The dress code for most software developer interviews is smart casual. A nice shirt and a pair of jeans will do the trick, you don’t need to go overboard with a full suit and tie. However, the general rule is to always overdress rather than undress for an interview. The relaxed culture in tech and the fact that 86% of interviews are now conducted online means dressing formally for interviews are a thing of the past.
Trying to understand the dress code for each company can be nerve-racking because you want to make a good first impression. However, most tech jobs are aligned in their approach and have relaxed dress codes.
We’ve posted previously about general software engineers’ dress codes before but will focus on the dress code for software developer interviews here. So let’s take a look at what you should wear for a programming interview and take a look at what female developers can wear to an interview.
What should you wear to a developer interview?
For your next developer interview, you should wear clothes that align with a smart casual dress code. Avoid wearing a t-shirt, shorts, or flip-flops. Instead wear a shirt or blouse accompanied by jeans, trousers, or a skirt for women. It is far better to go slightly overdressed than undressed to an interview – first impressions are a big deal.
The casual dress code at Facebook where you can wear pretty much anything has become the industry standard for software developers. However, this is for employees, not prospective candidates. You should still go in looking sharp for an interview. Regardless of what you decide to wear, make sure:
- Your clothes are clean
- To avoid showing too much skin
- All items are stain-free
- You have ironed your clothes
- Clothing is well fitted
- You are showered and well presented
Well-fitted clothes can make the world of difference, so make sure to try on your prospective outfit a few days before. You don’t want anything super tight or completely loose fitting.
For an in-person interview, the aim is to dress a couple of notches more formally than the employees. If everybody is wearing a t-shirt you should be wearing a shirt. If everybody is in suits then you should at least be matching that.
Things like your references and how you talk about your personal strengths matter way more in an interview. But you don’t want how you are dressed to be a talking point when they are considering candidates after.
Neutral and down the middle is a good approach.
What should a male wear to a software engineering interview?
As a software engineer, you should aim to dress smart and casual for your interviews. The dress code in interviews for most office-based jobs has more casual over the last couple of decades. Spurred on by the tech industry, software developers and other office jobs don’t have to even consider wearing a suit to interview now.
However, if you are applying at an old-school legal or financial institution, check the dress code with them beforehand. They can be archaic in some regards and some still require their employees to wear suits, so you will want to do the same for an interview.
Ideally, the way you are dressed shouldn’t even be something that is considered by the recruiters. You want to dress well enough that their focus isn’t on the flip-flops you are wearing but instead on the code you are writing.
For a software engineering interview, you could wear:
- A button-down shirt
- A button-down shirt with a sweater
- Jeans without any holes
- Boots or casual shoes
Just make sure to dress for the occasion. An interview is a big deal and you want to show you have put in some effort. You can wear your stained t-shirt every day when you work from home, so wear something nicer for an interview.
I’d say a pair of jeans with an open-buttoned shirt is probably the minimum requirement for a man in a software engineering interview. Any less and you risk looking too casual. Remember better to look sharp than not sharp enough.
What should females wear to a software engineering interview?
As a woman your best approach in a software engineering interview is to wear something smart and casual, leaning more on the smarter side. A lot of tech companies don’t even have dress codes for their employees anyone but this doesn’t apply to candidates just interviewing. You have to earn the right to wear flip-flops to work!
The move towards a more casual workplace is positive. But you still want to make an effort when interviewing. The best outcome is that the way you dress is never even mentioned when they are considering your application. Dressing appropriately allows them to focus on your development skills, rather than the tank top you are wearing.
If in doubt, overdress slightly for the interview and then you can become more casual if you get the job. Avoid showing too much skin and any short skirts.
For an interview, female developers could wear:
Luckily, there are a lot more options for women when it comes to clothing. So feel free to add some personality and flair to your outfit. Just make sure to always dress appropriately.
How to ask about the dress code for an interview?
The easiest way to get information about a company’s interview dress code policy is to ask the recruiter directly. Simply, ask about the culture around their dress code and what the expectations are for the interview. The question doesn’t come across poorly and will allow you to walk into the interview with absolute confidence you are wearing the right clothes.
Asking particular questions to a recruiter can reflect poorly on you. Discussing their drug testing policy may not come across well. However, a question about their dress code does not fall into this category. It shows you care about the interview and want to present yourself in the best possible light.
Don’t be afraid to ask the right people about dress etiquette because the alternatives are more challenging and less certain. If you don’t ask the company for their interview dress code, you may have to:
- Check their website – some companies lay out the specifics of their interviews online. You may be fortunate enough to find references to their dress code online. But remember information can someone be out of date or not there at all
- Research forums – for big companies forums like Reddit and Quora may have the specific answers you are looking for. You’ll find answers to what other people wore to similar interviews. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for less-known companies.
- Explore social media – companies often post frequent updates on their LinkedIn. Included in this are posts with people sitting around the office. You can use this as a barometer of the general dress code. Then go one notch above it for the interview. You can use the same approach for individual employees and gauge what they generally wear to work.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.