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Do tech companies care about your look?

I'm at the beginning of my developer career and one question kinda haunts me: does the look of the developer matters in his or her chances to get the job?
I'm talking about tattoos and piercings, the most common, evident and "hated" body modifications the companies tend to not like at all.

I personally care about my look and about what I'm wearing, but even if my tattoos aren't directly visible with a normal shirt on, my piercings (lip, ear and a nose bridge) are very evident.

What's your opinion about this? Have you had any experiences either as a recruiter or as an employee?

Top comments (29)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I would guess that this is probably a general issue that's bigger than tech. If anything I'd guess that the tech industry is more forgiving in this way, but it's definitely still a thing.

I think you're definitely branding yourself for better or worse with everything you do. Everything could be a pro or a con depending on who you're dealing with.

I'll say this about the whole conversation: One thing that really trumps all in this situation is personal hygiene. I feel like no matter what you look like if you show up with hygiene issues, people are going to be less likely to work with you. This might go without saying, but folks should definitely pay attention to this in any professional development setting, and many do not.

jfrankcarr profile image
Frank Carr

Yes. I've found that the "cool" tech companies care a lot if you have gray hair and wrinkled skin.

garthvador profile image
Quentin Caillaud

Context : I have visible piercing and tattoos too.

I had a talk with the persons doing the interviews in the company where I made my internship. It was really a nice place, with some people with tattoos or piercings, casual looks... And they told me that look was still kind of important, because there is a higher chance that you fit in the company if you share a same style.

It goes both ways, they told me they already had people during interviews who came in full suit, and they were thinking "he didn't actually understand, or maybe don't care about, the kind of company we are"...

So I guess you just have to fit, to find the people who will be in good terms with each other.

And take care of your personal hygiene, THAT is important. And be careful about your environment, because people will be nicer with a tattooed person who flush and wash hands after getting to the toilets, and clean when he spilled his coffee than with a person in suit who don't.

Well that is sadly not always true but in any case I will.

yourdev2018 profile image
Your_Dev • Edited

Hey! I’m a co-founder of 2 company’s (1 startup legal/law tech and an softhouse) in Brazil, in both company’s we don’t have any problems with your look or your tattoos, but when a client or a partner goes to the office for a meeting, we ask to everyone take a cloth more adequate for this occasion. This happens because we still a small team, so a lot of times we call some one of the team to participate in the meeting.

Currently we have 8 people on the software house (3 co-founders + 1 vesting) + 1 designer, 1 full-stack, 1 front-end junior and 1 trainee and in the law tech startup we have 6 people ( 4 co-funder and 2 vesting)

Good luck into your dev journey!!

yourdev2018 profile image

And sorry for any orthography error, English isn’t my home language (of course 🇧🇷), I understand very well any text but I’m horrible in create one

pramodghuge profile image
Pramod Ghuge

You might like to use when writing to understand your errors and better express yourself :)

mortoray profile image
edA‑qa mort‑ora‑y

The way you present yourself is important. Even care-free startups expect you to have clean clothes and comb your hair on occasion. You're expected to have a semblance of caring about your appearance. If you don't look like you care, then inferences are made that you don't care about your work either.

It's also not just about what the employer thinks, but their potential clients. Depending on the job you may those clients, or an investor, or other external person, walk through the offices. The way individuals look leaves an impression.

Personally I find piercings and tattoos accentuate a style, this can be either good or bad. Bad tattoos likely create a negative impression as well -- on the assumption that you do rash things without considering the consequences. Good tattoos can show a commitment and consideration of one's self.

Please, don't be one of those people that play with their piercings! Nor come in with a fresh tattoo or piercing -- yeah this happens -- show some sense in timing new acquisitions.

itsasine profile image
ItsASine (Kayla)

Late to the party, but I have a book at home actually titled "Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?" (the answer is yes, for what it's worth)

Since interviews are two ways, yes, be yourself to the interview. If they have issues with your appearance, they can opt to not extend an offer. You wouldn't want to work at a place that dislikes your style anyway. It may mean applying to smaller companies or small departments within large companies, but it will help you find a match better for you. At least in my company, I've not seen judgements about clothes, tattoos, piercings, alt hair, etc other than the one time a manager ranted on LinkedIn about the meaning behind his palm tat. And the gossip from that was minimal :P

cartinez profile image

Thanks for sharing your experience! I've actually had a couple of interviews since I wrote this and despite my look they both went great.

mrtnrdl profile image
Martin Riedel

Just my 2 cents as someone with visible tattoos and piercings:
1) I was and am fully aware that this might hinder recruitment processes.
2) I don't care - I don't want to work for a company where this is a problem anyway.

