Wear This, Not That to Your Next IT Interview

6 real-life examples you can learn from.

Will the right clothes cause someone to hire you without regard to your professional qualifications? Of course not. But clothes are one way we convey who we are during that all-important first impression.

With the help of a few brave volunteers, and a panel of keen-eyed judges, we examine how that dress or suit really comes across to the people who might ask, “When can you start?”

It’s IT meets career meets fashion police – practical and, we hope, also fun.

Read the article version to see the judges' full answers and vote for your favorites.

Credit: ITworld/Esther Schindler

Beth would most likely interview for technical advisory positions in an academic setting.

The panel had mixed feelings about Beth’s options. The second wins out – barely – because it’s more upbeat.

One judge rejected both outfits and suggested that Beth head back to her closet: “Neither option does a single positive thing for her,” said Traci McBride, chief stylist of TeeMcBee Image Consulting. Both are too casual and really unflattering to her slim shape, McBride says, while making her appear older than she is. “Beth is dressing in clothes too big for her. In wearing dated garments, she is telling the interviewer that her skills are dated.”

Credit: ITworld/Esther Schindler

Steve would be looking for a job as CIO, somewhere in the southwest U.S.

This outfit got the most consensus among the judges: Steve should wear a navy suit. (And probably you should, too.)

“Navy communicates that you are honest and a team player,” says McBride. “I prefer the white shirt and would only recommend a power tie in a medium red with thin white stripes.” But she also recommends getting the suit fitted better. “Having a tailor on speed dial is the key to looking as sharp as one can be. Off the rack is fine if you tweak it with a tailor who knows what he is doing.”

Credit: ITworld/Esther Schindler

Priscilla would apply for a job as network engineer.

The judges agreed that the second outfit is colorful and fun – but possibly too casual. “Outfit #1 tells me that I can be confident Pricilla will take care of my network,” said judge Leslie Hawthorn, a community manager, speaker and author. “While outfit #2 tells me I’d have a fun evening out with her on the town.”

McBride offered this suggestion for improving the winning outfit: Tailor the jacket; this one is too baggy in both the arms and the body.

Credit: ITworld/Esther Schindler

Thomas would apply to be a software developer in the Pacific northwest.

Thomas’s choices earned a few, “It depends…” responses. The blue-shirt “look” is reminiscent of tech geeks in middle management everywhere, said judge Brenda Christensen, who works in high-tech PR. “If that's the position he's after, he's showing it."

A few panel members feel that Thomas ought to add a tie or sport coat. “You don’t show up for an interview in casual attire,” McBride said. “Even if this is what you could wear on a day-to-day basis once you have the job: Dress up for the interview.”

But Hawthorn, who used to live in the area, disagrees: “If Tom is interviewing in Portland, he’s overdressed in both outfits.”

Credit: ITworld/Esther Schindler

Alexandra would be interviewing for a job in the Bay Area as a software engineer with a strong design role.

The judges were split regarding Alexandra’s job interview clothing, perhaps because, as judge Brenda Kerton, owner of Capability Insights Consulting, says, “The outfits seem to say two different things.” The first outfit says “design” to Kerton: professional but a bit funky. “I think it works well for a tech job with a strong design role.” Christensen, too, likes Outfit #1: “It shows boldness and creativity – perfect for the role she is going for here.”

Credit: ITworld/Esther Schindler

Donna would apply to be a Web developer in the southwest.

It was tough for the panel to make a call based on these photos, but the first one did gain the consensus. A black-and-white outfit usually comes across as crisp, professional, and polished, says Kerton: a good impression for an interview!

Author's note: The day Donna submitted these photos, she was offered a new job. And, by the way, she wore the black outfit during her in-person interview.