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When the average person thinks of life working at a tech company, images of buildings with large windows and millennials playing ping pong and lounging in sleep pods are front of mind. While shows like Silicon Valley have satirized the tech company culture by costuming its CEO and top developers in zip up hoodies and sandals with socks, the authentic dress code is actually quite different from the casual, cavalier atmosphere depicted. So if engineers and developers are not running around in lab coats and band t-shirts, what are employees at tech and biotech companies wearing?
While many tech companies are “laid back” in the sense that they value an employee’s work life balance and emphasis the importance of rest and leisure in relation to productivity, 96% of employees in the tech industry say that their company enforces a dress code. Of that 96%, 42% say their dress is business casual, 40% have business professional and 14% report their dress code is casual.
What does “business casual” even mean?
A great question with a complicated answer. It depends on the culture at your company! While jeans are generally acceptable as business casual on the West Coast, New York offices may have a different perspective. However, there are a few universally accepted rules surrounding what business casual is and is not.
What is acceptable business casual attire at a tech company:
What is not acceptable business casual attire at a tech company:
Dress Codes for New Candidates
If you’re new to a company or going to be new, it’s always best to err on the side of caution for your first few days. The age old phrase “dress for the job you want” is a great mantra to have. If over your interview the hiring manager expresses a business casual dress code, but you’re still unsure what that means, dress more on the side of business so you can get a sense of what other employees are wearing when you get there. It’s better to show up in slacks while everyone else is in jeans than the other way around.
Dress Code Response
Of the 96% that have enforced dress codes at their place of work, the majority of employees are pleased with the parameters, finding it beneficial to their work. In fact, 48% would consider working a similar job with the same salary at a different company that requires a more professional dress code. Employees who dress more professionally usually feel more professional and more satisfied with their work.
Dressing in an interview
For an online interview, 39% of hiring managers expect candidates to dress in business casual while only 26% expect business professional. For in person interviews, 38% of hiring managers expect business casual and 37% expect business professional. Hiring managers still expect candidates to dress formally even if the company has a casual dress code.
When asked if a candidate’s dress during the interview process influences their hiring decisions, the overwhelming majority of hiring managers answered in the affirmative. How you dress is not only a first impression for a hiring manager, it’s also a direct reflection of how you view yourself. If you dress too casually, it sends the message that you don’t take yourself seriously enough. Inversely, if you dress too formally it connotes an air of desperation or inflexibility. Prior to an interview or starting a position, do as much research as you can into the company culture. When in doubt, it’s best to dress for success.
Have questions about what to wear? Surf Search is still working on developing our in-house styling team, but would be happy to assist in any way that we can prior to your interview or start date.