Startups are notorious for going against the grain and offering an extremely casual work environment where anything goes.
But you need to land that dream job first before you can start dressing like you run the place (or just went for a run in the park). So make sure you're dressed right for the part when you go for your interview.
1. Be your (professional) self. Steer clear of suits and ties if you’re interviewing at a startup. Instead, prove you understand the culture of the startup world by adding a little personal flare to your professional attire. Playing with accessories is the best way to show off your personality while ensuring your look stays interview appropriate. Statement jewelry and a great pair of bold Warby Parker glasses are solid choices. Or take notes from style icon Jenna Lyons of J.Crew and rock both at once!
2. Add a pop of color. Accent your look with a cheerful burst of color. Part of your goal in planning your outfit is to prove to your potential future colleagues that you’re someone they will be excited to be around every day. Show them you’re not afraid to have a little fun! For ladies, a colorful scarf or bright J.Crew heels are great options, and guys can’t go wrong with a fun Bonobos gingham shirt or colorful socks.
3. Spruce up head to toe. 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy may think Liz Lemon’s work sneakers are hip, but she probably didn’t wear them to her interview. And while startups may have the reputation of being casual (and employees at our company, Hukkster, do love their Chuck Taylors), complete the interview look with a pair of nice, clean shoes. For men we suggest a great pair of classic Sperry loafers or oxfords. And for women, remember, those strappy stilettos are great for a Saturday night out with friends, but for the interview you want to go with a simple pump or ballet flat.
Remember your look can say a lot about you and what you’ll bring to an organization. The goal is to showcase your skills and enthusiasm for the role, so don’t distract your interviewer with too much skin or a wrinkled tee. We’ve rounded up a few of the worst interview looks; so be sure to avoid these interview no-nos.
4. Don't show up in attire that's too revealing. Show off your skills, not your skin. You are there to prove you’ll be an asset to the company and can hit the ground running, so keep your shirt buttoned up and skirt or dress below the knees. An outfit that’s too revealing will distract from all the great things you have to say, and this faux pas will likely cost you the job.
5. Avoid hoodies and flip-flops. You’re going to an interview; so don’t choose items you would pack on a beach getaway. Hoodies and flip-flops might fly once you’ve landed the job, but ultra-casual is never interview appropriate. Dress to impress and let the interviewer know you spent more than five minutes preparing for the big day. If you’re a hoodies and flip-flops kind of guy (or gal) be sure to ask the interviewer what the workplace dress code looks like to be sure its going to be a good fit for you and your casual style.
6. Rule out T-shirts. Avoid promoting another startup or company brand at your interview; you are there to promote yourself. Interviewers are looking for candidates who are passionate about the position and the company, so having any catchphrase or company name plastered across your T-shirt is definitely a no; it will appear you already belong somewhere else. Skip T-shirts altogether and opt for a blouse or oxford instead. Once you get hired you’ll surely be rocking your new company T-shirt in and out of the office, because yes, startups have cool swag and love to self-promote! (Hey, we're proud of our company's list of interview must-haves.)
So, good luck!
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell are the co-founders of Hukkster, an online shopping tool that helps you track products on sites you love, get notified when those products go on sale and gives you the ability to buy when the price and time are right.