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Many people are dissatisfied with their company's dress code.

Seeing as this can be an important factor in job satisfaction is it appropriate to ask about the dress code during an interview?

If so, How should the question be asked so as to avoid reducing my chances of being selected for a position? If the dress code is more or less formal than I am comfortable with how should I let the company know that?

If not then how can I determine if the dress code is going to be a distraction that will be a problem for me?

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I would first ask questions that are directly related with the job itself, and ask about the dress code at the end. You could formulate the question so that it looked like that you were asking to get ready. –  superM Apr 11 '13 at 13:45
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This isn't worth an answer but: " If the dress code is more or less formal than I am comfortable with how should I let the company know that?" You shouldn't. There is no point. They're not going to change their policy for you. Decide if you can live with it or not, and move on. –  Beska Apr 11 '13 at 17:24
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@Adel - When I interview for my employer I am usually dressed up more than just a normal work day. During an interview I am a representative of my company to an external candidate so I feel the need to be more professionally dressed than on days where I am just coding. So no just looking around does not necessarily answer the question. I have also been interviewed by an owner in jeans and a polo shirt that required business dress of his employees. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Apr 11 '13 at 17:45
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@Adel in addition to what Chad said; if the company you're interviewing at has a conference room directly off the lobby and your start/stop times don't correspond to the start/end of the day or a lunch break you might not have much opportunity to see how employees normally dress. –  Dan Neely Apr 11 '13 at 18:18
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Assuming you're doing your interview at the location where you'll be working, this may come across as a dumb question. Actually, you should be looking around at everything you possibly can. I interviewed at a company once, who claimed to use the Agile method - but when I looked around their office I didn't see any signs of an Agile process being used, so I called them on it, and they were like "yeah that's really just marketing" (by which they mean 'lies') and got an offer later that day. It pays to look around, and if something is obvious, make your own judgement about how to ask about it. –  Jasmine Apr 11 '13 at 22:45

10 Answers 10

up vote 117 down vote accepted

Yes, it is appropriate to ask about the company culture, which encompasses dress code. You should ask whatever you need to ask to ensure a fit.

If it doesn't come up naturally in the interview process -- for example, it's part of the spiel I give about the company at the beginning of an interview, but that's just me -- then in the "do you have any questions for us?" portion of the interview is the perfect time to ask them to talk about the company culture.

For example, this basic question wouldn't make me think anything besides "this person wants to be prepared": "Could you talk a little bit about the company culture and any policies I should be aware of, such as dress code?"

It could/should also be a question you ask the recruiter or HR contact before the interview itself, so as to avoid awkwardness when you walk in wearing the wrong sort of suit (or not).

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This is exactly what I was going to say. You are checking them out as much as they are checking you out. –  Mike Cheel Apr 11 '13 at 18:44
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+1 asking is important. For the others that suggest looking around: when I worked at Symc, different departments had different dress codes (I wore shorts, win) –  ataulm Apr 11 '13 at 18:46
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If you're trying to avoid feeling awkward (even though it's a fine question) and you're physically there, try framing the question as "I saw you/lots of other people wearing suits/hawaiian shirts/monkey costumes; is that what you usually wear?" And on the phone you can certainly ask something about friendliness/formality of culture, and if dress doesn't come up in their answer, follow up with "so not a lot of suits and ties then?" –  Jefromi Apr 12 '13 at 15:29

It will generally be acceptable to ask, especially at the end of an interview. It is one of those wrapping up" types of questions, the ones that you ask to learn the logistics of the position and non duty/role related facts. Other examples include "What location would I be working at?" (if company has more than one office) or "Who would I be reporting too?" (if not the individual interviewing you.)

The better choice, however, is to get a tour of the working environment or to try and meet a few of the team you'll be working with. Observe their attire and learn this way. This has the added benefit of getting your face/name into more peoples' heads, and lets you evaluate your potential future co-workers (so you can decide better if the environment will be a good fit for you).

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If you are going through a recruiter, which is sometimes the case in the tech field, then you can ask about dresscode through them as they are likely to already know the answer. Good recruiters will have a lot of background information on company culture, dress code, benefits, etc. Also as stated in other answers, when you tour through the company be observant of your future co-workers dress code and the overall environment from how your greeted when you walk in the door to how people passing by treat you. Play it by ear during your interview and go with your gut feeling as whether to ask or not ask certain questions. Ultimately your interviewer wants to know "Is this someone I or my team wants to work with?"

Check your linkedin/facebook and other social networks to see if you have any connections that you could ask to give you more insight into the company.

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I don't know why you got flagged down, this is good advice. If the recruiter is on-contract with the company, they will have visited with the company a few times, probably placed a few employees and solicited their feedback about the company, and will have good insight on the company culture. –  Johnny Apr 11 '13 at 18:18
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Ditto - this is excellent advice: +1. –  Vector Apr 11 '13 at 18:19
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Good recruiters are especially on top of the interview dress codes. –  JeffO Apr 11 '13 at 18:25

Asking is not so important as when you ask. You want them to be interested in hiring you first before you ask questions about benefits and dress code and the like. If you ask these things first thing, many interviewers will feel as if you are more interested in what's in it for you than anything else which is not the impression you want to give. So I would ask them at the end of the interview after you have wowed them with your awsomeness first and after you have asked questions about the work itself and the projects you might be working on.

