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Appropriate Dress for Interview
Old 08-04-2017, 08:07 AM   #1
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Appropriate Dress for Interview

My oldest son is starting his Junior year at college, majoring in software engineering. He'll be interviewing for internships this fall and I'm wondering what is appropriate dress.

I'm getting ready to take him out suit shopping because that's always been proper interview etiquette as far as I know. However, I've always worked in professional offices where you'd expect to see interviewees come in suited up. I assumed it's the same for someone interviewing for a position in software engineering but I wanted to double check because I've heard that the dress is more casual in that kind of work environment. Have things changed at all over the years or should he still be wearing a suit and tie at least for the purposes of the interview process?

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Old 08-04-2017, 08:23 AM   #2
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I've been out of the work world for 3 years but FWIW- have him ask what the dress code is before he appears for an interview and then he can dress one notch above that (unless the dress code is full business dress). There's such a disparity now; I worked for an insurance brokerage before I retired and it was full business dress; a suit would be appropriate. DS works for an insurance company 3 hours away and he goes to work in jeans and a polo shirt. In that atmosphere a suit might be overkill but khakis, a blazer and an open-collar shirt will show that he can dress up if he's ever called into a meeting with senior management.

A good middle ground if you don't want to go for a suit as well as expensive separates would be khakis and a good traditional shirt and a blazer which can be combined with a tie in more formal environments.

One final note: if you buy him a suit, you may want to invest the extra in having a tailor make adjustments. I did that with the suit I bought DS in 2003 and he still wears it- it's his only suit!
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:27 AM   #3
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Unless he's informed (by the recruiter / HR etc) that the interview attire is anything less than traditional coat and tie, I would stay the course.
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:32 AM   #4
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Unless he's informed (by the recruiter / HR etc) that the interview attire is anything less than traditional coat and tie, I would stay the course.
I agree with this generally, but some industries now are much more casual in the dress code department and in their culture. The general rule I've been given is "dress 1 step above that which people doing the job normally wear", up to a full suit/tie. If they're jeans or shorts and a t-shirt, go for slacks and a polo. Maintain what they'll consider a professional look but not so overboard that you'll give the impression that you won't fit in with their culture. As some software places are casual enough for t-shirts, flip flops, and shorts to be acceptable, showing up in a full suit can give the impression that you might not fit in.
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:33 AM   #5
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Wear a suit and tie.
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:33 AM   #6
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Unless he's informed (by the recruiter / HR etc) that the interview attire is anything less than traditional coat and tie, I would stay the course.
Agreed, it's hard to go wrong by going a bit too formal - it IS a job interview, after all.
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:36 AM   #7
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I w*rk in a very casual software engineering environment. There are ripped t-shirts and flip flop wearers. Even so, a suit coming in for an interview is fine. In our case, so is smart business casual.

There are a few wild duck companies who may find a suit to be "too much," for a site interview, but they are pretty rare. He can probably poke around with an internet search if he suspects his target company might be one of those.
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:38 AM   #8
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Agree with the above. Always show up in a suit and tie for your interview. At the very least it shows that you were willing to make the extra effort. You should always try to make your first impression very positive. Any time I have interviewed, I have been the very best dressed person in the facility.
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:38 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by panacea View Post
My oldest son is starting his Junior year at college, majoring in software engineering. He'll be interviewing for internships this fall and I'm wondering what is appropriate dress.

I'm getting ready to take him out suit shopping because that's always been proper interview etiquette as far as I know. However, I've always worked in professional offices where you'd expect to see interviewees come in suited up. I assumed it's the same for someone interviewing for a position in software engineering but I wanted to double check because I've heard that the dress is more casual in that kind of work environment. Have things changed at all over the years or should he still be wearing a suit and tie at least for the purposes of the interview process?

Thanks!
It's better to be overdressed than underdressed.

If you're shopping, two sets of interview clothes would work. One, a dark suit, light shirt, nice silk tie, belt, dark socks and leather shoes. The other, navy khakis or dress trousers, short sleeve tuck-in button shirt, belt, dark socks and leather shoes. Wool dress trousers tend to work better than cotton khakis, which often acquire light colored lint.
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:46 AM   #10
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Having hired a lot of software engineers over the years, all I can say is "it depends". If you wore a suit and tie to an interview at most of the places I've worked at, you would stand out in a negative way (though as an intern at least he's more likely to get a pass as a clueless newbie). Software engineers work in many industries though, and if he's working someplace like a law firm or financial firm rather than a software company, he would dress more formally.

The best advice I can give him is to pay attention and follow all instructions he is given to the letter. If he is told by the person arranging the interview to dress in business casual or casual, then he should definitely not wear a suit jacket and tie. That just demonstrates lack of attention to detail, which is not what you want in an engineer. If he does dress up, then he can always remove the jacket when he gets into an interview where everyone else is wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:48 AM   #11
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I'm with the suit people....you're dressing to stand out above the other applicants, not to show how cool you think you are.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:02 AM   #12
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The young SW engineers in my office do the old jeans and T-shirt thing, even the newest female engineer, but when I saw them being trotted around on a recruitment tour, they were in nice suits or skirts. Tats optional.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:03 AM   #13
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Having hired a lot of software engineers over the years, all I can say is "it depends". If you wore a suit and tie to an interview at most of the places I've worked at, you would stand out in a negative way (though as an intern at least he's more likely to get a pass as a clueless newbie). Software engineers work in many industries though, and if he's working someplace like a law firm or financial firm rather than a software company, he would dress more formally.

