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Academic Job Talk -- What to Wear?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I know there are a decent number of academics on the forums. What would be appropriate dress for an assistant-prof candidate at a business school or a social science department? I'm guessing that a suit and tie is good for the job talk at a b-school, whereas a sport coat might be better for the latter.
post #2 of 26
I got my first job in a social sciences dept wearing a solid-coloured tweed coat, cords, and desert boots at the interview (with tie -- my background is in the very informal field of philosophy). For my second job (same place) I wore a charcoal worsted suit, white shirt, pointy blue knit tie, black oxfords. Most people wear suits at most interviews even here in the UK, where academia is generally less formal. In general, I'd say you definitely need a tie. Show that you're making an effort to be professional, not to be dapper. So leave the pocket square at home.
post #3 of 26
I am now the chair of my dept. It was summer so I wore a green linen sports coat and navy cotton trousers, blue + white shirt and a tie.

Another introductory meeting I wore a tea coloured minihoundstooth (cotton-wool?) suit. White shirt and tie.

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post #4 of 26
I'd echo what radicaldog says too. I interviewed in philosophy departments in North America and here in Ireland (which is closer to the UK for the sake of this issue). In both cases, I wore a dark brown tweedy jacket, light blue shirt, conservative tie, and charcoal flannel trousers. I figure that even though you won't be expected to wear jacket and tie when you get the job (I do, but I'm unusual), you should dress up as an acknowledgement that you're taking the interview seriously. That seemed to be about right for North America. Here in Ireland, however, the other male candidates (whom I met) all had suits on, so I felt a bit underdressed (I imagine, mutatis mutandis the UK would be the same). With that said, I got the job here, so make of that what you will! In either case, you'd probably want to dress so that your clothing is not noticed, and so that the committee focus on your excellent paper, inspiring teaching, and fruitful research plans. That means nothing that would attract too much attention -- no pocket square, flashy cufflinks or loud pantherellas. French cuffs, in my opinion, are fine, but I'd avoid anything like contrast collars, tie clips, pinstripes and so on.
post #5 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by trogdor View Post
I'd echo what radicaldog says too. I interviewed in philosophy departments in North America and here in Ireland (which is closer to the UK for the sake of this issue). In both cases, I wore a dark brown tweedy jacket, light blue shirt, conservative tie, and charcoal flannel trousers. I figure that even though you won't be expected to wear jacket and tie when you get the job (I do, but I'm unusual), you should dress up as an acknowledgement that you're taking the interview seriously.

That seemed to be about right for North America. Here in Ireland, however, the other male candidates (whom I met) all had suits on, so I felt a bit underdressed (I imagine, mutatis mutandis the UK would be the same). With that said, I got the job here, so make of that what you will!

In either case, you'd probably want to dress so that your clothing is not noticed, and so that the committee focus on your excellent paper, inspiring teaching, and fruitful research plans. That means nothing that would attract too much attention -- no pocket square, flashy cufflinks or loud pantherellas. French cuffs, in my opinion, are fine, but I'd avoid anything like contrast collars, tie clips, pinstripes and so on.

+1

This is sound advice.
post #6 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by trogdor View Post
In either case, you'd probably want to dress so that your clothing is not noticed, and so that the committee focus on your excellent paper, inspiring teaching, and fruitful research plans. That means nothing that would attract too much attention -- no pocket square, flashy cufflinks or loud pantherellas. French cuffs, in my opinion, are fine, but I'd avoid anything like contrast collars, tie clips, pinstripes and so on.

This is good advice, but I would also leave the French cuffs at home.

Haven't you already seen many job talks as a grad student? I just finished at a Big Ten social science department, and I would say that you should wear a suit, not a sport coat. It's the most important presentation of your career, at least so far. Wear a sport coat for the second day where you are just meeting faculty and not doing the job talk.

