Dressing appropriately for any job is important. It would obviously be weird and inappropriate for an employee to wear jeans and a T-shirt in a law firm or investment bank. Usually a company will tell you if they expect you to dress in a particular way when you get hired (or if they “tell” you subliminally – look around). However, it becomes a bit more ambiguous when you haven’t been hired yet and am actually interviewing and actively applying to be hired by a company.
There is always the old saying that you should “dress for the job you want.” However, that saying is just plain silly and vague. What does that really mean, and how does it become applicable to say, my preparation for my Product Manager interview? What does a Product Manager even dress like in their day-to-day work life?
You could always just go for a suit every time you go interviewing. You will look among the best, if not the best, wherever you go interviewing. But suits are expensive, and if you’re actively applying and interviewing like what Product Gym recommends, which is 10 to 22 interviews per week, maintaining a suit to remain clean and good-looking suddenly becomes a hard task.
Suits, in general, are actually unnecessary in a Product Manager job and in a Product Manager interview. You really need to just dress up when you encounter the on-site interview that requires you to go to the company itself. Since the Product Manager interview process requires at least four interviews, and among those, one or two phone (not on-site) interview(s), it’s actually smart and prudent to just ask the interviewer or recruiter over the phone at the end of that first (or second) round interview about what they expect in their applicants’ dress attire when they come to the company for their first on-site interview. Since the recruiter or interviewer calling you for the first (or second) round interview probably works in the company’s Hiring or Human Resources division, they should know the most. Most of the time they will tell you ahead of time, whether on the phone or through email, and if they don’t, they will answer if you ask.
Actually, most of the time, Product Managers are in casual dress whenever they are at work. Product Managers are rarely in suits or fancy clothes. It’s important to just wear something fitted that would make you comfortable in the interview. The interviewers in the on-site interviews will be mostly members of the product teams, who will mostly be dressed business casual as well.
A good rule of thumb for interview attire for the Product Manager field would really be to just dress a bit better than the interviewer. Like stated above, Product Managers are mostly in casual attire, so it would be smart to dress in similar or a bit better, like business casual. Think of it as just dressing to meet your significant other’s parents – a suit would probably be too much, and a T-shirt and shorts would warrant a disapproving look or stare. For men, wear a buttoned shirt (long or short sleeves is up to you) – tie is optional – and black or brown slacks, or at least the best pair of jeans you have. For ladies, wear a skirt and a decent blouse or, like the men, a buttoned shirt. The shirts and blouses should be tucked in. Comfort really is more important than style in a Product Manager on-site interview.
Of course, always use common sense with all your clothing decisions!
Rich is the Founder of Product Gym™, the first professional career coaching service committed to helping aspiring and veteran Product Managers transition into the Product Manager job of their dreams. Previously, Rich worked as a Technical Recruiter for both CyberCoders and Workbridge Associates, where he partnered with countless companies to attract, develop, and retain their top talent. Currently, he specializes in coaching his students to generate more interviews than they can count, perfect their interview pitches, as well as negotiate the biggest offers for themselves with the most exciting companies. Rich graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s Degree in History.