What to wear to a job interview as a software developer

Posted on September 19 by Mike

Many years ago, I needed to prepare for very first interview for a software development internship as a freshman at MIT. I dutifully put on my suit and tie and went to the careers office, only to get interviewed by a guy in jeans and a t-shirt. Since then, I’ve grown up and gone on a lot more interviews, so I like to think that I’ve figured out how to dress for interviews at software companies.

First of all, the most important thing in an interview is to be relaxed and confident. Your clothes can help a lot with that. It’s actually quite a lot like getting ready for a date. If you overdress, you’ll feel awkward the whole time, and you won’t be able to show the interviewer your best side. Therefore, if you never, ever wear a tie or a suit, don’t feel the need to start at the interview.

However, your outfit shouldn’t just be your day-to-day clothes, either. You want it to give you more confidence than you normally have, so you should dress up a little bit. Software developers don’t generally dress up at the office, so a really nice shirt and some khaki pants will probably work here.

From the interviewer’s perspective, you want to seem like someone they could work with, and if you look like a particularly fashionable person who already works there, they won’t have any trouble seeing you on their team. If their company style is normally a little dressier (probably more likely in Boston or New York than Silicon Valley), one way to stand out is to wear a sport coat. It’s not too formal for day-to-day wear, and it definitely makes you look classy.

I asked Ronda Devine from MIT’s UPOP (Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program) if she had any other advice; here’s what she says:

We also throw in a few other tips for professional appearance that may seem obvious, but sadly, it’s not obvious to everyone…at least not to all of our students. :)

  • Showered, washed and combed hair, clean nails, brushed teeth, deodorant
  • Nice shirt/blouse, tie, slacks, shoes – conservative, pressed and polished
  • Set your outfit out in advance to make sure it’s in good shape and ready to go (i.e. no spots or scuffed shoes)

She’s definitely right about remembering to press your clothes and polish your shoes. As much as I advocate not overdressing for a developer interview, it’s important to make the outfit you pick out looks sharp.

If I had an interview tomorrow, here’s what I would choose from my closet:

  1. Blue shirt:

  2. Gray Touch of Tan Coat:

  3. Dark brown socks:

  4. Brown Johnston & Murphey shoes:

  5. Navy blue pants:

    These aren’t my favorite pair of pants. I donated most of my clothes when I moved to China, so I still need to buy a new pair. Ideally they’d be plain with a flat front and no cuffs.
  6. Brown belt:

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