Dressing the Part

Nov 16 2010 Published by under interviewing

A frequent question from readers is:

What should I wear to my interview for a faculty position?

I touched on this topic earlier this year at FSP as part of a series on Interviewing, and I advised interviewees to:

  • dress according to the norms of your field (ideally, if there have been any interviews of faculty candidates in your grad school department while you have been a student, you have been alert to such issues);
  • do not wear shoes that maim you;
  • wear something comfortable and don't worry about it too much; other aspects of the interview are much more important.

Given that this sage advice has done nothing to stem the flow of e-mails asking me for fashion advice, a situation that is quite bizarre to those who know me in real life, I thought it would be useful if my readers could help provide research specialty-specific advice about typical interview attire and, if possible, what the range of acceptable professional dress is in each field.

For example, in your field (please specify field), is it common for an interviewee to wear a suit or its equivalent for women, or would that be considered unusual? If an interviewee wore jeans (albeit nice ones) and a shirt (but not a T-shirt), would that be within the realm of reasonable, or would it be considered unprofessional? Are the norms different for men and women? That is, can men dress more casually than women, or vice versa?

In addition to specifying field, it would might be be useful to specify country/region, but this is optional unless you think it is relevant to your field.

Readers should keep in mind that sartorial advice can be useful, especially if systematic trends emerge from multiple advice-givers, but it can also be flawed.

Examples:

1. When I was a graduate student, a visiting female professor told me that I was never going to get anywhere with my career, no matter how good I was at Science and no matter how much I published, if I didn't wear make-up and do something a bit more stylish with my hair. I ignored her advice and, as far as I can tell, my career has not suffered. I am content with how I look and dress, and am glad I did not change because someone (who turned out to be a very unhappy person) gave me random advice, however well meaning.

2. A few years ago, I wrote about how I once asked a male colleague for advice about what to wear to a professional/social event associated with the European university where I was spending my sabbatical. He told me to wear what I typically wear to the office; that is what he was going to do. So I did, and so did he, and he fit right in with all the other men, and I was the only woman not wearing elegant evening attire. That was actually OK with me, as I was comfortable in my black jeans and black top, but it also felt strange. I was the only female professor in the group, so was the "norm" for attire in that setting related to profession (in which case I was dressed appropriately as a professor) or was it related to gender (in which case I was much more causally dressed compared to all the other women)? I don't know, but I decided that being a professor was the relevant variable.

With those cautions in mind, I hope that we can nevertheless collectively come up with some information that will at least soothe the anxieties of some interviewees.

What are the interviewees wearing in your department this Interview Season?

52 responses so far

  • Rebecca M says:

    I'd find it very strange to see a candidate wearing jeans, or anything casual. Typically both men & women in my field wear suits, or at the very least a nice shirt & dress pants. I personally would prefer to be a bit over-dressed rather than under, because I know some of my colleagues have been very judgmental about speakers and even graduate students who haven't dressed to the level said colleagues think is appropriate for the event (such as students who don't wear a suit for their dissertation defense, etc.)

  • Morgan Price says:

    I'd describe it as business casual or suits (men or women)

  • JC says:

    Physics - the norm is fairly smart, but I have seen excellent candidates with very casual attire be offered the job (both at junior and senior levels). My impression is that suits are a bit overkill. Smart shirt and trousers (or skirt) is more the norm - it tends to be the younger and less confident who feel obliged to wear a tie and/or jacket. I basically agree with your advice - what you wear is unlikely to have an important effect on the outcome. Having said that, as a young woman in a field dominated by older men, I have dressed somewhat smart since finishing my PhD (both everyday work and interviews) in a probably not all that necessary attempt to come across as professional and not be mistaken for a student.

