38

What would you wear to an engineering position interview?

Suit-and-tie seems anachronistic to me, especially considering how some of my colleagues dress for work on a daily basis. Is it still the norm?

60

I would wear a suit and tie, unless the interviewer said otherwise before the interview.

There is nothing wrong with asking what is appropriate before hand.

In any case, it is better to be over dressed than underdressed.

To @Spoike's points, you are right, if you are not comfortable wearing a suit, that may hurt rather than help. However, I don't think being overdressed can make you come off as condescending. If you act condescending while wearing a suit, that is one thing, but the clothes themselves won't do it. If anything, I think you could come off as cocky if you show up under-dressed, since that can send the message that you are too good to bother dressing up for this interview.

45 accepted

The only technical interview where I've ever felt inapprpropriately dressed was the time I wore a suit to interview at google. [rolls eyes at self]

The people interviewing me, with whom I was hoping to become peers, were all wearing jeans and tee shirts. I felt like a complete idiot, was uncomfortable all day (for the standard 8-hour google marathon interview), and I didn't get the job.

Never again.

These days, I always wear jeans and a long-sleeved, collared shirt (usually black). No one has ever made any comment about my dress, and my clothes are usually equivalent to whatever the interviewers are wearing. Casual attire helps me relax and feel more confidant during the interview.

I've been told that people in the movie industry (actors, writers, etc) are severely looked down upon if they wear anything non-casual to a pitch meeting. Wear a tie, and people will smell the rookie from a mile away. The only people in hollywood who wear suits are execs and agents.

I think the same thing is true for any creative profession. Conforming to a dress code during an interview conveys that you're not part of the in-crowd of creative types.

Generally, I think wearing a suit to a technical interview at a software company will do you more harm than good.

(All bets are off, though, if you're interviewing for a technical position at a non-software company. Be sure to ask the hiring manager about appropriate attire. They will almost certainly tell you "business casual", which tells you almost nothing.)

40

Wow, a lot of people here are completely missing the point.

What you wear has nothing to do with your abilities; everyone knows that. What it does pertain to is culture fit, which is more important than raw abilities.

Yes. Culture fit is more important than coding skillz. You can argue until you're blue in the face that only abilities should matter, but you'll always lose.

So, you say, I don't want to work in a culture that requires a clean shirt. That's fine. But why deliberately put yourself at a disadvantage in the amorphous "do I like you" judgment? If you wear what they expect you to wear, then YOU have the power. If they offer you a job, even if you don't want to take it, you can use it to negotiate with other companies.

So...what do they expect you to wear? That's company- and country-specific. If you're in a place like the silicon valley where there are "no rules" (which is false - that just means they're unwritten), then here's a general approach.

Find out what people who work there wear. Find people on LinkedIn who work there, and look on google, facebook, and their blog for pictures. Find out who you'll be interviewing with and do the same with them. Go to user group meetings in the evenings where some of their employees might hang out. Once you find out what they wear, go half a step up the niceness scale.

If they wear:          Then you should wear:
tshirts & jeans        a polo shirt; nice jeans, chinos, or slacks
polo shirts            a button down with no tie and rolled-up sleeves; slacks 
button downs & slacks  a button down with no tie; suit-style slacks; sport jacket
slacks/sport jackets   a suit on the less-conservative side
suits                  a banker-style conservative suit

Whatever you wear, make sure it's good quality and fits you. Finally: don't ask what you should wear. Recruiters always say a suit, and most technical interviewers can't articulate what they're expecting.

Of course, there's a totally different set of expectations for women programmers, with even more pitfalls. sigh

17

Some people seem to be saying that it's "ridiculous" to have to wear a suit and tie for an interview...they're there for a programming job, not a "fashion show"; if no one else there is wearing suit and tie, they shouldn't have to, etc. I, myself, certainly would have reservations myself about working at a place where suit and tie were required attire.

But when you're interviewing, you're not there for the job. You're there for the interview, and that's entirely different.

The interview is where you're putting your best foot forward, making the statement that you are ready to act in a professional way. If you're hired, then you can match expected norm.

12

You are better off dressing better than the work environment will require. So yes, suit and tie is still the norm.

12

If you can, first find out what the typical work attire is there, then dress one level above that. If they wear ties, you wear a suit. If they wear polo shirts and khakis, you wear nice pants/shirt and tie. Etc., etc. You want to dress well, but you also don't want to walk into a t-shirt and jeans environment wearing a three-piece suit.

7

I agree that your best first line of defense is to ask. Ask anybody you talk with in the company, even the person you are interviewing with if you have to.

