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Author Topic: Micromanaging interview dress  (Read 9328 times)
Posts: 113

« on: November 24, 2007, 1:24:04 pm »

I apologize if this question sounds frivolous or, as my office-mate suggests, faintly insane. However: I'm still a year away from the job market, but, as a grad student, the purchases that will complete my suite of "interview clothes" will take months of sale shopping (heh heh) to complete. I'm also in the humanities, where it seems as though we dress quite formally to interviews. I'm fascinated by academic dress, know that the people interviewing me may be micro-scrutinizing me, and don't want to leave any lasting impressions not resulting from my sparkling personality and/or scholarship; I have fantasies, however, of appearing minutely more stylish than the average bear. (Oh, and I've tried to read all of the previous threads on this; at least I know I'm not the only neurotic one.)

Do please give this your lowest possible level of attention--others need assistance more than I do about, like, real things.

1. I'm thinking a dark gray suit with thin stripes, medium-patterned shirt, and conservative (so no Star Trek elements) tie--the color would be in the tie, not the suit. Is well-turned-out boring acceptable? Are repp ties too prep-school (they're in right now, says Dame Fashion)? And would light gray (still business-shaded) be OK, maybe without the stripes? The other possibility would be to wear my beloved tie from the local symphony, but I'm afraid that this would make me look like my high school English teacher, who wore a Shakespeare tie.
2. Are cufflinks acceptable? I'd sort of like to look like someone familiar with business dress--which, in a past life, I was. I would also, however, not to look like a junior-executive meatball, or failing that un-academic. Again, no United Federation of Planets insignia, etc.
3. Is there such a thing as a too expensive suit for this sort of thing? I'm asking this not because I can afford one, but because I consider myself to be a relatively proficient shopper, and occasionally the opportunity to buy something spectacularly on sale (if you're ever in Toronto, I know this place...) comes around. (This issue of apparent suit cost came up in an earlier thread, but was not really answered.) I'm thinking more and more that Brooks Brothers--where I know someone who works--is a happy medium when viciously on sale.
4. Would there be anything interesting a youngish male interview candidate could do with shoes that wouldn't exceed boundaries but also come off as "mildly interesting"? (I sort of long to wear my cowboy boots, but I know these would be a great hole-in-one way of getting pegged as "off.")
5. Should I have my haircut two weeks before the interview, so it looks neat, but not like I had it cut just for the conference (although I did have it cut just for the conference)?
6. What mode of murse (or man-bag, etc.) is acceptable, if any? I use a big ol' Filson bag to lug stuff around campus, which I love very much, but I'm thinking that it looks too rugged for an interview.

Naturally, I will also be wearing Valkyrie horns, for that fashion-forward edge, and a Bush-Cheney  '16 headband (blue on exploding napalm background) to subtly hint at my politics.

So sorry about projecting my post-Thanksgiving dress anxieties onto you all. Again, if idle moments are available, any advice would be happily appreciated.
Funny, I don't feel like a
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 2,220

« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2007, 2:04:17 pm »

I don't want to leave any lasting impressions not resulting from my sparkling personality and/or scholarship;

Um... having read your post (sort of), I find this hard to believe.

"Suffer no thirst in the presence of beer!" -- Inscription of Nebnetjeru
Senior member
Posts: 302

« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2007, 2:11:50 pm »

5. Should I have my haircut two weeks before the interview, so it looks neat, but not like I had it cut just for the conference (although I did have it cut just for the conference)?


We need more information. We need to see your current hair style and the shape of the head in order to decide. You can post your blog, where we can find your personal pics.

Senior member
Posts: 820

« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2007, 2:14:43 pm »

You are interviewing for an academic job, not for a banking or legal job. Who buying a suit? Just take your normal suit and one of you ties. Yes, I think you can look too expensive with cufflinks and an 800 $ suit. Frankly, interview dress is not something I ever had deep thoughts about.
Murse is a new word for me. I picture googled it, and think it would not be suitable, for the simple reason there does not appear to be much space in it to put all your papers, and othe rstuff you'd need during campus visits
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 11,669

« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2007, 2:18:26 pm »

I would just wear a nice shirt and sweater and nice dress pants.

But go with what you are comfortable in.
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 13,749

« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2007, 2:22:52 pm »

If you have put this much thought into your dissertation, they won't even notice what you are wearing.

I like money.  I like to buy stuff and experiences with money.  
Potnia theron and
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 10,405

« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2007, 3:17:16 pm »

I have to be honest and say that I have no memory of what any male candidate has ever worn to an interview.  For female candidates, I remember the LOTR pin and one candidate who had the most lovely shawl I've ever seen.

And when I was on the market, the only clothes I can remember were the three pastel suits worn by one all-female sc.  They were pink, powder blue, and light green, and I did wonder if my vision was somehow damaged, as I hadn't expected an Easter rainbow in December.  But even for this remarkable experience, I don't remember which school it was.