  • AM says:

    Molecular biology / biochemistry job interview:
    for a guy, nice shirt, dress pants and proper leather shoes - jacket optional, a nice sweater more common. This is enough to differentiate the interviewee from the normal guys in the lab, who usually wear jeans and t-shirt. Full suit and tie is a bit frowned upon because that's usually what newbie sales representatives wear. Besides, the average molecular biology does not even own a suit unless someone in the family has recently married :P.
    For women, suits are more common for job interviews. Women's attire in the lab varies from jeans and tshirt to dress and high heels, depending on the day, the individual and the mood. So if a woman wants to differentiate herself from the lab crowd, she has to kick it up a notch higher than the guys.

  • MZ says:

    Funny, this just came up as a former postdoc of mine is interviewing. I told him to try and check out what the other faculty members were wearing (maybe in their photos on the website), and then be as well-dressed as the better-dressed among them, but not more so. In other words, don't wear jeans unless they are absolutely all wearing jeans, but don't wear a tie unless most of them are as well. He said that seemed to work well.

    As a female biology professor I get *tons* of questions about what to wear from women students when I go places. I usually counsel them to be aware of the difference between "party" dressing up, and "professional" dressing up, and not to wear frilly or revealing stuff to conferences (I've seen it). Other than that, my rule is to dress like you are going to give a lecture to a big class. That actually fits in with SP's original advice.

    For the Europeans, though, social events are indeed often different. So you need to find another woman to ask (though I am sure the black was very chic).

  • physioprof says:

    People tend to dress business casual in the biomed world. If you are a d00d in a suit and tie, you will probably get comments like "Wow, fancy suit. Heh, heh, heh." As long as you are not wearing something outlandish--jeans/ripped t-shirt or white tie/tails--no one gives much of a shitte on way or the other.

    • scicurious says:

      Yeah, but for women I find it varies more. I've been told to dress better (tank tops and jeans are not good enough), and girl tend to wear pretty nice stuff for interviews, skirts or trousers and button down shirts or nice sweaters.

  • Klaas Wynne says:

    I'm in physical chemistry, previously chemical physics in the UK. I would say that smart casual is the norm. Suit is good but a tie is taking it too far. No suit but nice trousers/shirt will do fine. Jeans is definitely not acceptable, people will think you just can't be arsed putting in some effort. I suspect that in, say, organic chemistry people would dress a bit more formally still while in physics it's less formal (I have seen a guy in jeans been offered a job in physics). Also depends on the level of appointment. I was at a full prof interview and everybody wore a suit, quite a few ties too.

  • sesu says:

    I know field biologists, and you're lucky if they're even wearing shoes half the time. Some dress up in their finest checkered shirt and jeans for special occasions. Others will go as far as business casual. Most folk would choke on their coffee if someone came in wearing a tie (who wasn't a sales rep, or college official sort)

  • mathgirl says:

    Mathematics, my experience comes from English speaking North America.

    Something between nice jeans and shirt and business casual. Definitely never a tie. If you are meeting a dean, you should lean towards business casual. Also, women tend to be more dressed than men (but my sample is very anecdotal).

    Most of the people agree that is better to be on the overdressed side.

    I personally think the opposite: I think that people who overdress are overcompensating some lack of confidence. But like I say, this is just my opinion and I tell people not to follow it, but what the majority says: better to overdress.

  • luna says:

    I am in Computer Science, and while men tend to wear suits for interviews, women tend to go business casual -- a nice shirt or nice sweaters and dress pants. When I asked an FSP in my field why, she said that when you interview, you will stick out so much from the rest of the department anyway for being a woman; so no need to dress extra formally and stick out even more!

  • newttfaculty says:

    New female astronomy TT faculty here. For interviews, I was told by multiple people to wear a suit. I did, and I'm glad I did because the rest of the faculty seemed to dress up for my visit (all older men, all wearing at least slacks and sport coats). I felt like I fit right in and didn't have to think about my clothing at all throughout the interview. In my field, I think it's safe to say you can wear whatever you want the rest of the time (everyday, conferences, seminars, etc), and this is true regardless of gender, but for an interview you should be wearing a suit or something close.

  • Dan Gaston says:

    I've seen two people come for Departmental Interviews during my time as a graduate student (Biochemistry) and I would say it tends towards business casual. Guest speakers, departmental lectures, etc tend to be all over the place with grad students tending to put a little more effort into dressing better than they normally would in my experience.

