Here's the inside scoop from experts at four companies: doxo, Boeing, Redfin and Microsoft.
Seattleites are well known for our casual, relaxed approach to almost everything — especially attire. Look around and you’ll see an abundance of jeans, T-shirts and baseball hats. We also wear socks with sandals. And fleece — lots and lots of fleece.
While this laid-back Northwest style works well in our rainy weather, it can cause confusion and anxiety when deciding what to wear for a job interview. This is especially true in the technology industry (in which a huge number of Seattleites work), where companies range from small startups to multibillion-dollar global corporations, and office attire can include everything from shorts to suits.
To break through some myths and uncover truths about what’s considered appropriate interview attire in the local tech industry, I got the inside scoop from experts at four companies: doxo, Boeing, Redfin, and Microsoft.
Appropriate interview attire differs, depending on company culture, size, job type and level. Smaller tech companies in the region tend to have more relaxed attire expectations. “I’m not a stickler for any specific dress code,” says Steve Shivers, co-founder and CEO of doxo, a tech startup based in Pioneer Square with about 30 employees. “Attire is a far lower priority to us than fit within our overall culture, but we do expect that interview attire shouldn’t be a distraction. Candidates should wear simple, neat attire to a job interview.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Boeing has more than 150,000 employees, and work attire is based on job type rather than company culture. “There is no official dress code at Boeing, but as a large corporation we’re more conservative overall than a startup,” says Donna Defreece, Boeing HR generalist.
“We have every type of work situation, and attire is based on [the] particular job,” she says. “Where a mechanic would wear jeans and a T-shirt to work, an executive might wear a suit. Similarly, appropriate interview attire will vary by job position and level.”
Tip: One outfit isn’t appropriate for every interview. Research the company’s culture to determine whether work attire tends to be conservative and formal or casual and relaxed. Consider the job type and level to help you decide on the most appropriate interview outfit.
Customer-facing jobs usually require more polished-looking clothes. At Redfin, a midsize technology-powered real estate brokerage, there is no dress code; what employees wear to work is about as varied as the personalities and interests of those who work there. But for customer-facing positions, polished business-casual attire is much more typical than jeans and T-shirts.
“For job interviews, attire almost doesn’t matter at all unless the outfit is so wildly inappropriate that it creates a distraction,” said Jani Strand, vice president of communications at Redfin. “But if a candidate is interviewing for a position where he or she will be interacting with people in the community or with other companies, then looking professional is important.”
Tip: In a job that requires interacting with the public or customers, your attire needs to instill confidence in your skills. Your outfit choice for the interview should convey the same to a hiring manager. Choose something professional-looking.
Skills, attitude and experience will always trump attire. Microsoft is a company known for employees who emulate the casual Pacific Northwest style in their work wardrobe. In the summer you’ll see shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops; in the winter, most employees wear jeans and fleece.
“At Microsoft, we focus on a candidate’s skill set rather than their wardrobe,” says Raquel Garcia, staffing consultant at Microsoft. “Interview candidates should wear what they feel most comfortable and confident in. This may be a suit or shorts and flip-flops — however you bring your ‘A’ game. We want you to be comfortable in whatever attire makes you shine and do your best.”
Tip: Worry less about your outfit and focus more on preparing for the job interview discussion. As Garcia notes, “The most important aspect of your job interview is showcasing what you can do, and how you can contribute to the company and to the company’s goals.”