Geek Etiquette: Dress To Impress

The Geeky Hostess is gonna help you get your manners on! Each Monday, we’ll focus on a topic of etiquette. We’ll take a look at the classic rules (using Emily Post as a guide), and then evaluate the rules for our daily lives, creating a guide to “Geek Etiquette.” Have an etiquette question or topic suggestion? Email!

They may look like dress pants, but they’re still sweats. Save them until you’ve got the job.

Many of my friends are looking for new jobs, and are unsure how to dress for the interview. The Seattle tech space is a very casual environment that shows a wide range of dress codes: you’ll see people go to work in sweats, jeans, workout clothes,  the occasional suit or dress, and even cosplay (seriously). How do you know that your outfit will be appropriate for your company: not too casual, and (what’s been the case more often lately) not too formal? Emily Post says:

The real reason for dressing up a notch is that you want the interviewer to focus on you, not your clothes. If the interviewer’s attention turns to your clothes, you’re probably wearing the wrong thing.

Try to scope out the place before you go to apply for an interview and check out the way employees dress for work. If you live too far away to visit, simply call the human resource department or ask a receptionist. You don’t even have to identify yourself: “Hi, I’m interviewing with your company, and just wanted to know what your dress policy is.”

Too shy to call the company? Take a look at their online presence. Do they have pictures of their employees on their site? If not, find out the names of the heads of the company, then look for them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. What are they wearing in their pics? I would suggest aiming to dress slightly nicer than they do for your interview. For some tech companies in Seattle, that may mean nice dark jeans, a button up shirt or blouse, and a blazer.

Interviewing at a very casual place (gym, comic book store, etc.)? Wear what you would to a nice first date or to church. Don’t show up in workout clothes or sweats unless you were specifically requested to do so. Don’t just show up in a suit: if the company is more casual than that, they may think you don’t know the position or wouldn’t fit in with the culture. Don’t be afraid to show your personality in what you’re wearing, especially if the position requires creativity.

Still not sure what to wear? Check out sites like GQ Style and WorkChic for inspiration, or contact me for a Personal Branding consultation. I’ll work with you on making sure your online identity and real-life identity work together to convey what you want it to. If you need it, we’ll even go shopping together! Email me at for more info.

Any dress-code stories or advice? If you interview people, what do you look for? What scares you away?


  1. This is such a great topic! As an image consultant, I routinely give my clients that advice — to call the company and ask what the dress code is. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask while you’re setting up the job interview as well. I always suggest to wear a jacket which will help expand their personal body boundaries by a bit, causing them to look more important. If they arrive and find the culture is more relaxed, they can always take off the jacket. But if they arrive without the jacket and it’s more dressy than expected, there’s nothing they can do to elevate their look.

  2. I interviewed for my third co-op (aka college paid internship) at a construction company, on site. I actually googled the guys that I was interviewing with and ended up finding both of their Facebook pages. When I saw how intimidating these guys looked I ended up deciding to wear pants instead of a skirt to the interview (I still wore a suit) because I wanted to feel as masculine as possible (weird but true). I ended up getting the job and the guys I interviewed with turned out to be big teddy bears, but I told them about Facebook stalking them later on and they were impressed that I did my research ahead of time.

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