself, and not about the organization. And it’s the same the other way around.

  2. Trish Anne Murphy

    I believe dress and clothes DO make a difference in the majority of job interviews. Arriving at an interview in a suit versus jeans or Casual Wear would be more forgiving by most interviewers. Researching the organization prior to interview and having knowledge about their company is smart. It tells them your interested enough to do the homework.

  3. Wearing a suit is a smart and very easy thing to do. Other good things such as learning about the company or asking smart questions etc are not as easy.

    So, suit up.

  4. I go with the advice to ask the dress code. And if you forgot to ask when the interview was set up, just phone reception and ask. Say “Hi, I’m coming to a job interview today and was wondering what people normally wear into work.” You probably won’t even have to say your name, and the fact that you asked is unlikely to get back to anyone, and if it does, good on you – shows initiative. But if you absolutely can’t find out in advance, then consider wearing clothes that can go either way – such as a smart designer jacket that looks like a suit jacket when you’re sitting behind a desk, or a suit with a trendy shirt that enables you to look casual if you take off your jacket and tie because no one else is wearing suits. If in doubt, err on the smart side. And if you get it wrong, don’t worry. The worst thing to do would be to let your concern about wearing the wrong thing make you come across as someone lacking in confidence.

  5. The suit pattern should be solid, the suit should be new and pressed. I suggest a good material in tan or medium blue or medium grey, works for women who are looking for a coding position. Black for women who want to be in charge, but please soften the look somehow because we have all seen the all black look and it does not impress anyone anymore. The length should be longish skirt and collared shirt with maybe a fine knit vest to keep your look neat. Be careful of the fine knit blouse because some men think this is a t-shirt. For an accounting position, the blue suit may still be the way to go, but please soften the look somehow, so that you are approachable and friendly to talk with. Don’t overdue the look at all, you want clean smooth lines and simple style that doesn’t interfere with what you have to say. If you look professional, but not over done, you may land the job. I have been to lots of interviews as a contractor and I have suppervised many people whom I meet for the first time, and I know that the clothes do tell me how sincere and professional a person is.

  6. I remember reading ‘How Would You Move Mount Fuji?’ when it was published in 2003 and being shocked at the comments on interviewees who wore suits. I always felt men had it easy with a simple black suit always being a acceptable option for an interview.

    In the book the author comments on not remembering any non sales or business staff who wore a suit to the interview and were offered a position. It’s one thing to have a culture where people dress comfortably but deciding not to hire people who follow social customs? I have always believed wearing a suit and getting a haircut was a sign of respect to those interviewing me.


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