Friday, December 11, 2009

Fashion

I guess a discussion of what to wear to your interviews is a little overdue. I am incompetent to discuss women's clothing, so I'll just invite people who know what they're talking about to leave advice in the comment thread. Also, here's an old post from P.G.O.A.T. One thing I will say is that it seems to me that women have more options than men. But that's not obviously a good thing for women.

For the dudes: you should wear either a suit or a jacket/tie/nice pants combination. There are always the objections about how paying attention to how people dress is superficial and stupid and not at all important. To those people I say, adults display their respect for their interviewers and their interest in the job by dressing up for interviews. Adults who don't dress up for interviews display a lack of interest and respect. Aristotle says we are political animals. Be political.

You can, of course, spend as much as you want on a suit. Macy's is a good bet for expensive suits. Men's Wearhouse is cheaper, but I find that their suits look exactly like they came from Men's Wearhouse. Nevertheless, my suit is from Men's Wearhouse. Make sure it fits you.

Finally, a tip. Wear your interview outfit as much as possible between now and the APA. Practice. I always see guys around the hotel who are obviously extraordinarily uncomfortable in their weird, unfamiliar clothes. The key to being comfortable in a suit is being accustomed to wearing it, and the only way to do that is to wear it. So wear it. Now.

--Mr. Zero

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

As someone who recently served on a hiring committee for the first time, let me suggest this. Wear a suit that fits you well; that is more important than the cost of the suit (though, as I learned when I bought my first proper women's suit jacket, there is some sort of fitting miracle that often occurs between price points). Nothing is more obvious than an ill-fitted suit. Seriously. Wearing an ill-fitting suit makes one look like a child playing dress up. If you are incompetent to do this yourself, enlist the help of someone who knows how to dress professionally and well, and take their advice seriously.

I was once advised by my father, who worked his way up from peon to exec in the corporate world, and now runs three of his own businesses in retirement, that one should always, always, always wear a nice (not necessarily expensive, but nice) watch. He suggested that even though most people purport not to care or notice, it is something people notice unconsciously and that bears on how a person is perceived. In his experience, a bad day for someone in the boardroom was strongly correlated to that person's not wearing a watch.

I don't know if this is good advice or not. It sounds totally irrational, anyway. But I have always worn a nice (but not necessarily expensive watch), and I have always been able to get a job, and almost always I have not been the most qualified person for those jobs. So the family myth continues.

Anonymous said...

That is absurd. I'd say that assuming your interviewers will judge you by your clothes shows a lack of respect. Luckily, they can't be sure that's the reason you're wearing a suit.

On the other hand, assuming they don't care about your clothes entails a good amount of respect. The problem is that many of them don't deserve that respect and don't think there's anything wrong with judging a person by their clothes, and it is these people that fuck it up for everyone.

What's next, wearing a t-shirt to teach undergrads displays a lack of respect for them? Or do they not count as 'adults'? Or is it that they can't fire you if you they don't like the way you dress? I'd guess it's this last one.

As usual, society looks down upon any kind of non-conformist tendency, even if it's completely harmless. Yet I bet nearly all the people who judge a person for not wearing a suit to an interview have read On Liberty and don't make the connection.

Applikanta said...

"A nice watch?" Are you fucking serious? Are we philosophers or CEO's? The hard-core correlation between "wearing a watch and getting a job from an interview" just made my otherwise shitty day.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:05,

I strongly encourage you to wear a t-shirt to your interviews. Please. Do it.

Anonymous said...

Ignore 9:05. The rest are all very good tips: Get a suit that fits, and practice wearing it.

A watch is optional, since you'll have a long-sleeved shirt and jacket, so your watch won't show. Unless you're doing jumping jacks. But if you wear one, make sure it's a nice one.

Anonymous said...

Another dynamic here is location/context. My older sister has a good sense of style (especially for *her* lifestyle) and has often outfitted me with good clothes. The problem is that she lives in Europe now and is prone to give me clothes (especially shirts or ties) that would make me look pretentious interviewing or teaching at random state college. Even in the minor big city of Boston, where I currently live, fashion tastes in academia and among students tend to be rather dowdy (yet also more formal than in other parts of the US).

So, take the advice of fashionista friends or siblings with a grain of salt!

Anonymous said...

Regardless of what you think about conformity, it's a psychological fact that most people will judge you more qualified, a better fit, more intelligent, etc. if you look put together. There's been a number of studies that show it's not just a certain kind of person who judges you by your clothes-- it's almost everyone. Furthermore, if you know it's the convention to wear a suit and choose not to wear one, that would say to me that either you're not serious about the job (because why wouldn't you do everything in your power to look like the kind of person they're psychologically inclined to look for?) or you have a very high opinion of yourself. Either way, it's a couple hours of your life, and if you buy a good-quality, basic suit, it will last for many, many years (through anymore interviews, and other occasions that may require a suit: weddings, funerals, etc).

zombie said...