    I usually don't see full suits for interviews or invited talks, sport jacket, shirt, and pants (maybe a tie) would be more the norm for men. Business casual for women, maybe a more causal pant suit affair.

  • Jen says:

    At the cancer research institute where I was a grad student, and in the biology dept. where I am now a postdoc, male candidates typically wear a dress shirt (no tie) and slacks, while female candidates typically wear dress slacks and a nice blouse. I've yet to see a female candidate wear a skirt or dress (then again, at my current institution, I've yet to see a female candidate through three job searches, but that's a different story...). I'm on the job market for primarily PUI/SLAC positions, and have several interview outfits of the nice top/dressy slacks/comfortable-but-dressy flats variety.

  • LMH says:

    Just graduated from R1 chemistry school. All candidates we hired or interviewed wore suits with ties for interviews, or the female equivalent. In women, both skirt and pant suits were observed.

    The professors would teach in jeans, collared shirts, some in trousers and a tie, depending on professor age and demeanor. Organic chemistry tended toward jeans more than physical chemistry, but organic was conversely more uptight than physical chemistry (in general). Our four female professors dress in a range of styles as well for teaching - all professional and reflective of their personal style, but including jeans.

    I think a suit is an easy choice for either sex. It's classic and conservative and unremarkable, but you don't want them to notice your clothes. You want to be remembered for your research and demeanor.

  • psj says:

    I wore a skirt suit to two interviews last spring. In the engineering department, I felt fine -- everybody else in the department wore slacks, button-down shirts, and tie or jacket. In the genetics department, I felt very overdressed.

  • Bioinformatics on the Left Coast: business casual, which is a notch more formal than professors and students normally dress around here. A shirt with buttons, long pants, and close-toed shoes (as you may be taken on a tour of wet labs). A newish T-shirt that is specific to the research project being talked about in the interview talk would be ok, but I haven't seen it. This is also the level of attire expected of conference presenters, though the T-shirt is often seen in that context. A tie is OK, but a full suit is too formal: only lawyers dress like that around here. I have seen interviewees in Hawaiian shirt and shorts (years ago in a different field)—the Hawaiian shirt is ok, but the shorts are too informal for an interview.

    I'm less aware of the appropriate interview attire for women, but I believe that over-dressing is a bigger risk, as the more "formal business" the attire, the more likely the woman is to be mistaken for secretarial staff, who routinely dress much more formally than female professors here.

  • Ecologist says:

    Field: Ecology/Evolution
    I've seen candidates wear everything from slick suits (looked like it would cost me a couple months salary) to field pants and a t-shirt. Suits seem to be overkill but dressing 'nicely' (non-jean pants, dress shirt or decent looking sweater, shoes that aren't too ratty) seems to go over well. One issue in my field is really the FIELD. On 2/3rds of my interviews I was taken to a potential field site at some point during the interview. After nearly slipping off an icy research boat in too new, thin-soled shoes I invested in some decent looking but more rugged (i.e. they actually have traction) closed back clogs. So for me the key seems to be to look nice but be ready to go for a (short) hike.

  • MathTT says:

    I'm a woman in math... interviewed at several North American universities. I always wore slacks and a nice shirt. My emphasis was that I should be comfortable (no tugging at anything during a job talk), and I was definitely more worried about appearing over-dressed rather than under.

    In contrast to FSP's experience, an older (male) prof once told me that he was suspicious of women who wore makeup and did their hair. He thought it showed they spent too much time thinking about their looks and attending to them, and were therefore un-serious about their mathematics. Upshot: you can't win, so do what feels good to you.

    I will add: I'm in my third year at a TT job, and have never once heard a single one of my colleagues remark on the attire of any speaker or job applicant. It seems to be a genuine non-issue.

  • lost academic says:

    You have to dress for any interview as if you are taking the process and the people seriously. Certainly we're all aware that our day-to-day clothes are simply not going to be our interview clothes, but how you dress is just another indicator of the thoughtfulness and preparation you put into this trip. Things like wearing a tie might be up in the air, but I'm a little surprised at people who'd actually wear jeans to any interview. Sure, if you're a rockstar and being courted and wooed, but that's not that many of us.

