Don’t be fooled by our reputation for ping pong and beer at work — not everyone shows up to work wearing a hoodie and flip flops — especially product managers.
I’ve conducted more than 100 job interviews at Google, and not a single applicant has dressed casually. Some have over-dressed, wearing a matching suit and tie, and it’s no coincidence they were new to the industry.
In this video and blog post I’ll run through some concrete wardrobe suggestions to help you make the best first impression. These guidelines are also appropriate for technology public relations (where I also worked for three years), sales and business development. If you’re in a role where you need to represent the company, you’ll want to dress more formally than Erlich, Richard, Gilfoyle and Dinesh.
***Update 2017-09-01: I’ve added a section about womenswear to this post.
- Base-layer: Traditional business shirt or polo shirt
- Mid-layer: Thin wool sweater, preferably V-neck
- Jacket: Blazer with optional top coat, or classic men’s outerwear (can be casual)
- No tie!
- Dark jeans, khakis or slacks (if wearing slacks, don’t match your blazer — too formal)
- Brown dress shoes. Black is fine, but I recommend brown. It’s subtle, but black is a little more conservative and formal.
- Match your belt
- You can wear tennis shoes if you want…Show a little personality with your shoes if you have shoe-game 😉
A Surprising Tip
- Consider wearing something playful or surprising, but keep it subtle. For example, you could wear a bright colorful watch or silly socks. This will show confidence and familiarity with the culture of Silicon Valley
- Smaller startups and kid-oriented industries will expect less formal dress
- Larger companies and business-to-business industries will expect more formal dress
At my father’s company the management used to tell their employees to “dress-down” for major meetings and events. When everyone arrived, despite the casual dress code, management would be wearing suits and ties. It was a total power trip, and it really ticked off my dad. So, on these days, my father threw out the rules. He showed up wearing his best suit and tie. He often told me how differently people treated him when he dressed up, and when he dressed up for these events it really changed how people saw him.
Even though you’re applying for a job in tech, dress like you mean business… but show you’re familiar with the Valley. Good luck!
Update: For Those Wishing to Dress More Femininely
I’m sorry for not including an explicit discussion of womenswear in my initial video! I didn’t have any women’s clothing in my apartment and was initially focused on answering the question about menswear.
Please rest assured, you absolutely don’t have to dress following these traditional male-centric norms for your interviews, or once you’re hired. If you wish to dress more femininely (regardless of your gender), all the classic guidance for “business casual” womenswear will apply. For example, you’d fit right in wearing a conservative skirt and blouse, or a business casual dress. This blog post seems to have good suggestions about business casual womenswear.
The same broader principles I’ve articulated about menswear will apply. For example, I’d still recommend you dress to the “business casual” standard, but consider adding a little personality with your accessories, and don’t make the leap to formalwear.