Anon 9:05: dressing in a suit for a job interview is hardly infringing on your liberty to dress as you please. No one is telling you that you cannot dress as you please at APA or anywhere (so long as your attire does not harm others -- so no ammo belt and fully loaded Uzi).

The issue is how your dress conforms with widely recognized meanings of different kinds of attire. Your tie-dye shirt and cut-off short shorts might float your boat, but they do not signify respect or decorum. A suit does. You can compare this to the way language functions. You might have your own idiosyncratic language. In your language, saying "fuck you" and flipping the bird to the search committee might signify your great esteem for them. But they are not going to recognize that meaning in your utterance.

Since the suit is widely and easily recognized as adult, job-seeker attire, signifying respect and a desire to be taken seriously, a suit is a good idea if that's the message you wish to convey. But you can still wear your tie-dye shirt and cut-offs if it really pleases you, and pretend that they mean something (e.g. you're a rebel and an iconoclast) that they just don't mean.

Anonymous said...

Women should not wear suits. Period.

Jacket and skirt combo is ok, but never pants and jacket. They come aross as unfeminine and lose points for that (think Hillary Clinton).

If the search committee is interested at all in hiring women, it's not because they can look and act like men, but because those women will be comfortable as women and bring all those feminine charms to the table.

A nice sweater, maybe a collared shirt underneath, skirt/pants, and nice and confident shoes (e.g., black boots) is always a hit. Please, don't look like an amateur interviewing for a job right out of college in a suit she's clearly never worn before.

Anonymous said...

On the scale of what matters, what you wear isn't anywhere near the top. If it makes you feel better about your chances to worry about this, worry away. If, instead, you want to focus on what matters, spend your time researching your interviewing schools, writing a paper, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, knitting....

All you need to know about dress is this: don't look like a moron.

Anonymous said...

1. Wear a suit. I spent years in a suit, working with people in suits, and interviewing people in suits. Wear a suit for the reasons outlined by others above. Here's another reason, which should appeal to your vanity: you will look good in a suit. Seriously, the man's suit (possibly the woman's as well, but I'm less certain about it) has survived and become standard among the vainest people in the world (politicians, business people, lawyers) because it looks good on people, and can be chosen/tailored to flatter them / hide their flaws. (Note: this assumes that it isn't falling apart, dirty, or ill-fitting.)

2. No one actively judges candidates on the basis of their clothes, except in extraordinary cases (e.g., the clothes are so distracting that they can't be ignored). But surely we can all agree that even reasonable, good-willed people are affected subconsciously; that's where dressing nicely comes in. If you really believe that it shouldn't matter, or that it only matters to people who aren't worth working alongside, then by all means wear whatever you like. Seriously, go nuts. Also, teaching undergrads in a tee shirt does show disrespect.

3. I wouldn't advise Men's Wearhouse as a first inexpensive choice; Jos. A Banks is a bit better, and their stuff is always (I mean that literally) on sale. I believe that at the sale prices they are comparable to MW. They also tend to have pretty good people on hand who can help with fit / advice / and tailoring. Anon at 8:56 gets it exactly right w/r/t to ill-fit. Way better to buy a cheap suit and spend 50-100 bucks on tailoring than to spend an extra 50-100 bucks on quality. Stick with navy or charcoal solids or very faint patterns (e.g., nails head or stripe). Solicit the help of the people in the store regarding size, fit, style (pleats/flat front, 2- or 3-button, regular or tall, etc.)

4. Other stuff matters. Buy a white shirt and a light blue shirt (you'll interview over two days, right?). Make sure that the neck is not too tight or too loose. (again, get help from the salesperson). Wrinkle-free versions at J. Banks are quite good. Two conservative ties from Marshall's, thrift store, or dad. Learn how to tie it so that it. Get a decent pair of black dress shoes. Wearing your doc martins with a suit looks weird. Wear dark socks (preferably that match your pants). Black belt. Always wear a white t-shirt under your dress shirt. No one wants to see your nipples and/or chest hair.

5. I also agree with the OP's suggestion to wear the suit several times before the interview. Go to dinner, go shopping at the mall (people will just think you're a business person).

6. This probably seems like a daunting list; it is more money to spend. I wish it were free. However, some of the stuff you'll use over and over (fly-outs, weddings, funerals, etc.) Also, though it seems a little daunting, the suit is liberating: you just put it on, and don't worry about choosing the right outfit.

7. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

(I'm the far-along junior prof who commented on the earlier "smoker do's" post; I have a good job and I hire into a good job)

Re. 10:07 -- You're completely wrong.
Women should wear suits. Most do, and those that don't look like they're unwilling to go to the trouble of buying a suit. You should wear a suit that you look good in. If you're a woman, you should feel beautiful in your suit. Not overly sexy or anything, but beautiful. For the record, there are plenty of well-cut pants suits that women look great in and that don't remotely look like the women are trying to be men. And as I said earlier, you can wear a brightly colored shirt or blouse with the suit.

Re. 10:19: because of all the ample psychological data on the way that how we present ourselves affects others' perceptions of us, every job candidate *should* take the time and money to obtain a suit in which he/she looks good. You're right "don't look like a moron" but the only way to do that is to wear a suit.

FemPhil said...

Anon 10:07:

Should I be sure to smile and giggle too? And get my hair and nails done beforehand? And defer to men in conversations, all the better to showcase my 'feminine charms'?

Stop being such a misogynist; it makes you sound like an idiot.

Anonymous said...

It explicitly came up for us once that one candidate was improperly dressed for his job talk. Maybe you think this shouldn't matter. But consider: getting what you want in academia (e.g. tenure, additional lines for your department, jobs for your students) often involves getting along with people and skillfully navigating the social world, and not dressing appropriately is a sign that you can't figure out social norms or that you're too self-righteous to follow them.

Also, you don't want to look like a grad student. You want to look like a future colleague. And putting on a suit helps with that -- it helps you look like a professional and it reminds you to act like a professional.

Finally, I agree with 10:38: suits for the ladies, too. Some can be purchased with both a skirt option and a pants option: if your flyout is in the north in February, you might want to be wearing pants. If you are worried about feeling too masculine, buy a shell or blouse to go with it rather than a shirt with a collar (alternatively, women's clothing stores like Ann Taylor make button shirts without collars that look great under suits).

Anonymous said...

The thing about women wearing suits to an academic interview is this: Unless you're applying for a dean's position, everyone knows that you will not be wearing a suit on a regular basis on the job. Some men do, but I have yet to see a female jr. professor do that.

So it comes across as political and disingenuous when a woman presents herself in such a way that's far removed from how she actually is or we know she will be.

Be yourself, but clean up a bit. Men who are totally uncomfortable in suits can get away without one, but you still need to look professional or business casual. If you must wear tie-dye or unusual colors, confine that personality to your tie.

Anonymous said...

i have one suit and one nice watch. but coming from a background of unreasonable wealth, both are *extremely* nice. i can't help but feel that in that getup, i don't look like someone who ought to be groveling for the kinds of jobs i'd grovel for.

still, i'd sure feel ridiculous buying a cheaper suit and watch so i'd look poorer in interviews.

which bullet should be bit?

GP said...

FWIW (3 interviews @ Eastern APA last year with one fly-out... though to be fair, my current TT job isn't any of these!):

I wore a brown pinstripe pantsuit from Marshall's to one of my interviews, and a gray pinstripe suit jacket/skirt combo from Fashion Bug to the other two (and uncollared shirts with both). I felt perfectly neutral: my clothes weren't anything to sneeze at, but they were unremarkable, which is (I think) exactly what you want. This is about philosophy, right?

Though one other data point that's worth noting: for my current job's on-campus visit, I wore an aquamarine sleeveless shell with black cardigan & black skirt the first day for my teaching demo, and a black shell with aquamarine skirt the next day for my talk. So... who knows.

Anonymous said...

Ha!

I've been on both sides of the interviewing fence a number of times. And yes, when young and worried, even I started out in a suit. Now I know better.

The only good advice here is not to look like a moron. Or, more to the point, look smartly dressed. But it needn't be a suit. Really, no-one gives a shit. Just look well put together. Wear whatever you would wear to a nice dinner at a decent restaurant. If that's a suit for you, cool. If it's some nice pants and a good shirt, terrific. If it's smart jeans and a sports coat, excellent.

As long as you are well put together and dressed smartly, folks won't notice, and they don't care.

Anon 10:38, like a few others, tells you to wear the suit to get used to it. The point here is slightly off: you want to be comfortable in what you wear. If that's a suit, so be it, but if it isn't, get comfy in something smart. As noted, in wearing this new suit " (people will just think you're a business person)." Hmmm. I wonder why? Is that b/c that's what business people wear to work. Oh my, yes it is. So guess what you should wear to an interview to be a CEO? Yup, a suit. (And a nice watch too?!!!)

But this isn't the business world. Some folks teach in suits, the rest don't. If you are they type who teaches in a suit, interview in one. If not, don't.

I don't teach in a suit, and I don't interview in one either. And no-one ever gives a shit about it.

