Author Topic: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?  (Read 9408 times)

Jack

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So the traditional job interview attire is a navy or dark grey suit, conservative shirt and tie. However, I've been reading stuff saying that for tech jobs (especially Silicon Valley startups), wearing that might make you look like you don't fit in with the hip, casual company culture.

I have a third-round interview for a software engineering job at a company at a well-established (30+ year old) company in Maryland. (The screening and technical interview were over the phone; now they're flying me up to see if I fit in and whatnot.) I know that their normal company dress code is business casual ranging towards casual for programmers. What should I wear:
  • traditional job interview attire (which would require me to buy a new suit, since I've noticed that the dark grey one I have doesn't fit anymore)
  • a suit of a less traditional variety (choices include light grey or black with 3 buttons), optionally with a less-conservative shirt and tie
  • something even more casual, e.g. Khakis / polo / brown sport coat

?

Cathy

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2015, 09:36:42 AM »
I have a third-round interview for a software engineering job at a company at a well-established (30+ year old) company in Maryland.

It depends on the company. Even in California, there are some companies that prefer more traditional clothing. However, the general rule is that if the company is a "tech company", meaning its primary business activity is technology-oriented (as opposed to say a more diversified company that has an "IT division"), then wearing a suit is probably unnecessary.

You should try to find out some information on the specific company. For example, if you have any contacts there, you can ask them what is appropriate to wear to the interview. If not, you could try asking the recruiter (internal or external) that you are working with. Even internal recruiters have some incentive for you to be hired as they are expected to bring on a reasonable number of candidates per time period as part of their job. (A recruiter who doesn't lead to any candidates being hired is not very useful.) At the company where I work, the candidate is explicitly told to wear casual clothes and not to wear a suit. Many candidates wear jeans and a t-shirt and that is fine.

If you absolutely can't find out any information about the specific company, I would not wear a suit. Number 3 on your list is probably fine almost everywhere.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2015, 11:22:24 AM by Cathy »

vhalros

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2015, 09:52:21 AM »
Expectation varies from place to place, and there is no good way to  know in advance unless you know some one at the company. So I usually just ask the HR person I am in touch with; I send them a note something like "Hi, I remember that once upon a time one could always wear a suit to a job interview. However, these days it seems like the interview dress code varies from company to company. Any suggestions on appropriate dress?"

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2015, 09:54:09 AM »
I'd say it'd depend on the company and their focus.

Is it more along the lines of the typical 'Valley-style tech startup', or a more traditional tech company with a primarily-enterprise clientele, in the vein of IBM?

Even looking at their website would give you the impression of the type of company it is.

dividendman

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2015, 10:40:45 AM »
I've interviewed a lot of people and interviewed a lot myself. When I'm interviewing people I don't pay very much attention to what they're wearing unless they look just completely ridiculous.

Whenever I go to an interview I wear a suit (and I'm in Silicon Valley and work in tech, although I'm in the management chain now) but not a tie because they're not comfortable for 8 hours of interviews. Out east they are a bit more conservative so I'd say suit and tie.

[brag]I've never not gotten an offer.[/brag]

I do recall when they flew me out to Silicon Valley for my interview at my current place, and the first person to interview me was totally NOT in a suit (flip flops, shorts, t-shirt, tattoos, the whole shebang) it didn't seem to bother him or anyone that I was in a suit.

Finally, do what makes you feel the most comfortable. If you're not comfortable with how you look it'll come through confidence wise. I think one of the reasons I wear a suit is not to impress them but because I feel more confident in one. I know it's silly, but there it is.

NorCal

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2015, 10:45:45 AM »
Expectation varies from place to place, and there is no good way to  know in advance unless you know some one at the company. So I usually just ask the HR person I am in touch with; I send them a note something like "Hi, I remember that once upon a time one could always wear a suit to a job interview. However, these days it seems like the interview dress code varies from company to company. Any suggestions on appropriate dress?"

+1


Paul der Krake

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2015, 11:10:33 AM »
Option 3.

chasesfish

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2015, 11:24:37 AM »
You should absolutely ask the HR Director.  I interview people and I wouldn't be offended by the question at all.

Ask it like "One quick question, would I be out of place wearing a suit to the interview?"  You'll either get a quick "no" meaning they at least dress business casual and won't mind, or they'll tell you that you'd be out of place and its very casual around work.  In that case, go with the slacks, professional shirt (either button up or professional polo), and sport coat.

You always want to dress at least one tier better for an interview, unless you know the dress code is a suit five days a week.  You could away wear a tuxedo, but that might be a little ridiculous.

bacchi

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2015, 11:27:07 AM »
Option 3.

Yep, unless it's an east coast bank or insurance outfit. Even then, at this point in my career, I'd still go with option 3.

MayDay

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2015, 05:17:15 PM »
I'd wear a suit you already own, with whatever shirt and tie (or no tie) that makes you feel comfortable.

zurich78

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2015, 08:07:24 PM »
You need to ask the recruiter.

electriceagle

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2015, 09:41:50 PM »
You could away wear a tuxedo, but that might be a little ridiculous.

Unless the company expects you to be both casual and wildly creative, in which case you should wear a tuxedo, ride a unicycle and put a balloon hat on your head.

