The definition “interview dress code” immediately conjures up a formal power suit and dressing for success. However, more recently and fairly common practice in start-up environments is to advise interviewees to dress down for their interviews. A new kind of interview and work attire has subsequently emerged, known as start-up casual.
If you are thinking of joining a start-up firm or are due to be interviewed, use the following guidelines to help you choose what to wear and what to avoid in order to fit in with a casual company’s culture.
What is start-up casual dress?
Long hours are common at many start-ups, therefore being comfortable is of utmost importance. Clothing is typically modern, bright and highly comfortable which reflects the office vibe and culture, which is generally youthful and energetic.
When it comes to typical workday wear, almost anything goes. Jeans and khakis are prevalent darker denim is preferential over lighter or ripped jeans as it looks more professional. The look to aim for is stylish but not sloppy.
Tops can be anything from casual button-downs to lightweight jumpers, cardigans and well-made T-shirts. Simple and non-fussy blouses are a good pick for women, and they lend a casual yet polished look. If you want to jazz your look up, try a blazer with jeans combination. It adds just the right amount of sophistication yet is still relaxed enough to pass the interview test. It even dresses up a basic T-shirt and transforms any outfit from too casual to just right.
Footwear includes loafers for men, and flats or wedges for women. Footwear should be comfortable but still stylish and avoid flip-flops.
The whole idea is to be well-dressed and to put some thought into your outfit, yet not to appear stuffy.
What to wear to an interview?
If you have an upcoming interview at a casual start-up it can be challenging to figure out what to wear. After all, you don’t want to appear too stiff in a suit or, conversely, too casual for something as important as a job interview. You want to make a good first impression.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to aim for business casual attire. In other words, step up a bit from start-up casual but don’t go to the extreme in a suit and tie.
Men should wear a pair of trousers or khakis with a long-sleeved button-down shirt, or a knit shirt with a collar. Leather shoes and a belt are good bets, and ties and blazers are optional.
Woman can opt for trousers or skirts in cotton, corduroy, twill or khaki. Cardigans work well and add a more formal touch. Solid colours are a good choice over busy or too-colourful patterns.
If you land a job at a start-up company, consider yourself lucky that you don’t have to invest in a typical business wardrobe of stuffy power suits and unforgiving shoes. When your work clothes are comfortable, yet polished and pulled together, you can focus on what’s most important: your job.