When i started working, i only had a tattoo though. I 'compensated' by dressing up a bit more - so i made sure not to give any don't care vibes...

theoutlander profile image
Nick Karnik

There's a bit of social stigma that you will need to deal with. That being said, you need to dress well and follow basic hygiene. Although the tech industry is lenient about dress-code, I would recommend dressing for success if you are looking for growth.

elmuerte profile image
Michiel Hendriks

I would recommend dressing for success if you are looking for growth.

If that means what I think it does it implies sucking up to the status quo of a visually discriminating society. If you conform to this I think you are part of the problem.

I do not own a power suit. My results are created by me, not by the magic fabric draped around me.

People should be able to work in the clothes they feel comfortable in. Of course this doesn't mean you can show up at work wearing your favorite mankini, or the worn T-Shirt which you last washed 8 months ago. Basically the clothes you also wear in your spare time on the street should also be the clothes you should be able to wear at your place of work.

theoutlander profile image
Nick Karnik

I would check my tone at the door instead of making accusations.

Why does dressing well get equated with owning a power suit? And what is a power suit?

Dressing for success means dressing in a way that you're presentable. You work at a company to make them money, so if you look like a bum your career will most likely be stagnated.

I work from home because I like to be comfortable. When I'm out, I try to be presentable.

I've worked for several high-profile influentials and shown up in t-shirt and jeans. I've also been in IC and management roles where I've worn suits. You dress appropriately.

Software companies do not dictate what you should wear, but that doesn't mean people should come to work smelling or wearing the same unwashed clothes throughout the week.

Thread Thread
elmuerte profile image
Michiel Hendriks

The power suit, or power dressing, is what has been associated with "dress for success" for quite a long time. The wikipedia article is probably a good starting point. This formal business attire is still what is being preached by the dress for success "movement". Sure, it's no longer the 80s style padded shoulders, but if you don't wear Hugo Boss (or alike) you're not dressing for success. Even ties are still included as requirement for professional dressing.

etafavoti profile image
Erica Tafavoti • Edited

Totally echoing what many others have said below.

It depends on the company. We're a mix of fairly-tattooed people and non in my office. As someone who's assisted in the interview process for new hires (and is a pretty conforming person, except for a tiny nose stud) body modifications like this matter much less than a put-together and positive demeanor (handshake, eye contact, etc.)

But of course, there will be companies that will rule you out for these reasons. And there will likely be some companies 10+ years from now too who will still do this.

A little poking around on culture pages (though not all companies includes photos), Instagram accounts, and public-facing company information about employees can give you insight to a company's vibe, which is a helpful place to start.

alainvanhout profile image
Alain Van Hout

As with most things, it depends. Though in this case, it mostly depends on two specific things: the person(s) that is/are interviewing you, and the type of company that you are applying to/for.

If the person is the deciding factor, than it depends on whether that person(s) is very modern (i.e. somewhat like 'liberal', in the US-sense) or very traditional, which pretty much amounts to their personal biases, be it good or bad. There's little anyone can do to prepare for this, aside from perhaps error on the side of traditionality (that's just how it is -- whether that's necessary a good thing, that's another question).

The other factor, and perhaps the more interesant factor, is the kind of company you are interviewing to/for, with the stereotypical lean and no-nonsense startups at the one end and traditional, big companies at the other end (think: financial sector).

There, you might be tempted to think that it's also a matter of modern vs traditionalist, but from my own experience it's a bit different. What matter more in big, established companies is whether the applicant makes the effort to dress up (aside from any job-relevant skills). With 'dressing up', I'm not only referring to which clothes you put on (i.e. not wearing leisurewear to your job interview), but also to your language (using cleaner language, with less swearwords), your manners (being more polite), your punctuality (arriving not to early, not to late), and even your personal hygiene (a shower and a shave, so to speak).