(I actually know a guy who got a senior devloper position in Silicon Valley this way.)

curler

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2015, 09:58:55 PM »
When in doubt, wear a suit.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2015, 01:04:20 AM »
Wear suit trousers (not black), a shirt and a V-neck jumper. Have a tie in your bag and a jacket either in your bag or over your arm. Arrive early, see what everyone else is wearing and go to the loo and adjust appropriately.

(Although I do agree with asking HR if there is a dress code for the interview.)

4alpacas

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2015, 09:16:53 AM »
You could away wear a tuxedo, but that might be a little ridiculous.

Unless the company expects you to be both casual and wildly creative, in which case you should wear a tuxedo, ride a unicycle and put a balloon hat on your head.

(I actually know a guy who got a senior devloper position in Silicon Valley this way.)

Jack

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2015, 11:14:23 AM »
I asked the recruiter/HR person what to wear, and this is what she said:
Quote
As for interview attire, I would say that you don’t have to feel inclined to wear a suit… we are generally not the suit & tie type of culture, especially among our Software Engineers. I would say khakis and a collared shirt (no tie) would be fine, but for interview days our team that will be meeting you would be more business casual vs. casual. Wear whatever makes you comfortable, but I would say probably not jeans.

Nevertheless, I'm still weirded out by going against my parents' indoctrination that Thou Shalt Wear A Suit To An Interview. I guess maybe I'll wear khakis, a shirt and tie, and a sport coat, and then I can just take the latter two things off if it seems like I'm overdressed...?

jrmrjnck

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2015, 12:05:03 PM »
I think people often overestimate the casualness of tech companies. I just interviewed for a software job at a large west coast semiconductor company, and their job page explicitly instructed interviewees to wear a suit and tie. I did so, and did not feel out of place. In Maryland, you should be fine wearing either a suit or a more casual outfit.

waffle

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2015, 01:31:05 PM »
General rule of thumb is to wear attire that is one step up from what those doing the interview are wearing (up to a suit and tie). If the interviewer is wearing jeans and tshirt then you should wear a polo or collared shirt. if they are business casual then you step up to business. Often time you wont know that amount of detail about the company so like was said before it doesn't hurt to ask the recruiter.

Insanity

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2015, 02:38:48 PM »
I always wear a slacks, button down shirt, tie, and bring a suit/sports jacket.  No matter what the place is.   I demonstrate by communication skills that I can match their environment.

I had an interview with a tech company where the dress code was casual (i.e.: shorts, t-shirt, sandals if you wanted).  I still came in with my standard interview wear.  I don't regret it and I'm not worried about it.  I generally believe people can dress down, but I also can't go to work wearing shorts and sandals or even t-shirts.  Doesn't mean I can't do the job or can't talk with people there.


Mr. Green

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2015, 03:14:54 PM »
I've lived in MD my whole life and work in software engineering in the government sector. If I was being flown up here for an interview my personal minimum would be slacks/dress shirt/tie. I'd probably bring a jacket along too. Have you seen the company's website? Do they list executives on it? What are the wearing? Does the site look more polished/professional than startup?

asiljoy

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #20 on: May 21, 2015, 06:37:31 AM »
First and foremost, wear what you're going to be comfortable in. You don't want to split your focus from the interviewer because your tie is too tight or your toes are squished in your shoes.

Second, the best advice I've ever heard is dress one step up from the business environment. If you know they're business casual, I'd say the less formal suit is fine especially if that's what you're comfortable in.

*Side note, I decided long ago that if a company didn't want to hire me based on what I wore to an interview, they probably save me some trouble as really, is there a bigger "I'm a douchebag" flag to wave than that?

lil_miss_frugal

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2015, 08:00:09 AM »
Based on the response from the HR lady you should go ahead and wear slacks and a button up which IMO isn't dressed down and it isn't dressed up. A nice belt and shoes will work too!

Jack

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2015, 01:24:04 PM »
My interview was yesterday, so I figured I'd follow up and give resolution to the thread.

As it turned out, I just couldn't get comfortable with the idea of not wearing a suit, so I ended up buying a new one (it was <$100 from Burlington Coat Factory, so not bad -- especially since I'll eventually need it again anyway). I wore it with a long-sleeve dress shirt that was patterned just enough to look good either with or without a tie.

I wore the suit and tie to the interview, met with the first people with it on, then took off the jacket and tie before lunch and went through the rest of the interview(s) without them. I figure that was a good compromise between giving a good first impression and dressing appropriately to fit in.

At any rate, it worked, because they've made me an offer!

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2015, 01:28:58 PM »

At any rate, it worked, because they've made me an offer!

Nice! Grats!  Now you can toss the suit.   Good software engineers can wear anything.  My wife once wore pajamas to work because she knew they would be working all night on a project and wanted to be comfy.

Jack

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Re: Software job interview NOT in Silicon Valley... what to wear?
« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2015, 02:52:52 PM »

At any rate, it worked, because they've made me an offer!

Nice! Grats!  Now you can toss the suit.   Good software engineers can wear anything.  My wife once wore pajamas to work because she knew they would be working all night on a project and wanted to be comfy.

Thanks!

And when I said I'll need the suit again eventually, I mean for things other than work. I have no intention of wearing it to the office again!

; )