"dr. mended_drum don't give a sh!t; she will chew me up like a cobra."
Empress &
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 7,236

« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2007, 3:33:41 pm »

I think that you probably want to avoid the 'trying too hard" look.
If you're still a year out and posting about your haircut before the MLA '08 right now, that might be a tough order.

Most of my male friends wore a nice suit for their conference interviews.  I like grey, myself, but I don't know that it matters whether or not there are atripes.  If you're going to buy something expensive (even if you don't pay the rack price), I'd go with something classic . . . 

I's also go with comfortable and less-interesting shoes.  Do not wear cowboy boots.  You want to be remembered for your qualifications and your sparkling personality, not your fashion choices.

Troll Proof
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 24,587

Be excellent to each other.

« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2007, 3:39:05 pm »

I wear suits most days and I would think you a bit over dressed with the above ensemble. Decent suit, bright tie, scrape the sh*t off your shoes and you are golden. And the Filson bag is fine.We aren't hiring a dean. We don't even like deans.

I can be happy anywhere I have a little money and the cops aren't after me--I'm still searching for this place.
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 1,339

« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2007, 3:51:28 pm »

This is what I had my fiance do on his last interview (it was a long one):

Day 1: gray suit with shirt + tie in blue
Day 2: same suit with shirt + tie in black and white
Day 3: khaki's and dress shirt #3, no tie

He is in the sciences and only owns the one suit. If he had had another sports coat, would have brought that for day 3. He borrowed a black messenger bag from a friend because I thought his $100 laptop back-pack was too casual.

I am a big attention to detail person and I can only remember one male candidate's outfit because he wore a really ugly checked tie. I don't remember any female candidate's outfits. I don't remember how fresh my fiance's hair was from being cut.

So my shopping list for you:
- 1 classic suit
- 3 dress shirts, 3 matching ties (ask the guy who works at your favorite department store for help)
- 1 belt that fits
- 1 pair of dress shoes
- 3 pairs of dress socks
- 3 new undershirts (no discoloring if worn under white shirts)

You probably have just about everything already.

Your environment sounds vaguely toxic.  Or maybe just characteristically British.
I heart august_leo.
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 11,669

« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2007, 4:27:44 pm »

Go with what you feel comfortable, and authentic, in. Nothing worse than watching a candidate squirm because they are wearing something they only wear to funerals, weddings, etc. Be yourself (within reason, of course).
We broke a six-pack in the store to get just one
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 5,429

пошлите законоведами пушки и деньг

« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2007, 5:27:12 pm »

Wear a kilt. Covers both sexes, and, because your in the humanities, no one dares criticize.

How do your calves look?

"History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." Samuel "Steroid Free" Clemens
New member
Posts: 37

« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2007, 5:38:22 pm »

I would say wear what makes you comfortable, and that means different things to different people. I (female) am also obsessed with clothes and having a fantastic and new suit at my interviews a few years ago definitely made me feel more confident and authoritative.  Except for the cowboy boots (which I hope you were joking about), I don't think you can dress too nicely, and here's why: most academics won't notice (see above) and for those few who do (fashion lemmings like me), you'll get points. Pathetically, I remember what every job candidate from the last couple years wore --women always dressed better than the men, but I didn't hold what anyone wore against them, although I really wanted to get one young man new glasses frames. Too much What Not to Wear for me.
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 2,297

« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2007, 5:50:28 pm »

Warning-- tough advice follows:

Unless this is an enjoyable way of resting your brain from the toil of dissertating (and I can take that as a legitimate excuse), forget about it.  You are a year away at least.  If you obsess too much about things like this, you will never finish. As LarryC once put it, finishing your dissertation requires that you apply butt to seat and repeat until finished. Instead of thinking about interview suits, apply your butt to the seat. And by the way, when you do finish and send off your applications, don't fret about housing prices in various places before you get interviews. It's the same sort of obsessive, unproductive behavior.

A good academic is one who knows a) how to balance things in life, and b) can prioritize. Thinking obsessively about what to wear for an interview that is far away and may never happen is not good practice in either.
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 2,655

« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2007, 6:18:07 pm »

I sympathize with the OP.  I had to buy things a little at a time because I couldn't afford to buy stuff all at once.  I also wanted my clothes early so I could spend some time wearing them and getting comfortable in them.

That said, here's my best advice:  save up a couple hundred bucks and go to Men's Wearhouse or S & K Menswear.  Tell the salesperson that you want a nice suit that won't cost a ton and that doesn't look excessively formal.  Let the salesperson dress you in something that looks nice.  If you pay attention, they often have a "buy one get one free" sale, so you can end up with something for both days of the interview.

No cufflinks.

Yes there is too expensive a suit.  If you're talking about buying it piecemeal over the course of the year, you don't want a terribly expensive suit anyway.

If you can pull off cowboy boots in a suit, I say go for it.  For me, at least, that's the kind of thing that says "wow, that person is confident enough to pull that off."  It's not a "oh my god do you remember the candidate who..." kind of thing.  Having said that, given your apparent insecurities about dress, I question whether you can pull it off, and I say that only in the nicest possible way.
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