    You want the way you appear and the things you say to all be assets to your impression on the people whose decision matters the most, and if they aren't going to be assets, they can't be detractors. And own the decisions you make - people seem to report feeling very uncomfortable about being overdressed? I'd think in a situation like that that the people I was meeting weren't taking me or the process seriously and were in fact underdressed and unprepared to consider me a serious candidate, which is another stack of problems.

    Wear a suit. Make sure it fits well and that you are comfortable in it. Just as importantly, perhaps, have backup clothes!

  • Alex says:

    So, I'm the lone weirdo who wore a jacket and tie to my job interviews because, um, they're job interviews and I thought that's what people do in job interviews. And I got a tt job offer. I also wore a suit to an interview for a part-time lecturer position, and I got that as well.

    But in my daily work I wear nice jeans and a casual button-up shirt.

  • Sally says:

    Astronomer here. Here's my story: I went to Nordstrom's to pick out an interview outfit, having realized that my grad school wardrobe of jeans and sweaters wouldn't cut it. A saleswoman in her early 20s was helping me and we had just about settled on a nice pair of slacks and a button-down shirt, when a more senior saleswoman barged into my dressing room.

    "Where are you interviewing?" she demanded. I replied with the names of a few East-coast schools. "You canNOT wear that," she replied, shooting a dirty look at her junior colleague.

    The senior saleswoman put me in a pinstripe suit and matching shirt. I'm so glad she did, because it turns out people on the East coast dress up. Ditto people in the South, where I later got another interview. We Californians don't always understand these things.

  • SciPostdoc says:

    Earth sciences
    As an grad student at an R1: male interviewees wore cargo pants or kakis, northface plaid button up shirts and some version of an all weather boot/shoe with hair (and facial hair) in varying stages of disarray. females were more formal wearing suit equivalents, make up and polished hairstyle. As a postdoc, I have continued to observe this disconnect between the formalness of the female garb and the laid back approach of their male interviewee counterpart. I have not observed anything to indicate to me that the formal attire makes any difference to the interviewers, but perhaps helps the interviewee feel more confident?

  • HennaHonu says:

    Earth Sciences
    Overall, the west coast has been more laid back than the east coast. Business casual overall, suits not uncommon on East Coast. No significant differences male to female. Older faculty members seem to expect a suit.

  • Estraven says:

    Full professor in Mathematics here. Some years ago my husband and I interviewed (together and separately) in different European countries and got some offers. My idea of appropriate clothing was anything clean. Since I have become professor, I never heard anybody's attire being discussed by an evaluation committee. People wearing suits (and ties!) would be normally considered overdressed but nobody would care about that.

    I have stopped wearing makeup and careful hairdos while a grad student, when I realised it didn't make a difference for finding a boyfriend (and actually being considered smart was more useful).

    • EQR says:

      I think it is unfortunate that beautiful and smart do not seem to go in the same sentence. I don't understand why women need to lose their femininity to be taken seriously.

  • Namnezia says:

    I think people should just come dressed as their favorite model organism/protein.
    Imagine the possibilities!

  • msphd says:

    Interesting to read this discussion, since while some people say it doesn't matter much or won't hurt you, others make all kinds of assumptions about the confidence level of the person based on whether she is overdressed or not.

    I had an experience in an interview where I wore the nice pants & shirt option, and the visit went for multiple days so needed variations without repetition. I brought layers because the weather was uncertain, and I worried about the size of my suitcase looking too high-maintenance.

    During one of my presentations, I noticed the only young female prof in the department checking out my outfit and, I think, laughing at me (?). I worried that I had a button undone or my fly down (I didn't), but it pissed me off. I know the once-over when I see it, and it was neither the time nor the place for it.

    No one else on the entire visit made me feel like I was being judged on my appearance.