If you can't get any intel, if it's a typical Fortune 500 Company, you can NEVER go wrong with a conservative suit and tie in my experience. Black, white, and a business oriented tie (leave your Mickey Mouse and Batman ties for later). If you are interviewing for a government engineering position, then a suit and tie are a forgone conclusion (full disclouse: I work for a LARGE engineering group inside the US Government). Same for state and local levels.

Do I ever wear a suit and tie to work? Hardly. Does the guy/gal on the other side of the desk want to know if you can dress to the appropriate occassion for the appropriate person? You bet.

If your overdressed I think people will tend to look past that at your capabilities if they are a more casual place, but if you show up in your blown out jeans and flip flops and it's a formal place, you'll be lucky if your interview lasts 10 minutes, tops.

If your interviewing for a startup, silicon valley, or someplace where you have to get dirty as an engineer (I did some field work in college for a power plant), then a suit is probably NOT appropriate.

6

Yes.

With me, someone who comes looking for a job that does not look professional, can keep on looking.

6

I've done a lot of interviewing and I've never once been impressed by a tie. But that's me. How can anyone possibly answer for everyone?

5

If what I wear to work is a problem for you, I don't want to work for you. So, I dress for the interview the way I will dress for work. That lets us resolve that question nice and early.

Even more than a filter on a specific idea about what to wear, it's a filter on dress codes in general. I want to be hired & evaluated by the code I write, not by the shoes I wear.

5

Suit and tie. Unless you are specifically informed to wear casual. Most tech firms will say "business casual" when you ask about the attire. However, you can go wrong in so many different ways wearing business casual because different people have different interpretations of it. You may be interviewed by people in jeans and a tshirt, or by others in suits. Either way, show that you respect the interview (and the opportunity) by wearing the suit. It may be hot, it may feel uncomfortable because you are dressed better than everyone around you. But its up to you (and them) to reach a comfort level with dialogue, not by you dressing down.

I've worked at Yahoo!, SAP America and Razorfish, all of which are tech firms of various business etiquette. At all of the interviews I wore a suit, and I recall my interviewers at Yahoo! complimenting me on wearing the suit and showing the respect, even though my future coworkers were wearing tshirts and jeans with holes in them.

5

I dress for an interview to make myself feel awesome. For me it's a Boss suit, no tie, and good shoes. I do this because I feel like Bond wearing those clothes, and this improves my attitude and interviewing confidence.

Wear what makes you a good interviewee.

4

My mum always told me this: "Any time you go out anywhere, dress as you want people to perceive you."

The fact is, you will be judged based on your dress code at some point today. Don't wear something that will be judged poorly. Some days I feel like dressing up and other days I don't. Some days I'll wear jeans a shirt and sport jacket; other days I'll wear a suit, shirt and no tie; some days I wear jeans and a golf shirt - there's no rhyme or reason why, it depends entirely on my mood. I want to be seen [and hired] for me in an interview not for what I can appear to be for an hour or two. So I dress to fit my mood and personality. I have a couple of hard and fast rules for my general professional attire though: always a shirt with a collar and nice shoes.

The trick is to wear something that makes you feel good. Sure you may "overdress" for the situation but if you're comfortable and feel good in what you're wearing then wear it. If you feel comfortable in decent pants and a shirt when you're surrounded by people in jeans and t's then wear that. Equally if you feel good in jeans and a shirt when everyone around you are in suits then wear that. When you feel good in what you're wearing, then you can concentrate on what you need to concentrate on - being and selling yourself instead of worrying about what your clothes are saying about you.

I do have a few hard and fast rules though:

  • Don't wear anything ripped.
  • Don't wear anything covered in patches.
  • Don't wear anything with God awful designs all over it.
  • Do Wear something that's clean and pressed and fits you well.

Watch "What not to wear" once in a while and take note of some of the tips they give you, sure Stacey and Clinton can drive you crazy after about 10 minutes, but a lot of the underlying advice is really good.

In an interview, you are there to sell you. You definitely don't want to sell yourself as something you're not but wearing ill-fitting ripped baggy jeans falling down around your butt and a scruffy t-shirt that's only redeeming factor is that it's appeared on xkcd isn't going to portray yourself in the best light either.

I'd rather show for an interview and have my dress code be instantly forgotten when I walk out and be remembered for my skills and what I had to say than be remembered as "What the hell? he was way overdressed - Keener!" or "Do we really want someone who can't dress themselves representing our company?!".

4

The first thing an interviewer is going to notice is how your dressed. What you don't want is to have a negative first impression which then you're going to have to work against over the next hour(s).

For example, what's your first impression of this person:

alt text

Did you think 'homeless man' or 'free software guru'?

