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Startup Culture: Can you dress down for an interview?

startup culture

Dressing for an interview with a startup presents a unique conundrum for a job seeker: you need to come across as professional, but you also want to show you’ll fit in with their culture (which we’re assuming is ripped jeans, iced lattes and late starts...)

In the Philippines, fresh grads have always been told by their parents and tutors that clean-cut, professional, middle-of-the-road attire is always best at an interview. But this is an old school view - these days, casual dress is not only permitted in many offices, it’s encouraged.

As more startups pop up around the Philippines (a government roadmap is targeting 500 startups with total valuation of US$2 billion by 2020) job seekers and their parents are going to have to get used to a whole new look.

But what should you wear when you’re making that all-important first impression?

You can do better than jeans and hoodies
They might be allowed, but you don’t want to show up to the interview looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed. A suit and tie isn’t required, but don’t assume maong pants, plain tees and sneakers are the go. Ditch the jeans and your favourite band shirt and opt for smart casual - chinos, a smart t-shirt and a jacket for the men, and smart jeans, heels and a blazer for the ladies. Don’t wear anything too flashy, and avoid looking like a walking brand.

Research won’t let you down
When in doubt research, research… and then research some more. While doing your homework on the company, have a snoop around for some staff photos or videos. What are they wearing? What does the office look like? Can you get a sense of the culture and appropriate attire from the images? If you can’t find a single lick of information online, then err on the side of caution and dress as mentioned above.

Inquiring is your saving grace
If you’re still coming up short, then ask! Tap into your networks to see if anyone knows anything about the company you’re interviewing with, or politely touch base with someone currently on staff there. Better yet, flick their HR a message - they’ll appreciate the effort you’re putting into your prep.

Need more help in acing your next interview? Click here for Interview tips