What do I wear to a Tech Startup Interview

What on earth should you wear to an interview at a Technology Startup Firm?

Honestly – whatever the crap you feel like wearing – although hopefully a little more then your P.J.s or your bathing suit.

Actually – I am totally kidding… What you wear to a technology based startup interview does matter – and I will show you why.  I have participated in over several hundred interviews for Zynga candidates alone over the past several years.  These were as close to a startup interview as you could get.

First Impressions

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – even in the startup world – what you wear to an interview does matter.  Although I will argue that what you wear doesn’t matter as much as other industries.  Still your dress to the startup interview does have effects.   The startup world does promote freedom, the jeans and flip flop mantra.  The problem is that what you wear gives people a first impression of who you are.  Its human nature unfortunately to craft first impressions.  It’s the interviewer (not the industry) who ultimately gives you a go / no go recommendation for hire.  Dress in a way that crafts the first impression you want to craft.

If you come strolling in wearing a T-Shirt and shorts… then I think to myself that you have little professionalism.  Will you be able to communicate properly with your team members and so forth.

If you come in rocking a suit and tie… then I wonder to myself is you will be able to handle the ups and downs of a startup world.

In my personal opinion – those who dress somewhere in the middle… comfortable, yet professional… nail it right on the nose for a tech startup interview.  If gives off a first impression that doesn’t make me think in any wild directions.  It gives you control to dictate the first impression by your actions and words – rather then your dress.

My Zynga Interview Experience

Let’s look back to my interview experience with Zynga 4 years ago.  To that interview I wore a suit I had purchased the day before from Sears.  My last suit was purchased several years earlier and somehow had shrunken several sizes…  (funny how that happens).  I also bought a new shirt… altogether costing around $150.  Shoes and the belt I already had.

When I arrived at Zynga I quickly learned that I was overdressed – but it didn’t matter.  People often showed up to interviews in a suit – it’s just a standard fall back.  In the above link I explain how I was sat down and put right to work to test my tech chops.  I took off my suit jacket and rolled up the sleeves on my nice dress shirt.  I also did a presentation of my code towards the end of the interview in this fashion.

Luckily I am comfortable in a suit and can present easily in one.  It made my experience easier.  I guess the morale here is to wear what you are the most comfortable in, yet can still maintain professionalism in.  Don’t however be so comfortable that you distract from the interview and take the interviewers attention away from your skill set.

Skills are paramount

At the end of the day… your skills are paramount.  Don’t fuss too much over what to wear to a tech startup interview.  Be comfortable, yet maintain your professionalism.  I have never made a hiring decision based upon what the person wore to their startup based interview.  The focus was always on their skillset.  When choosing your outfit – just ensure that what you wear does not distract the interviewer from recognizing your skills.

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