What to wear to a startup interview?

What to Wear to a Startup Interview?

In this article, we will see ‘What to wear to a startup interview?’.


Interviews are the first step to being considered as a candidate for the job role you want to take up. In the 21st century, the criteria by which the board and the interviewers judge you go way beyond just how qualified and experienced you are. Instead of just being serious about the kind of job role you are aiming to get selected for, you also need to put effort and thought into the kind of clothes you wear when you first go to meet your potential future bosses. These days, be it a startup or a large organization, everyone pays close attention to the kind of outfit you are wearing when you walk into the room for your first interview.

Your first big impression depends on what you are wearing to the interview. Startup interviews are indeed casual and more informal as compared to other businesses. However, at the end of the day, they too are looking for a candidate that can act professionally in the workplace and be formal in front of their stakeholders. For a startup interview, neither are you supposed to wear a suit, nor a casual shirt! However, there is nothing to stress about. Be it an internship, managerial role, or even a leadership job post that you have applied for in a startup, here are a few tips that will help you decide what to wear for your interview- 

Research and learn 

Most startups prefer for you to wear one standard outfit for your interview. For men, it is jeans, a buttoned-down shirt, and formal shoes. For women, it can mean dark-colored jeans, a white shirt/blouse, and a pair of flats. Shorts and sneakers are a strict no since they reflect informal and casual behavior. You can surf the net and look at sites about the kind of outfits that people wear for startup interviews and leave a good first impression.

Check out the company dress codes 

Research the company website and all social media platforms to understand what the employees and the staff usually wear. If there is a tour of the office or any videos on the net, look at them closely. All this research can help you to align your dress code with the work culture and the organization and showcase the board that you can fit in with the team if need be.

Wear what suits you 

One of the values that startups believe in is for you to be your true self and not lose your character in the attempt to impress or get selected. After you are aware of the outfit that you need to wear, style it a little and modify it so that it reflects your personality and the kind of person that you are. While you need to look formal and prepared, you can also get a little creative with your outfits since this is a startup. 

Keep it clean and professional 

Even if your outfit is appropriate and professional for the organization, it won’t matter if it is not presentable. Make sure it is stain-free and properly ironed. It is okay to take out a little extra time right before the interview and make your outfit ready and clean. There is no harm in spending some extra money and even giving it to a dry cleaner.

Be comfortable 

If the dress code makes you feel uncomfortable or is the kind that you have not worn before, your interview is probably not the right place for you to carry it off for the first time. Even though the expectations and the first impression of the board matter a lot, you will anyway not be able to ace the interview if you are uncomfortable all the time. 

Just ask 

You will probably have a phone call or exchange emails with the hiring team before you are called in for your interview. If you have done your research and are still confused about what to wear, do not hesitate to ask one of the people you are in communication with. While it is best to just slip it in during the conversation, try not to be too inquisitive and ask too many questions.

Why is a specific dress code important for interviews?

Not just in today’s times, but dress codes have played a role in determining the success of an interview for as long as the history of selection processes goes. An inappropriate dress code has become a symbol of disrespect and showcasing the casual attitude of a person. There will be no difference left between the professional and the personal domain if individuals do not pay attention to the kind of dress code that is important for the workplace. Your interview forms your first impression, and it will give the board a fair idea about your personality based on the outfit that you choose. Here are a few reasons that highlight the importance of dress codes during any kind of job interview – 

  1. Professionalism – Let the board see that you respect and understand the existence of norms and standards. It showcases that you are alright with following the guidelines of the organization not because appearance matters to you, but because you respect both the company and the people who have created the directives. Not many people want to follow norms and even though they feel that they are making a statement and standing up for what they believe in, they are just showing disrespect.
  2. Respect – Interviewers want to know that when you walk in that door for your interview, you are serious about the job position you have applied for and are aware that the time of each person present there is precious and valuable. If you learn to respect those that are above you and also your employees, it will show that you are aware of the corporate culture and a perfect fit for the workplace environment. 
  3. Confidence – The right attire will put you in the right mood and a frame of mind that will help you focus on work and answering questions during the interview. It is proven true that when you dress appropriately, it brings out your best self and performance.