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Asking about dress code is fine. However, how you ask about it is important.

You may want to know if the dress code is going to be a distraction or stressor for you. I would not recommend framing your question in that context.

A more appropriate context to ask it in the context of company culture. Be observant of those who you see on the way into the interview room. If you get a bit of a tour, even better. Then you can ask a question such as, "How would you describe the dress code or expectation here?" Take note of the answer, but do not provide reaction. It is highly unlikely that any dress code exceptions would be granted to you, so providing feedback will simply take you out of the running.

If you get an offer, then you can consider the dress code in choosing whether or not accept the position. If you felt there were ambiguities in the information you received, after the offer is the time to clarify them.

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Is it appropriate to ask about a company's dress code during an interview?

Interviews are all about determining fit - do you fit the company's open position, and does the company fit with your needs.

During an interview, you should only ask questions that would make a difference in your decision to join or not join.

If dress code is really a big deal to you, and if the "wrong" dress code would cause you to decide not accept an offer, then by all means you should ask about it.

But don't take this decision lightly. Some companies would treat this concern about dress code as a negative. Perhaps you wouldn't want to work for such a company anyway.

Most folks can scope out the dress code during the interview process by noting what the interviewer is wearing, and watching for what others are wearing as they walk to the interview location. You could also try to find someone inside the company who has some insight.

But the bottom line is this: if dress code is very important to you - ask!

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I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. An interview is your chance to learn abot what you might be getting into. Knowing what to wear if you join up is a VERY important thing, especially in this day and age where dressing wrong can start an immediate negative impression of you. –  acolyte Apr 11 '13 at 14:04
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"Perhaps you wouldn't want to work for such a company anyway.- great words, +1 –  Yuck Apr 11 '13 at 19:00

It depends entirely on the interviewer and the culture of the company your joining.

As someone who has interviewed for a few posts I would like to be asked. It shows you have an interest in the company and its operating procedure. Your trying to ascertain if you would be a good fit for the company and if you would feel comfortable working there..... this shows a great character.

However I have a friend who have was in exactly this situation, she noticed all the receptionists wore really short skirts and that made her feel uncomfortable. So she asked the question... the interviewer was obviously quite offended and my friend didn't get the job (though im not saying this is the reason she didn't get it).

Basically if its important to you then you better ask. However if the interviewer was offended by the question I would argue that its not the kind of company that you would want to work for anyway.

Consider how you word the question "Is there a standard company dress code? What should I expect on my first day if I was hired for this post?"... I dont think anyone could take offence at that...

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If during the interview you are uncomfortable asking about the dress code, chances are the company is not a good fit for you. If you do not have abnormal confidence issues and are emotionally healthy, and yet still you feel uncomfortable asking a question that almost 100% of the time would not make any difference on whether you get hired, then I would insist that there is something wrong with this place.

On the other hand if you are having some self-confidence challenges, (often a sign of humility), you should know that although it is natural and human beings often cannot help but judge each other (unless they work on themselves), your intellect and generally being a kind person, will by far outweigh the question you are dreading to ask.

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It is right to be aware of how people will judge you in a work place based on how you are dressed. I've often heard the adage the you have to dress for the job you want, and not the job you have. If you want to be a manager, then you have to dress like a manager. Each group at work has it's own expectations about how their members dress. –  Xenson Apr 12 '13 at 15:43
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@АртёмЦарионов - 'if you are amazing at what you do... well respected' - probably true (not always...) but FIRST you have to get the job and prove it... Often for the first 6 months or a year it's good idea to 'toe the mark' until you establish yourself as 'amazing' - then you can 'take license' depending on the circumstances. –  Vector Apr 12 '13 at 16:01

No - I don't think a job interview is the appropriate time for that:

Look at the JOB. Do you want it? Dress the part. If you don't want it, you don't want it. The job and your qualifications for it are the subject of an interview as far as you are concerned. If the interviewer brings something up, then you can comment on it - otherwise, focus on the job.

If you want a job but refuse to dress the part, you're probably not a good fit for the job.

I only ask such questions after I have decided I want the job and they have decided they want me. That is the time to focus on such details.

And as others have commented, it's generally not hard to figure this out without asking questions of the interviewer, at least if you are on site: Just look around, or maybe network with others, etc.

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+1 focus on the job! great words –  Yuck Apr 11 '13 at 18:59

I know a recruiter who is in a bind when she visits candidates at their college (Ivy League Schools). She dresses professionally during these visits, but the company is very casual, so she feels she gives the wrong impression. In some industries it may be common for employees to dress better than normal during an interview. Obviously, it they're casual, you have your answer.

Usually there are hints about the office environment given during the interview process, so you should look out for them. Office attire may be a "deal killer" for you, but usually this requirement is wrapped up in a much larger company culture that you don't prefer.

Imagine a company that requires:

  • strict time clock adherence
  • breaks are very rigid
  • address all supervisors as sir or madam
  • report everything to your direct supervisor and never speak out during a meeting
  • all work must be done from the office
  • No eating or drinking of any kind in the office
  • casual office attire

I guess one out of seven isn't bad.

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protected by Jim Apr 11 '13 at 19:11

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