    I suspect women scientists are much more likely to judge other women scientists' wardrobes harshly and make further more damaging assumptions based on that.

    In my experience, men don't usually notice or care about women's fashion so long as it's not getting in the way or distracting. As long as there's no cleavage, no hair in the face, no long sparkly fingernails, no micro miniskirts and no trippy high heels, I don't think most men would make any conscious judgments.

    However, while the unconscious assumptions about women being too young, or looking like secretaries, etc. are most likely still hurting us, all you can do is err on the side of slightly frumpy if you want to look older, and hope that translates as "more competent and professional".

    I frankly wish we lived in a Legally Blonde kind of world, where you could Just Be Yourself (TM), sparkly nails and all, but science is definitely not there (yet?).

  • librarian says:

    I'm a faculty librarian, not a science person, but I have been really surprised since moving to the west coast to find that a suit (or skirt/pants and a jacket) isn't the standard interview attire out here for academic librarian jobs. It was definitely the standard in the southeast, at the R1 schools where I worked.

    Here the standard is more like a step up from business casual.

    But jeans would be totally inappropriate.

  • Ecogeek postdoc says:

    As a female postdoc, hopefully interviewing soon, I'm finding this discussion pretty interesting. One of the things that strikes me is the assertion many people are making that the clothing doesn't matter that much.
    The thing that concerns me is the difference between conscious and unconscious reactions to peoples clothing. Given two candidates that are otherwise equal- similar strengths of resume, presentation, favorable personality, etc., I have always assumed that the candidate which conveys the more professional appearance/image (not necessarily the more formal, though) would have an edge. Are some of you arguing that's not the case?

  • Kim says:

    Geologist. Currently teaching in the Rockies, but have taught in northern New England.

    I've seen people wear everything from a suit (dress suit, female applicant) to jeans and flannel shirt (male applicant, lost luggage during air travel, got the job). I got my New England job wearing a dress suit, and my Rockies job wearing not-jeans slacks. In general, geologist formal is a couple levels below business casual, but there's tolerance for dressing up for an interview (cause we know that administrators have weird ideas about dress codes but must be pleased). You have to come across as comfortable and confident regardless of the clothes, so it's more important to wear something that suits you.

    (As with the field bio people, though, there's a chance that the interview will involve seeing a field site, even in snow, so heels can be awkward.)

  • tim says:

    just wear whatever formal attire doesn't make you uncomfortable or sweaty. It's not a dealbreaker if it's not too terrible..

    When i applied for this position (im at HARVARD!!!) my boss was in a full track suit, i was sitting there sweating in a dress shirt and leather shoes that hurt.

  • kt says:

    Woman in math who hasn't interviewed for TT but has seen a lot of speakers. The purer your field, the rattier your clothes. I did see a brilliant woman interview in jeans with a hole and a sweater. The general impression was of shining intellect uncontained by earthly bounds; she was offered the job. Note, though, that hygiene and grooming were good: clean shining hair in a ponytail, clean non-shining skin, etc. Men and women who do not comb their hair or who (if applicable) don't seem to take care of their facial hair in some appropriate manner do not seem to go over as well.

    Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, might even wear a suit! I think it's the influence of industry and their closer ties to business.

    You can't go too far wrong in dress slacks and a nice business casual shirt on the women's side, and probably on the men's side as well. You can go wrong in a suit in pure math (although it seems to be ok in statistics or if you are European or South American).

  • kt says:

    A quick reply to Ecogeek postdoc: I think the woman in jeans who was offered a tenure-track position at my former top-15 institution (as well as at several other more-highly ranked ones) was projecting exactly the "more professional" image to the mathematicians in the audience, in a warped way. In particular, in the US I've felt great pressure to dress down and not wear makeup and not wear suits and not wear skirts or heels. Maybe this is why my department does not retain women -- too feminine means not serious. I don't think all departments are this way, so you may want to look at the department you're interviewing at to see if you can get some hints as to their image of "professional."

  • Anonymous says:

    I look forward to the day when I am Hot Shit in my field, and can go to interviews wearing tight leather pants, a velvet smoking jacket, and a flouncy pirate shirt.

