What Should a Software Developer Wear to a Job Interview?

Long Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply

So you have an interview set up for your dream development job in your dream company. You are already worrying about getting there on time, what questions might crop up and how technical their questions might be… and then you start to worry about what to wear too. If you aren’t, you should be. Whether you are a Java Architect, a C# Programmer or an Android Coder, this tends to be the last thing that goes through the mind of any software developer. ‘What’s in a shirt?’, you ask, you should be asking; ‘what should a software developer wear to an interview?’.

There is a whole stream of psychology dedicated to how we carry ourselves and our mannerisms, but what about how we dress? It’s neither silly nor superficial, what you wear can affect your chances of landing the job. While you don’t want to pretend to be someone else, but you also don’t want to look like you don’t care.

Form Follows Function

If you fall within the programmer; architect, or software developer stereotype, whether you want to admit it or not, you are quite possibly a bit clueless when it comes to the realm of fashion and appearances in general. But there’s always hope! Father of skyscrapers, the architect who inspired modern architecture, Louis Sullivan coined the adage; ‘form follows function’. If you are at all analytical and logical, consider following the same logic when it comes to your wardrobe and style choices. Keep the essentials and lose the rest.

Bright Colours and Prints

If you like bright colours, maybe forgo them for the purpose of this exercise. In an interview, bright colours are bound to distract from the main event – which should be you. You want your interviewer to concentrate on what you are saying, how you are saying it and why. A loud floral shirt or dress says look at me, but it also speaks louder than your words will. They can also imply a level of flamboyance which may be construed as unnecessary in a field which demands a certain level of preciseness and analytical competence. Not to say you can’t be creative, flamboyant and a good web developer but your interviewer may lean towards the conservative side.

The Shape of You

So you’ve got a great suit but it exudes matric dance circa the mid-2000s. DON’T! You might think it’s still okay but trust me, it’s not. It’s also not suitable work attire, its eveningwear. You’re lucky if it still fits you but the more modern, contemporary silhouette has undoubtedly changed. Take the time to look at more current trends in workwear. Oversized and boxy styles are unflattering at best. At worst it screams internet 1.0. Similarly, excessively skinny style pants are just soooooo over, not to mention inappropriate. These are also not the look a developer who is on top of their game and in touch with new tech should go for. You can liken contemporary clothing to contemporary coding, it’s important.

Women can generally get away with more, but still, keep it updated. If you keep what you consider a ‘classic’ style, maybe you’re actually in a rut? Update your look with the odd seasonal must-have or some on-trend accessories. If you do follow fashion closely, don’t fall foul of trying to look like a festival-going teen. Crop tops and mom jeans aren’t appropriate workwear, rather rock them on the weekend.

The Devil is in the Details

A well-fitted shirt and a tailored jacket mean nothing if they are too big, too small, creased or littered with cat hair. At the same token, men; please tailor your pants. Pants that are too long or too short just make you look like a noob. Baggy pants… make you look like you are clinging to a bygone era. Stop it! Lastly, if you can’t polish your shoes and iron your clothes will you be able to objectively pick apart your code to find the offending glitch when things just aren’t coming together? Take pride in yourself.

Mirror Mirror

Who is interviewing you, what type of company is it and what kind of industry does the company fall in? These are very important questions to ask. These will help you determine just how smart, casual, conservative or quirky you can dress. The biggest reason for this is that by emulating your interviewer you are more likely to win their trust because they will feel as if they can relate to you. If you are aiming to make waves in a hot new dev start-up, you have a little more room for movement here.

You be You

Assuming you have the basics right, now you can maybe play around with your own personal flair and present yourself in a way that is consistent with who you are. By this I don’t mean you should wear your 90’s surfer beaded necklace, crocs, slogan t-shirts or a club-ready mini dress. There is leeway here with a quirk here and there, but never go full you if you tend to be an oddball in this department (try to be honest with yourself here).


If you aren’t generally washed and fresh smelling you actually need to reassess your life goals. Furthermore, a reasonably fashionable haircut, trimmed beard and trimmed nails go a looooong way. Women; I think we are pretty much on the same page here.

If You Still Feel Overwhelmed Remember These Rules

  • Less is more
  • Go for a good fit
  • Keep it contemporary
  • Rather look too smart than too casual

Now that you have a clearer idea about exactly what a software developer should wear to an interview, go forth and conquer. Keep it simple, keep it professional and don’t be scared to look for inspiration from contemporary sources.

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