Have you ever gotten the call that you have an interview and immediately run to the nearest mall to buy a new suit, dress, or tie? You spend hours and lots of dollars finding the perfect interview outfit that will make you look SO professional… only to arrive for the interview to find yourself woefully overdressed – the interviewers are wearing jeans and hoodies. Yikes! Now, instead of feeling confident during your interview, you feel awkward, embarrassed and out of place. This is not the way to start a successful interview.

What you wear, how you do your hair, and how you accessorize your outfit says a lot about your personality. How you look at the interview gives potential employers their first view of who you’ll be as an employee. So you’ll want to present the best version of yourself in the most appropriate attire for the company with whom you are interviewing. But how do you know what is the most appropriate attire?

The tech industry is famously casual – especially start ups. Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck and jeans to work; Mark Zuckerberg wears a tshirt and hoodie. Here in the Silicon Slopes, we often find companies whose employees sport jeans and flannels, ready to hit the slopes or trails after work.

The key to presenting yourself as a great candidate comes down to two fundamental questions: What is the work culture of the company I’m applying for? What do I feel most confident in wearing?

Decoding the company culture

If you are applying for a specific job at a company, chances are you know a little about the company already. Doing more research on the company’s culture may be the best way to identify the most appropriate interview ensemble. Check Glassdoor, the company’s website, and the CEO’s profile. These resources will help you figure out what your interviewers may be wearing when they meet you.

Once you learn about the company’s culture, think about the position for which you are interviewing. Are you going to be representing the company to its clients? Are you applying for a leadership position? Are you applying for a position that will likely have you in a cubicle most of the time? If you are seeking a job in leadership or with client content, make sure you error on the side of too dressed up for your interview. Unless you are Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, most people don’t want to take direction from a person in a hoodie. A good rule of thumb is to go to your interview dressed for one level higher on the org chart than the position for which you are currently interviewing. You’ll come across as a true professional.

Projecting confidence takes confidence

It is also important that you are comfortable in what you wear to your interview. When you are comfortable and confident in your appearance, you are more likely to interview well, as you’ll be able to focus on the questions and the conversation, rather than being distracted by the tightness of a tie or pantyhose. Choose clothes that fit well, are made of high quality materials and are pressed and lint rolled. (No one needs to know you have a cat from the hair clinging to your sweater. Invest in a lint roller – it will serve you well.)

Nice quality t-shirts under a sport coat or sweater are likely a great options for most tech company interviews, but keep it simple. Avoid any images or words that may seem humorous, because until you meet your potential boss and coworkers, you won’t know their sense of humor. Wearing something that comes off as offensive to an interviewer simply isn’t going to get you a job.

For women in the tech industry, pants are the norm; however, leave the yoga pants at home for your interview. Leggings and tunics may be fine in the office, but opt for a more professional look with nicely fitted slacks or dark denim. If you are a woman who feels more powerful and confident in a dress or skirt, but know the tech industry is more casual, try a flannel shirt with a denim pencil skirt and knee high boots, or a collared shirt dress with a slouchy sweater and loafers.

The one universal accessory to avoid for any interview is scent. DO shower before an interview and wear deodorant. DON’T spray yourself with anything scented. We were just talking with an interviewer recently who had been so affected by an interviewee’s intense body spray smell that it gave her a migraine. Many people are sensitive to smells, so avoiding the use of perfume, cologne and body spray will avoid any unnecessary physical reactions to your presence. Also, you’ll likely be shaking lots of hands, so make sure your nails are nice and trimmed/polished.

Men and women can show your personality and creativity with color and texture – layering sweaters, blazers or scarves in the winter months especially. Maybe you decide to go with dark jeans, a crisp white t-shirt and classic navy blazer or sweater – add a chunky knit scarf in your favorite color to brighten up your outfit and show a little of your personality.

Let Salt Lake Staffing take the guesswork out of planning the right outfit for your interview. As one of our qualified candidates, we’ll do the recon to find out what the most appropriate interview outfit will be for the job in which we are working to place you. And for our employers, we’ll present you with candidates ready to start the job in the attire appropriate for your work culture. Call us today and let’s make some great connections.

Dan Evans

Author Dan Evans

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