    Think I just made that up? I didn't.

  • Han Aiwen says:

    Female Geologist, new assistant professor at PUI. I tend to dress a bit nicer at conferences and for interviews and have noticed that other younger women tend to do the same. I don't wear a suit, but try to wear nice slacks (probably called business casual in the rest of the world) and a really nice sweater or a decent sweater and a jacket. It works really well. I was raised in Hong Kong (i'm white) and at the interview for my current job I wore a beautiful Chinese-style sweater that my grandma added silk to the cuffs of and made a silk scarf with a dragon it it for. I had an interview with the head of a part of my college that focuses on Asia and the first thing the interviewer said to me was "stunning". I was able to then say "Oh yeah, it's a Stanley special that my grandma added silk to to copy Shanghai Tang". Turns out the guy had lived in HK and loved the idea of me doing that. It was a nice ice breaker. Because I do work on China, I like to wear things with a subtle (or not so subtle in the case of the silk dragon scarf) China things when i give talks. Doesn't work when packing lightly for conferences, but it has been really good for interviews. Sweaters are softer and totally acceptable for women. Oh, and I have some really really comfy Franko Sarto shoes which I love. Perfect for something like interviews and conferences - they look nice but don't hurt your feet. NO JEANS. Not to conferences, not to interviews, not to invited talks.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    For my interviews (Evol. Bio.) I did wear a suit. Why? Because I figured that no one minds over dressed, but you might get someone who thinks you are under dressed. Plus, I got to dust off my suits! I've seen people wear less than a suit and do just fine, but I don't think jeans would go over well.

  • ChemBiol says:

    R1 Chemistry department: typically two-day interviews for asst professor jobs; first day suit (tie not required for males) or at least nice slacks/skirt. Day two can be more casual, even jeans.

  • anon says:

    Female, Geoscience, lecturer:

    Be sure to wear that aloha shirt if you come to Univ Hawaii... it's easy to pick out east coasters miles away.

    I wear skirts to everything, but the equivalent to the aloha shirt for women is a bit tricky. i've seen the female aloha shirt, but usually just a loose nicer top is okay.

  • B says:

    I'm an Asst Prof in Engineering, and I wouldn't think twice about my attire for an interview. I'd grab a great suit and go. However, I'm highly likely to pull of the suit jacket shortly after arriving for the interview/other professional visit and to spend much of the day walking about in just the trousers and nice top (maybe button down shirt, maybe lovely feminine light sweater). The whole look would be professional and comfortable. I think how you wear the suit says a lot. If the suit is going to make you uncomfortable, don't do it. But I can't fathom attending an interview in jeans. I'm on a search committee for my department right now and I would definitely find it odd if an applicant rolled up in jeans. I wouldn't hold it against them if they were personable, intelligent, and otherwise right for the job -- but I'd still think the jeans were a bad idea.

  • West Coast TT Prof says:

    I'm a TT prof in an engineering department at an R1 on the West Coast and have been involved with searches in several different engineering departments (chemical, mechanical, biomedical, and materials). In all of these departments, most male candidates wore a suit with tie, a few did slacks, button down dress shirt, and sports jacket. Female candidates wore slacks with either a blouse or sweater plus a jacket (often not a matching suit but instead separates). East coast engineering department seem to be a bit more dark suit for everyone (definitely with ties for the guys). I agree with a previous commenter that it often depends on how you wear the clothes. You need to look comfortable and confident. Also, ditto on a comment from someone else that the second day of interviews (after the seminar research talk) is often more casual, so slacks and a shirt or other business casual is okay, but definitely no jeans in engineering. Last bit of advice: wear comfortable shoes, bring your own water bottle (some schools never leave time in your schedule for stopping by the water cooler and you're doing a ton of talking), bring breath mints.