So, after that long introduction: I think piercings might count against you, if they are perceived as proverbial leisurewear, which could (though importantly: need not always be) interpreted as not taking the effort to 'dress up'.

A fairly relevant (part)talk of the ever so eloquent Stephen Fry:

cartinez profile image

That's what I thought. I personally always try to look clean, polite and etc. and I find my piercings more like accessories that make my look more sophisticated (I don't look like I just came from a EDM rave party, or at least I try not to). An other question would be if I could leave them out of the interview and with time try to understand what's the company stance on their employees look, if I ever get the job in the first place.

alainvanhout profile image
Alain Van Hout • Edited

Yes, that's a good question. I deliberately left that out of my answer because things are complicated enough, but there's indeed a difference between (1) during the job interview and (2) while actually working for the company. The implicit need to dress up (when there is one) tends to be substantially higher for a job interview, simply because that's a singular opportunity for you to present yourself and for them to interpret what they see in light of what they expect from their applicants (whether that approach is at all efficient, that's yet another different question).

So depending on the company, it could entirely be possible to not wear piercings during your interview, but in the long run still wear (some of) them on the job. That's of course not a given, just like some companies expect their software developers to wear a suit at all times while others only require it for a job interview but have no issue with wearing t-shirts on the job. And the same goes for punctuality or e.g. the use of swearwords (I've yet to come across a company that bends on personal hygiene though :-) ).

Depending on how much it means to you to be able to wear your piercings, it might be good to find out in advance whether they would be open to it. It would however advise against asking that during the job interview, because that kind of question tends to take center stage.

arnaudmorisset profile image
Arnaud Morisset

It depends on the company. I work since two years at some new-cool-tech companies and I mostly wear damaged jeans and Iron Maiden/Metallica/Geek t-shirts with an out-of-control beard and it was never a problem.

I think that if a company push a dress code or have "stupid" judgment about tattoos or things like that, I'll just never work for them. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

maxwell_dev profile image
Max Antonucci

This is always been an interesting part of the tech community to me so I'm glad you asked this.

Personally I've found companies that value their developers enough are more relaxed about look, but that extra relaxation varies.

  • My mentor at one company I interned at had some minor ear piercings, full arms along their tattoos, and he was in a leadership position among the programmers.
  • My first job let the few devs and designers get away with jeans, flip flips, and graphic tees. Everyone else was generally expected to dress business casual.
  • My current job, which has a lot of startup culture, is somewhat more relaxed. Most devs here just wear jeans and any kind of shirt they want. Tattoos are fine, and while no one here as piercings I know it hasn't been a factor against people who applied. The fact that a higher-up here commented that we could be getting high at work and it'd be fine as long as we got our work done shows the higher relaxation.

I'd agree with most people here that like most jobs, you should be clean and presentable so as not to distract coworkers. You don't need to smell like aftershave, but you shouldn't reek to the point where others can't focus.

I have really enjoyed the relaxed dress codes that follow our professions. I've had many times where I'm at a relaxed social gathering, I tell people "these are the same clothes I go to work in," and they're completely jealous. Really, not wearing button downs is one of my favorite coding perks :)

vingam profile image

I don't work for a tech company unfortunately, however I work in a very big and "worldwide-well-known" company. The thing is that, as other people said before me, it depends.

I'm talking about the dress code the company has, usually kinda free in the limits of decency (you cannot just go to work almost naked you know?) and hygiene, or the employers themselves, I mean, your look is the first thing they see and the first they evaluate even before to proceed with the interviews.

Anyway, I think that if an employee worth the efforts, making an eventual good impact on the company's profit thanks to his work, the look is definitely put aside. This is what I learned in my experience working for a big company.

karlmoad profile image
Karl Moad

I hate to tell you, but it really depends on the company. I've worked in the software engineering field for 18 years now and I can tell have seen all variants from full business dress to very very casual. Heck, within my own company it varies from dept to dept. I would say though that as long as you look presentable i.e. clean, most don't care about tattoos or piercings unless the context of said body art is offensive in some way, which could lead to an instability in their workforce as a unit.

niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic

We do hiring decisions partly based on "could we send this person to a customer?". So when you apply at an agency/consultancy, the the look is important, and you better overdress than underdress.