Man in suit adjusting tie

7 Tips on What to Wear to Your Startup Interview

It used to be so easy: wear a suit. The rise of the startup changed all that. Now, dressing for an interview requires some serious thought. Modern startups actively eschew corporate trappings and so dress codes can be very loosely defined – if there is one at all.

When one of Taledo’s founders joined Google, he received an email before his interview saying “We care more about what you say than what you are wearing.”

I made the mistake of going to my first startup interview in a suit. We walked through various offices to get to our meeting room and I had plenty of chances to see how overdressed I was. I still landed the job but my next interview saw me in jeans, a casual shirt and my trusty Docs.

So that you can learn from my mistake, here are some tips on dressing for a startup interview.

Different strokes for different folks

Every company is different. Of course, there’s the huge gulf between suited and booted corporate employees and laid-back startup folks but there are finer distinctions, too. A company’s sector can also influence the way you should dress. If you’re headed to a fashion-focused startup, they are likely to pay more attention to your outfit than at other interviews, for example.

As well as sector, your prospective function within the company is also important. Biz dev or sales positions are likely to entail external meetings and consequently a slightly smarter style than that of a developer or marketer.

Do your research

Researching the company should be part of any interview prep and what to wear is no different. It may be as simple as finding the dress code on the company’s website but usually it takes a little more finesse.

Become a stalker

The internet is your friend and no one can hide from you. Even if there’s no dress code on display, a company’s website can be a great source of information. For starters, it should give you some idea of the company’s personality but, more specifically, it may also feature pictures of team members, giving you important hints as to what they wear.

Become even more of a stalker

If you don’t strike oil on the company’s website, you still have options. Check out the company’s employees on LinkedIn. What are they wearing in their profile picture? Chances are it will be a little bit more formal than their day-to-day wear but dressing slightly smarter than an average day is a good rule of thumb anyway. You can also try the company’s social profiles, which may have pictures from team events.

BONUS: Stalking level over 9000

Company culture is important to startups. They will make a real effort for employees to feel part of the team. Show them you are part of their team already. Visit the company’s website, mock up a t-shirt with their logo, wear it to the interview.

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B.O. is not good

Whether you end up wearing a suit or shorts, personal grooming is equally important. So, have a shower, trim your nails, and make sure your clothes are clean.

Just ask

It never hurts to ask. If you’re really unsure what to wear, just send a quick email to your contact at the company and find out what their policy is.

Be comfortable

While the company’s expectations matter, you also need to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing. You won’t interview well if you feel uncomfortable. And maybe, if the dress code isn’t something you feel comfortable in, the company isn’t right for you anyway.

On the other hand, you can sometimes do both. We won’t name names but when someone here at Taledo was still at business school, he wanted to dress up for an interview. Seeing as it was over Skype, though, he only put on the jacket, shirt and tie, opting for boxers and flip-flops on the bottom half.

At the end of the day, your skills are more important than your clothes but at the beginning of the day, human beings find it difficult to get past first impressions. So, give it some thought and then nail your interview.

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