Dress for success: Here's what you should (and shouldn't) wear to an interview in LA tech

November 16, 2017

Walk into a local tech company’s headquarters, and you’re likely to see flip flops, cargo shorts and even the odd wetsuit. One thing you will rarely encounter, however, is an actual suit. 

Despite the relaxed office vibes of most LA tech offices, many applicants assume an in-office interview means showing up in formal attire. But is that actually the case? We spoke with recruiters from four local tech companies about what they expect interviewees to wear and what their attire says about them.

 

Cie Digital Labs Irvine Startup

Irvine-based startup studio Cie Digital Labs helps larger companies create web and mobile applications. According to Natasha Schulman (HR generalist), Evelyn Lee (director of human resources) and Kristie Reynolds (talent acquisition), the optimal dress code calls for something that makes the applicant as comfortable as possible.

Most tech companies have a casual work attire. Does that affect what you expect someone to wear when they’re onsite for an interview?

“We expect our candidates to be confident and knowledgeable, and that is hard to translate into clothing,” said Schulman. “We always share what we wear within the office and the candidate has the option. However, we believe that a person should wear what makes them happy while staying professional. When applicants show up for the interview, we want them to show their most authentic selves, and whether that is causal or business attire, we leave it up to them!”

What are your top three dos for dressing for an interview?

  1. Make sure to wear clean clothes.

  2. Make sure that they properly fit.

  3. Just make sure you are professional. A clean, well-fitting T-shirt would be fine, but an “I got Tanked in Cabo” T-shirt is not fine.

What are your top three don’ts?

  1. Do not wear dirty or stained clothing.  

  2. Make sure you shower and do not put on too strong perfume or cologne. We are in a small room during interviews, and a strong odor is a big no for us.

  3. Don’t wear a smartwatch if you’re going to keep glancing or touching the screen. That is distracting and will be considered a negative.

 

FabFitFun ecommerce startup los angeles

FabFitFun is a quarterly subscription service featuring items that pertain to lifestyle, fitness and fashion. While it’s not unusual to see high fashion in the company’s West Hollywood headquarters, folks in ties aren't an everyday thing. According to Angela Mayhew, a senior recruiter, that casual atmosphere means interviewees don't need to overthink it. 

Most tech companies have a casual work attire. Does that affect what you expect someone to wear when they’re onsite for an interview?

FabFitFun is no stranger to the casual work attire. Given the nature of the various parts of our business, you can find employees or departments giving their own spin to "casual.” Whether it's employees dressed in athlesiure to help with video shoots or members of our merch/style team — whom I always find inspiration from — wearing the latest in trendy casual. It's very eclectic, but still appropriate for the office and authentic to each team. We do not give specific instructions for dress code in our interview confirmations and hope to see candidates bring their most authentic selves — whether it's a suit and tie or dressy jeans.

What are your top three dos for dressing for an interview?

  1. Give the outfit a test run. Sometimes with interviews, we can get excited and will buy a new outfit. New clothing might be itchy, or the shirt might ride up when you go to raise your arm to shake someone’s hand. Also, double check lighting to ensure there are no surprises with a light material being see-through.

  2. Less is more. Simple as that.

  3. Whether it’s corporate or casual, make sure it's clean and pressed — no spots, no wrinkles.

What are your top three don’ts?

  1. Don't feel like you have to wear heels. While they give a professional look, if you can’t confidently walk in that style of shoe, don't feel pressured to wear them. Wear a shoe that will allow you to comfortably walk up and down a flight of stairs.

  2. Don't let your clothes or accessories be a distraction. The last thing you want to do is pull attention away from the qualities and attributes you could bring to a position. This might be an ill-fitting item that you might be tugging at the whole interview, an accessory that might make a lot of noise or a loud pattern that pulls focus.

  3. Don't sacrifice comfort. When you're comfortable with your attire, you will exude confidence.

 

Gem Venice blockchain startup

Tech companies in LA don’t get more chill than Venice-based blockchain developer Gem. Located a few minutes away from the beach, it’s safe to say finding something too casual for the team would be a tall task. According to the company’s head of people ops, Madeline Mann, who hosts a YouTube channel centered on providing job advice for young professionals, the Gem team is cognizant of any biases they might inherently associate with certain style choices.

Most tech companies have a casual work attire. Does that affect what you expect someone to wear when they’re onsite for an interview?

The outfits candidates have shown up in have varied between cargo shorts and flip flops to suits. Because of this, we have done trainings in the past to be aware of biases we may have based on these looks. Judging someone because they wear a formal pantsuit is natural but also completely out of line. By recognizing our biases, we can disregard them and focus on what matters.

What are your top three dos for dressing for an interview?

  1. Bring as few things as possible. I’ve seen candidates leaving hats, jackets and backpacks around the office as I give them the office tour, and then they rush back to get their stuff when we move rooms. Make sure to travel light.

  2. Make sure to bring a sweater or jacket. Just because we’re located in Venice doesn’t mean it’s always a balmy 75, and spending an hour or two sitting in the air conditioning can leave anyone chilled to the bone.

  3. Just ask us. If you feel at all nervous that you are going to wear the wrong thing, ask the recruiter what they recommend.

What are your top three don’ts?

  1. Don't wear new shoes the day of the interview. Rushing around a building because you can't find the office or getting a long office tour can destroy your feet.

  2. Make sure we can see you. Avoid wearing hats, sunglasses or your hair in your eyes. If the interviewer has trouble seeing your eyes, it makes them psychologically trust you less.

  3. Creativity is important in a job interview, but your appearance isn't the best way to make that impression. You'll want to stand out due to your personality and talent, not your inventive fashion choices (unless it is a fashion company, of course).

 

Weavy Los Angeles Productivity Startup

Just because you're interviewing at a startup doesn't mean you should eschew tradition entirely. According to Robert Hess, COO of Weavy, a company that offers a platform designed to help app companies, when in doubt: keep it formal.


Most tech companies have a casual work attire. Does that affect what you expect someone to wear when they’re onsite for an interview?

Company culture is, ultimately,  something that is learned. Although many tech companies have adopted a more casual attire, ours included, this shouldn't be something that is assumed by an interviewee. I expect an interviewee to come to an interview dressed well. I want to know that they will respect our company culture, whatever it may be. Then once they get the job, they will realize that T-shirt and jeans are acceptable attire. But until you get the gig, make sure you dress to impress.

What are your top three dos for dressing for an interview?

I say stick to the three Cs:

  1. Be clothed

  2. Be clean

  3. Be classy
     

What are your top three don’ts?

Well, the opposite of the three Cs makes the most sense:

  1. Don't be naked

  2. Don't be dirty

  3. Don't be (too) casual

 

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