What Should I Wear to an Interview in Silicon Valley?

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What do you wear to an interview for a software engineering position in the Silicon Valley? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Consultant (tech hiring/interviewing), Author (Cracking the * Interview), Coder, on Quora:

Silicon Valley is a place, not a company. There are many companies in it and there is some variation in culture and expectation. So let me talk through some general rules and then talk about how this applies to your stereotypical we’re-cool-and-hip tech company.

A good way to think about attire is to dress as nicely as the best dressed people in that role. (You’ll also hear people say to dress one step up from the average person. I prefer the first statement as the second could lead to a person walking in in a tuxedo if all the employees were in a suit.)

Your goal is to basically blend in, without anyone thinking you didn’t even care enough to dress properly.

For a stereotypical “hip” Silicon Valley company, this means:

  • Men: Jeans and one of those casual button-down shirts.
  • Women: jeans, and some sort of nice-ish (basically non-tshirt) top.

But if you walk in a jeans and tshirt, that’s fine too. The reason that these companies are so casual is that they don’t care what you wear.

The only thing I can imagine hurting you is if you wear something very revealing or something that typical employees would never wear at an office (woman: very short shorts with a translucent top; man: gym shorts and a tank top). But even there, it’s probably not going to affect you.

If you wear something actually inappropriate—something with a sexual or offensive slogan on that—then that might hurt you. But if you’re sane enough to consider what you should wear, then you’re unlikely to do something like this.

If you go too fancy—like a suit—you might give the interviewer a small chuckle. But it’s not likely to affect your performance even so.

Conclusion: wear whatever you’re comfortable with. If you aren’t comfortable with anything, pick the outfit in the bullets above.

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