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.
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?