The best advice I can give him is to pay attention and follow all instructions he is given to the letter. If he is told by the person arranging the interview to dress in business casual or casual, then he should definitely not wear a suit jacket and tie. That just demonstrates lack of attention to detail, which is not what you want in an engineer. If he does dress up, then he can always remove the jacket when he gets into an interview where everyone else is wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
Stand out? Yes. Negative? Maybe, but most companies and interviewers understand. I kind of enjoy watching interviewees walk around because they stick out. I try to make them a little nervous.

There are a few companies who are just So Damn Cool that this could be a real negative. This will usually be apparent from their website, which he should scour and learn from. The answer may be there -- part of the test. And it doesn't hurt to just ask.

Oh, and if this is on campus at a recruiting event -- many intern programs are -- then a suit is fine no matter what. Even if the company is too cool for suits. Because, after all, this is only one of many interviews.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:06 AM   #14
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I w*rk in a very casual software engineering environment. There are ripped t-shirts and flip flop wearers. Even so, a suit coming in for an interview is fine. In our case, so is smart business casual.
Yeah, I second this. Suit would be OK and so would some nice khakis, a button down dress shirt, and blazer. Like others have said, going one full notch above what the average person in the target office wears is usually a safe bet.

Slightly OT, I have to say I found the practice of wearing flip-flops to the office really off-putting. I dressed fairly casually myself, but I never viewed going to work in a professional office setting like going for a day at the beach. I got the feeling that some of these slobs would actually think it would be appropriate to show up to interviews in their ridiculous flip-flops.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:09 AM   #15
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I w*rk in a very casual software engineering environment. There are ripped t-shirts and flip flop wearers. Even so, a suit coming in for an interview is fine. In our case, so is smart business casual.
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Having hired a lot of software engineers over the years, all I can say is "it depends". If you wore a suit and tie to an interview at most of the places I've worked at, you would stand out in a negative way (though as an intern at least he's more likely to get a pass as a clueless newbie). Software engineers work in many industries though, and if he's working someplace like a law firm or financial firm rather than a software company, he would dress more formally.
Can also be regional. On the West Coast, a suit and tie for a software interview is rare and weird. It can make the interviewers uncomfortable. Interns and entry level folks can get by in a suit ("they're so cute" will be whispered around the office) as they are likely following old instructions, but experienced software developers would never be caught in a suit outside of a rare customer meeting, and that only for certain kinds of customers like East Coast banks. Interviewing in a suit is a mark of cluelessness they would have to explain or overcome during the interview. Technical brilliance trumps all (almost all) in software development. If you are good enough you can wear a bathing suit or a tuxedo. But if you dress outside the norm, you will have to prove you are worth it.

Most HR recruiters who set these things up are willing to provide guidance for appropriate dress. Ask.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:13 AM   #16
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My son is a CS major going on senior year and doing an intern right now in a different city. He interviewed on the phone with the company and did not even see anyone. So, it really depends on the companies how they hire interns.

I am in IT and did a lot of interviews. For intern candidates, I never expect anyone wearing a suit. A clean button shirt is perfectly fine. Polo shirt is fine also. We are both in west coast, different cities. YMMV.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:14 AM   #17
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I have hired many, many software engineers over my 35 years in Information Technology. Although the day-to-day dress code for the engineers is casual (jeans, polo shirts, sneakers) I always take note of how the applicant showed up for the interview. I always "give points" for anyone who takes the time to "dress up". My advice to people who ask me how to dress for an interview is always "dress like you are going to church".

It's ALWAYS better to be overdressed than underdressed.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:18 AM   #18
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....

It's ALWAYS better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Was going to say the same thing but you beat me to the punch .
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:21 AM   #19
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My advice to people who ask me how to dress for an interview is always "dress like you are going to church".
Well, THAT'S changed too! See plenty of shorts and T-shirts on Sunday.

Anyway, the advice for *experienced* sw engineers is also good. Know your audience. There are plenty of places in the Valley I would never interview in a suit. I would also not wear a T-shirt either. Business casual has become very prevalent.

But we were talking intern and entry level.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:31 AM   #20
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I went for a 5 day course once, it was business attire, thats all it said. I went with new slacks, shirt , tie and a gold tie bar. I thought I looked like a wall street tycoon. About 15 minutes into the course, a boss comes in, looks over the audience makes me and maybe 5 others (out of maybe 60 men)stand up. He points out much to my embarrassment, This is not business attire in my organization. I dont remember what they course material was that first day , I wanted to crawl under a rock. The next day 4 days I wear a suit/sport coat as directed. The same boss that yelled at me came every day, looked us over and smiled.
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