The only exception in my mind would be if it was last-minute and your only suit did not fit well, but you had a very nice fitting sport coat and pants. Academics generally are not going to notice fit issues like SF members, but if you have something really egregious (e.g., it's two sizes too big, which I've seen on a job candidate), it stops looking professional and starts looking comical.
post #7 of 26
Here is a northeast US academic perspective. At a business school, dark suit; at a social science dept, you can get away with a sports jacket, but a dark suit is ideal (my guess is that Trogdor's experience in philosophy is right for most philosophy depts, but not as much for social science depts). And I would emphatically second PCyclone, Trogdor, and others in leaving anything flashy at home (French cuffs are fine if you are interviewing in the UK, but not otherwise). We academics are a badly dressed lot. At conservative depts, that means people wear ugly gray or checked jackets or suits that don't fit. (B-school people wear expensive but usually ill-fitting versions of same). At less conservative depts, anything goes. But as a job candidate, there is an expectation that you will wear the uniform of the candidate and let you ideas and your collegial possibilities shine through. Once you are hired, you can worry about leading by example. Until then, let me cite Manton's book, which applies to academia as elsewhere: " And the young man should observe the correct modes above all when he interviews for jobs. There dandification most harms him, because it is much easier not to hire someone than to fire him, and those who are held pretentious will not be hired."
post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by PCyclone View Post
Haven't you already seen many job talks as a grad student? I just finished at a Big Ten social science department, and I would say that you should wear a suit, not a sport coat. It's the most important presentation of your career, at least so far. Wear a sport coat for the second day where you are just meeting faculty and not doing the job talk.

+1. Makes sense to me.
post #9 of 26
I agree w/ the above: dark suit for the first day, sport coat the next day/days. When I went for my interview only two people I met had on coats and only one of those a tie. I kept my coat on except for at lunch, when the others w/ coats removed theirs, and while teaching the mock class.
post #10 of 26
Dress like you could represent the department to administration, alumni, parents, etc., if asked.
post #11 of 26
I would think a suit for the interview, and earth tone jackets for practically everything else.

Suit may be a bit too much for the interview, maybe its better to simply look like a professor for both. The idea the suits are the go-to for interviews is a styleforum phenomenon promoted by idealist business people on the forum, it doesnt apply to everything.

Infact you may well feel uncomfortable in a business suit, and feel like you should have worn a tweed jacket, trousers and a tie.

In school I had only one professor who dressed regularly in suits, and he was a sales professor. He wore mainly suits simply because thats what his attire consisted of. My other professors wore a jacket and pants at the most. Many would simply leave a blazer in their office.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on the search committee for a professor in the business school. The prospects presented to us their ideas and a bit of information about themselves. Many who were in the business world wore suits.
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey View Post
This might help. On the job interview, you are not just dressing for the faculty members on the search committee and the rest of the department. You're also dressing for the administration (will you meet with a Dean?), the students, the alumni, the students' parents, and the department's staff. They all have different expectations that you would need to negotiate to succeed on that campus.

Your dress advice is sound, but the above is crazy. I have interviewed for a lot of positions, and have conducted interviews for quite a few, and I've never heard of anyone having to meet with alumni or student parents, and such a practice would IMO be a pretty serious blemish on the institution's academic seriousness.

I will only second what most have already said: dress well but non-flashy. Outside of business and law schools, most people won't even know the difference between a nice sport coat and dress trousers combination and a suit. On the other hand, most academics like personality and (again, outside business and law schools) tend to be skeptical of corporate tendencies, so a measure of individuality, if it's authentic, can't really hurt.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by emptym View Post
I agree w/ the above: dark suit for the first day, sport coat the next day/days. When I went for my interview only two people I met had on coats and only one of those a tie. I kept my coat on except for at lunch, when the others w/ coats removed theirs, and while teaching the mock class.

Actually, at the last interview I had here in the UK the talk was less formal than the interview the next day. The talk is more informal because there's a larger audience (basically all dept members, philosophy in this case), whereas the interview was more 'official' (with dean of arts present, etc.). But I know that interviewing in the US is quite a different experience.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by literasyme View Post
I have interviewed for a lot of positions, and have conducted interviews for quite a few, and I've never heard of anyone having to meet with alumni or student parents, and such a practice would IMO be a pretty serious blemish on the institution's academic seriousness.
^ OK that post was too long, and as often happens, long posts do not get read carefully. I was not suggesting a candidate would meet alumni or parents on a interview. Rather that the standard of dress (for "dressing up" at least) for a given department is related to how faculty need to look to other members of the academic community. Faculty will meet and work with parents, alumni, administration, colleagues in other departments, etc., eventually. On the interview you want to look like you could handle yourself in those situations.
post #15 of 26
Sports jacket, shirt, tie, slacks, a vintage briefcase and proper leather shoes would do the trick. After that you can throw off those rags and adopt the 1970s tank top and torn plastic bag look. For the left leaning faux intellectual, denim and Dr Martens boots are preferred. Roll up optional. Participation of mature students waxing lyrical about the rigours of existence may be required.

In Britain we are proud to have some of the scruffiest academics in the world!
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