  • JC says:

    In response to the summary post at your other blog: I think the perceived difference you've mentioned between Physics and Astronomy may be a geography/type of institution distinction rather than a subject one. I'm the Physics person above who suggested suits were overkill, but my field is astrophysics - didn't specify as I'm well embedded in a physics department and have seen interview processes for non-astro jobs. I am based at a UK university though, which probably has different norms to the US institutions mentioned by other astronomers above (though I haven't particularly noticed North American candidates being more likely to wear a suit).

  • Graeme says:

    I interviewed in Physics and Math departments, and the first few times I just asked the search committee chair in advance what would be appropriate and erred on the more formal side of that. For men, a shirt with a collar and dress slacks seemed to be the minimum, and a sport jacket was completely normal. A tie is optional. Especially in math departments, a full suit seemed like it would be too formal.

    Whatever it is you wear, don't let it make you look uncomfortable---put it on and wear it out in the world a couple of times before you go. People can look pretty stiff when they're not used to the clothes they're wearing. And if it doesn't fit, find something else to wear.

    I don't have much specific to say for women, other than to say that women's suits generally look a little less formal than men's and, since there doesn't seem to be a sport jacket equivalent, I'd say it's a good choice.

  • moom says:

    Economics: Men should wear a suit and tie if you think there is a chance you'll meet a Dean or Provost etc. who will be dressed in that way. You don't want to be less well dressed than them. If you know you won't and know the department dresses in a more casual style then either a jacket without tie or tie without jacket would work. I also recently had an interview at an environment school and did the khakis shirt and tie and they commented on the tie at the interview.

  • planthead says:

    Female grad student in Ecology. I love the above comments from the field biologist. And that you have to be ready for a hike.

    I was aware of two faculty hires in my last department (masters), and the candidates for the ecophys position (all male) wore nice pants and a button down, some with sport coats. For the position in microbio, there was at least one woman that I remember, and all the candidates were dressed much more formal/business-y (ties, black dress slacks, etc.).

    I'm at an R1 now, and would love to see what ecology interviewees wear here (my last dept was a small state school). Last I checked though, no state-affiliated institutions in CA are hiring because the state has no money.

    Based on my experience at conferences, shabby-field attire works, tidy field attire works, and socks in sandals work (though I do notice that grad students giving talks seem to take it to the next level). I think the 'best plaid shirt' guideline goes mostly for men, though I think the female equivalent might be a sweater from the previous decade paired with the sock-sandal combo.

  • Cherish says:

    I've attended the 'student meet and greet' at so many interviews (both in physics and electrical engineering), and the only one I can remember from electrical engineering that wasn't wearing a suit was the lone female candidate. Of course, she had a nice skirt and blouse. In physics, they at least seemed to wear sport jackets.

    My observation of electrical engineering is that, because of the closer ties to business in a lot of cases, that you wear business casual if you're feeling dangerous. A suit is much better. But I have no idea what the faculty thought of it...

  • Anon says:

    In chemical engineering in the U.S., people dress up. >90% of interview candidates wear suits. Although, as a woman, I can say I would be perfectly comfortable interviewing in something more interesting- say, a shift dress + dress shirt or slacks, dress shirt + velvet/tweed/whatever blazer.

    It would be unthinkable for someone to show up for an interview in jeans. I have never seen anyone wearing "business casual", although I can't say it's never happened.

    Standard dress for faculty in chem eng on East vs West coast *does* vary- with east coast being far dressier. However, I have been on both coasts and candidates look the same just about everywhere.

  • English Geek says:

    Tenured female in Canadian English Department

    Business casual. Jeans or khakis and jacket or nice sweater for teaching is fairly standard for both genders. In the winter, anything warm is fine and anything not warm, idiotic.

    Interviews/Conference keynote/etc: Classic, neutral colours; suit or trouser/skirt/jacket combo. I normally go for black trousers, silk blouse, wool jacket and pearls for formal, and jeans, turtleneck and jacket for everything else.

    Tip: do not wear high heels in Canadian winter. It is the equivalent of wearing a big label reading "I am a clueless American". The other extreme negatives would be dirty/unwashed/ungroomed and on the other end, the cosmo cover girl/porn star look. Just be clean, bland, and practical and you'll fit right in.