3

The way I look at this is that I dress for interviews in the most formal and tidy of that which I would accept being required to come to work in. I wouldn't work for a place that required me to wear a suit and/or tie, so I don't wear them to interviews.

You need to understand here that the roles I work in do not and have never required dealing with non technical clients.

Also I have observed that companies that expect software engineers to wear ties generally seem to care more about the appearance of the workers than the quality of the code.

3

I'm a software developer, not a fashion model. If they want me for my brain then I am happy. If they cull me from their list of candidates because I don't look like a banker, I am even happier. I wear what's comfortable for me. If I am not comfortable then I won't perform well. How anyone gets work done in a neck choking shirt and tie is beyond me. (not to mention a jacket)

Suit and tie is a relic.

When I interviewed people the attire never made a difference to me. I look for intelligence and ability to communicate. How you dress is of no concern to me.

3

I've been on both sides of the interviewing table for engineering jobs and this is my take on it.

Dress up as much as possible without your attire making you excessively uncomfortable, fidgety, sweaty, or anything else that would infringe on your ability to conduct the interview. However, I'd be loathe to suggest dressing down further than business-y slacks and a collared shirt.

Ultimately, if you aren't used to wearing a suit or don't look good in one (we know who we are), the benefit of professional appearance is largely negated. I can admit as an interviewer that the "kid in his dad's suit" or the "my mom made me wear this" can actually make you look LESS professional. However, if you can pull it off, I think it helps your case. Face it, there is some innate bias towards attractive people during interviews, though it is often subconscious.

I hear you guys who are saying the job doesn't require wearing a suit, but I also think the interview attire is one way that engineering managers can divine whether you are the lone-wolf type engineer that won't conform to the team even when it is mandated by protocol.

They aren't going to make you wear that suit at the job, but it is an indicator about whether you are smart enough to pick your battles and aren't going to be so rebellious that you can't suck it up and wear nice clothes for a meeting even if it behoves you to do so.

In the end, an interview is essentially a sales call, not a programming gig. So it is not unreasonable to be expected to dress appropriately for that scenario.

3

Ever go on a first date? How did you dress? Was it different than the 20th or 50th or 100th date? Think of the interview as the first date. Once you get the job, you can pick her up in sweats for dinner.

3

Any time that I've been in a position to hire someone I've skipped right over the people with suits on... I did give them a fair shot, but almost every one of them was underskilled. The people I found had the best skills were those who dressed casually (jeans, t-shirt).

The ones that dressed too casually (cargo shorts, sandals, dirty t-shirt) thought that they were much better programmers than they actually were.

I also noticed that the ones with people skills turned out to be better at their job, even in purely technical positions.

3

I think too many people are missing the point. You should dress in the way that is most likely to get you the job, and that is going to vary significantly from company to company. It depends on the geographic area you are interviewing in (Silicon Valley? New York? Tokyo?), the size and age of the company (Twitter? IBM?), and a hundred other factors.

We are programmers, and we want an algorithm, but there is no algorithm for this, at least not one simple enough to be written down in a SO post. There are software companies that will hold wearing a suit against you (though not many) and software companies that will hold NOT wearing a suit against you (though, again, not many). Companies are like people, with their own taste and expectations.

A lot of people say "Well, I don't want the job if I have to wear a tie, so I won't wear one to the interview." But, presumably, you won't really know if you want the job or not until the interview is over, and then having dressed appropriately will give you the best shot of actually getting to decide for yourself, because you will have received an offer.

The goal of the interview is always two-fold. The first objective is to impress the potential employer with the ways in which you could help them achieve their business objectives, thus securing an offer. The second objective is to determine for yourself whether you would want to work at the company. Some people become so obsessed with one of these objectives that they seem to forget the other. They are making a mistake.

Now, If I had ZERO information about a software development interview I was going to, I would wear a shirt and tie with nice slacks and shoes. But, as has been pointed out, if you have ZERO information about the interview you are going to, you are already losing the game.

If you're new at interviewing, just accept now that you are going to make mistakes. You're going to look back at interviews you've done and cringe. If you don't, you're not seeing the mistakes you made and learning from them. Consider interviewing at companies you're not strongly interested in, just to get experience and get an idea of industry norms. Practice makes perfect. And hey, you just might find a good job!

2

My usual interview attire is a collared shirt and dress slacks. I'm not really a suit-and-tie person so it seems that one level down works well for me.

2

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Wear a suit, nice shoes (which will have been shined the day before) and be cleanly shaven.

2

I've worn a suit and tie to an interview just once in my life. It was a mistake, but the interviewer just laughed and said "I won't hold it against you." (I did get offered that job; clothing had pretty much nothing to do with it.)