How are startups different from other small businesses?

There has been a constant rush of both startups and small businesses in the market. Often, people confuse startups with small businesses. This not only creates confusion but also hampers the preparation process for any specific job role. The operations and functions of both startups and small businesses mainly differ in these ways –

  1. Profit – Small businesses aim to earn profits from the very first day of their operations. However, the priority of a startup is not just to start earning profits. They start with developing and launching a product that will be liked and appreciated by their target audience. Once the product gets popular and gains value, the profit starts coming in and is mostly huge.
  2. Technology – Small businesses do not require any modern technologies. However, they can use technological resources if needed to achieve their business targets and objectives. Startups make it a point to use all kinds of modern and advanced technologies for fast growth and purposes of expansion. 
  3. Innovation – Small businesses do not have any out-of-the-box ideas. They are not very unique and are just like other businesses operating in the market. Innovation and Uniqueness is the most essential factor for a startup. Sometimes, they set out to solve a completely new problem and sometimes they wish to work and innovate on existing solutions. No matter what, their business models are full of creativity.
  4. Rate of Growth – Small Businesses do not focus much on the growth of the company. Their primary objective is to increase sales and they are okay if it hampers the overall growth of the company. They are alright with growing as and when it happens. Startups aim to reach as many people as possible from Day 1. They want to showcase their success and product to everyone in the shortest time possible.
  5. Finance – Small Businesses usually start through collected funds from families, private savings, banking credits, etc. At the end of the day, the founder wants to be self-sufficient and this means returning all this money with credit once the business starts earning profit. Startups usually resort to crowdfunding. Venture Capitalists, angel investors, loans from banks, etc. are the common sources of funding.

Believe it or not, dressing up for an interview requires some serious thought and preparation. It is best advised that you keep your options less and decide your attire a few days before the interview date itself. This will help you focus on your preparation for the interview in the last few days instead of running here and there for a decent outfit. Startup Interview outfits can be tricky. You need to portray yourself as a qualified professional who is serious and thankful for this opportunity. On the other hand, you need to display the kind of attitude that directors are looking for to kick start a company. To maintain a balance between both, you need to keep the above-discussed tips in your mind, and you are well on your way to the perfect outfit for a perfect first impression! 

Frequently asked questions 
  1. Is it a bad idea to not focus much on the dress code, but just on your preparation for the interview? 

The preparation for the question-answer part of the interview should without a doubt be your core focus. However, it is a bad idea to not pay attention to the dress code at all. You should make it a point to take some time out for researching about the company and the kind of attire that is considered acceptable in their routine office hours.

  1. What is the basic meaning of a startup? 

A startup is a young company that has been recently funded and started by one or more budding/existing entrepreneurs. It offers a unique product/service to the market after detailed market research and completing a series of legal obligations to start a business.

  1. Does personal grooming have any role to play before an interview? 

Yes, it does. However, most people neglect and do not even consider the option. Making sure you are wearing clean and ironed clothes, trimming your hair, and cutting your nails are some of the grooming actions that do not take much time and also make you feel good about yourself.

  1. I did not think startups pay any attention to dress codes. Is that not true? 

No, this is not true. This has been the mindset of most candidates for years now, and probably the reason for a lot of people not getting through the interview process. While the founders and the people working in startups may be more informal and personal as compared to other businesses, they do expect a degree of formality and professionalism in the way you present yourself.

  1. How does an appropriate dress code affect the attitude and mood of the candidate himself? 

It goes without saying, an appropriate dress code affects the candidate’s mood and attitude positively. The confidence of the individual significantly increases and they feel more jolly. Even if you get stuck while answering a question and hesitate, your confidence saves you when you know how to carry yourself well. 

  1. Are there any major differences between the dress code for men and women?

No, there are no major differences. Both men and women are expected to maintain a formal dress code, but not too formal (like a suit) either. Jeans, trousers paired with a white shirt for both men and women are suitable. However, make sure that no revealing clothes are worn. 

What to wear to a startup interview?

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