What NOT to Wear – Academic Interview Edition
OK, it is still interview season. We are having candidates come through, and frankly I am surprised sometimes at what people are wearing. BTW: This post is for the men. My field is male-dominated and most of our candidates are men (~1 token woman per short list). This year, I have seen some real bombs when it comes to what people are wearing to interviews. This is pretty ridiculous because it is SOOOOO easy for men. So, what should you wear?
Just go buy a suit. Buy it at a good department store. Get it tailored. Yes, it is expensive. But, if you get a faculty job, you will make more money, and buying a good suit will have been worth the investment. Plus, you will have a suit to wear to weddings and such, so just buy a decent suit.
Wear the suit on the most important day (when you give your job talk). For the next day, get a sport jacket and slacks – they can be separates like a blue blazer and khaki pants.
Should you wear a tie? That depends. I am OK with or without a tie. Some older folks think a tie is more important. Some fields might think it weird if you wore a tie. It is your call. You still need a suit. Get the suit.
Do not wear:
- Jeans. I don’t care how nice they are or what designer. Don’t do it. NO! No jeans. It looks like you don’t even care.
- A sweatshirt, hoodie, or any other similar type of clothing article. This is worse than jeans.
- Tennis shoes. Do not do it. Wear loafers, leather shoes. They can be brown or black or something more flashy, if you have a personality. Especially do not wear white tennis shoes.
- White socks. Invest in dark colored socks. Don’t wear a dark suit with white socks.
- A t-shirt. Come on. DO I have to say it. t-shirts can be worn under button-up shirts or sweaters. No t-shirts and especially nothing with words.
For the women: I have never once seen a poorly dressed woman candidate. They wear pant suits (full suit or separates), suits with a skirt and nylons, button-down shirts, good shoes. We might be a bit obsessed with this because it is often harder for us to determine exactly what is right.
I have had people ask me, when I give this advice: Why does it matter what I wear? I’m a creative scientist. I should be able to wear whatever I want.
My answer: Yes, when you are a faculty and have a job, you can mostly wear what you want. And, if it OK to show your personality on your interview. But, being a professor is NOT about doing whatever you want. You must be a team player and serve on committees. You must teach. You may have a set curriculum that you have to teach. You have to write grants and these have A LOT of RULES. Even submission of papers has rules. Showing that you understand social standards of how to dress when shows that you can follow social norms. You will be able to get along with others. You will be able to follow the rules. We do want someone creative – but not off the rails.
Other issues that are becoming more frequent:
- Tattoos. Older individuals see tattoos as a taboo thing for Hell’s Angels Biker Gangs, but young people have tattoos. I say don’t over-expose, but no need to hide. If you have a face tattoo, you might be screwed, but something nerdy and medium-sized on your arm can be covered
- Piercings. Are they in ears? Probably OK, but you might want to remove for the interview if you are a man. Remember that many of the people interviewing you are older and of a generation when men did not have such things. If it is in your face (eyebrow, nose, tongue) – definitely remove it.
- Facial hair. Trim it to look neat. I know that steam punk handlebar mustaches and mountain man beards are in, but tame it for your interview. Also, get a hair cut. Manscape and make sure you don’t have crazy eyebrow hairs and nose hairs. People notice this stuff. Believe me. We notice.
Overall, I think you want to look like you are trying. It is a good thing to care. I want someone to join my department who has a clue and who cares. I don’t actually care how smart you are. I care more about if you can do good science and work with others.
So, what do you think? Is this advice sound? Post of comment here. Push the +Follow button to get an email every time I post.