Typically I'd wear nice everyday wear instead. That might have been a strike against me for an interview at Boeing once; everywhere else it seems standard. As others have said, you ought to consider if you'll want to work with suits.

All these interviews were on the US west coast. Small companies, big companies, a couple of research labs. Relatively creative positions, not enterprise gobbledygook; that world may look different.

2

If you do not get hired just for wearing a suit, the job was most likely not worth it in the first place.

2

The question is : Do you want to work for a company which obliges their developpers to work with suit and tie ? To me this kind of behavior is a smell of hierarchic or bureaucratic company which I don't like, so I go to every interview in relax clothes.

2

I think it may depend on the country/culture. But I've made it a personal norm to wear casual. If they don't hire me because of that, I'm ok. If they have a dress code, they will kindly explain it to me, as well as the fantastic salary which will compensate for this inconvenience.

2

Linen suit, no tie.

You get away with formal, and you're not too over-dressed for casual.

2

I used always wear a blazer and slacks to interviews. Pressed shirt, tie, etc... until one fateful interview at a company I really wanted to work for.

One of the first questions asked me by the Director of Technology was why I wasn't wearing a suit (because I don't own one). As a side note: he was wearing what looked like an old denim shirt and rumpled khakis. Everyone else was in polo shirts.

Periodically, throughout the rest of the interview he would ask me "so you really don't own a suit?" or "are you mocking me?". Bizarre.

Granted, it was a financial firm...but still bizarre.

1

I've always heard and followed the idea of dressing one step/level up on what your would be peers dress like for the interview.

At my current position when I asked about the dress they told me jeans and t-shirts are fine, its 'no big deal'. So when I came in to interview I threw on some worn pants (non-jeans) and a short sleeved button down.

0

I've always worn a plain white or black t-shirt and dockers.

0

Depends on the Company you are attempting to get in. but bussines casual seems to work ok In most companies in Mexico

0

It's a little bit depend on your location , if you will came to interview with suite and tie in Israel it will be really funny :) And there is no location in your profile i can assume by the question that you are not from Israel :)
We have suites only for customer visits in Europe. I guess it's more suitable for Europe. Based on my visit in US companies it will be a little bit overdressed as well again it's might depend on company type.

0

Definitely suit and tie.

And if the interviewer is wearing the same, I'm more likely to take the job.

0

A suit and tie, well-tailored. For heaven's sake, button the top button of your shirt. A quality and fashionable tie, tied properly. Suit pressed. Head up. Hair trimmed and combed. Wear the suit with confidence, as a proud professional. How you wear it is as important as what you wear. If you're wearing a suit and you're more "dressed up" than everyone else in the office, you can just rest assured that you're the best dressed gentleman in the room.

Don't feel overdressed if the place turns out to be business casual. It's not as though you're wearing a tophat and frock coat (though I do believe canes for gentlemen will make a comeback. Mark my words!). After the interview, your quality suit will empower you to go to the nearest classy watering hole and saunter up to a young lady as a successful businessman, and perhaps begin a courtship.

Unbutton your jacket before sitting.

Only wear a skirt if you identify yourself as a female.

Ask, if you think that the attire may be super-casual. Then it's OK to be more casual, but not unless you specifically know that.

0

I think the absolute minimum you can get away with for say, an on-campus interview, would be polo shirt and jeans. You look better when you dress nicer, and it keeps the atmosphere professional.

0

allstars, jeans and a (longsleeve)shirt... <- thats me, there is only one reason for me to wear a suit, and thats when someone dies and I attend his/her funeral.

0

Whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident should be fine, suit or casual. There's no hard and fast rule or anything implied about what you wear for any programming job interview.

What matters is your head is able to think clearly on the questions thrown at you, and not be worried about how you look. And i don't even know of any such interviewers who cares what you wear.

0

I wear what I would wear to work. I showed up for my interview for my current job in blue jeans and a long sleeve button down shirt. All the potential co-workers I interviewed with were dressed the same way.

I won't wear a tie to work so I won't wear one to an interview.

but that's just me.

0

Unless they say suit, wear a coat & tie. If anyone asks "Do you always wear this?" say "No, but the recruiter told me to. I think I was getting punked." You have your bases covered: right clothes for people who think that matters and some kewl slang for people that think that matters.

Then, wear whatever you want on your first day on the job and let your skills say the rest.

0

Of course some might think that wearing a suit and tie would be overdressing but are you ready to take that chance? Everything has to do with the first impression. It is simply a psychological factor. Wearing a suit and tie will show that you are taking the interview seriously. Take every chance on your side. Also, your attitude towards the employer during the interview is as important as what you are wearing and the way you are wearing it. You must stand out from the rest.