Consider: dress for the interview as you would for the job. Guess wat truck driver's don't wear to interviews? Yup--suits. Is this a lack of respect? No, because it's out of keeping with the job. Our job can go suit or no suit, and so can you.

But dress smartly, because that's how you should dress to teach. And can the suit (buy some clothes you'll wear out to dinner and look good in).

And just because you'll all still worry. The clothes have never once come into the decision (no, not even at a hidden level).

Mr. Zero said...

The clothes have never once come into the decision (no, not even at a hidden level).

This is my favorite kind of comment.

Xenophon said...

Even assuming a couple of answers were not meant seriously, one conclusion seems to be that you're liable to fail someone's test no matter how you dress. So this is rather like questions about formatting CVs: there are rules that are more often followed than others, but few absolutes.

My take is to feel comfortable or you'll flub the most important parts of the interview: talking philosophy, being coherent, appearing confident. As long as you don't stand out too much, you'll probably be alright. If you've got the personality to match, dressing eccentrically might help you, but otherwise don't stand out too much from the pack. If you've been to APAs before, get an image in your mind of the grad students who looked confident in the interview room, form a composite, and dress like that.

As a general rule for men: blazer, full-button shirt, tie, nice slacks, and dress shoes are the norm. Smart jeans or leather jacket would work if this fits your style, but then you'll be remembered for this. I'd say get everything properly pressed, make sure your fly's zipped, and you're good. With a well-starched shirt the tie might even be optional. That's the minimum. Beyond that, your choices send cues about your personality, upbringing, and values. So dress isn't unimportant, but there aren't a lot of strict rules. Oh, do shower and shave.

I'd suspect the rules for women are similar. Your choices will still send clues about who you are: things like big, dangly earrings, lots of skin, or fancy shawls all attract attention, though in all cases most men aren't going to know how to interpret them. The safest choice is just to wear nice, clean, pressed clothes unless you want to stand out, but beyond that I doubt what you wear matters much.

I'd hire someone in a gorilla suit if the interview and teaching demo went really well, but that's just me. . . . No, on second thought, maybe I wouldn't.

Professor Procrastinate said...

Maybe Mr. Zero is being sarcastic, but I basically agree with "Ha!" @ 12:14pm.

I suppose I can't tell, really, whether clothes ever came into anyone's decision in my department; I only know it's never been mentioned. But nobody, NOBODY in my dept. wears a suit. Deans wear suits. Yeah, some older professors in other departments do wear them, but nobody in philosophy (here). It would not bother me even a tiny bit if a guy turned up to an interview without a jacket or tie. If you came in torn jeans, I guess I'd wonder if you were trying to make a statement, but even that wouldn't really bother me.

I understand the urge to want something, anything, that's actually under your control, to matter. And maybe it does at some places. But not in my department, and it sounds like it doesn't matter to 12:14, either.

Oh, and the idea that a woman in a suit looks too masculine and hurts her chances strikes me as absolutely ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to attempt to amplify and formalize something that has been said by a few people on the thread, which goes against what many people have been saying.

Way too many commenters have been proposing a false dichotomy between wearing a suit and wearing a tiedye with cut-offs. This is silly. Dressing for an academic interview in philosophy probably calls for a slightly spiffier look than one would sport as a prof teaching undergraduates, depending on one's views on how to dress for teaching. That does not mean a suit is required.

Way too many commenters have asserted that being under-dressed for an interview could result in being subconsciously judged, while somehow wearing a suit leaves one completely immune to this. Actually, even a well-fitting suit can result in subconscious judgment. You're being interviewed by philosophers. They will have strange views on all sorts of things. Given that suits are fairly rare in classrooms, by wearing one you're indicating that you may not know how to dress appropriately for academic situations. It's better than under-dressing, but will only be optimal if you happen to get interviewers who are subconsciously looking for deference.

Anon 10:38 has the wrong idea. Suits have won out as the standard man's fashion because almost anyone who is vaguely symmetrical can look OK in one, and many powerful people (particularly those in late middle age who have not taken care of themselves) can look good in little else. It also relates to the strong "any man who doesn't completely conform in the way they dress might have sex with other men" undercurrent that defined American male heterosexuality until recently. If the latter is what you're trying to deal with (in terms of subconscious judgment), a suit is not necessarily a safe choice anymore.

So: wear a suit if you're not confident that you can't dress as a professor would when attending a slightly-more-formal-than-usual social function. That lack of confidence, and therefore the suit, might be completely justified in many or most cases, but it's silly to suggest that a suit is the primary or even preferred choice. It may even be that, just as with an application to grad school, there is no one perfect choice. The horror.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:38 here.

I don't follow this:

It also relates to the strong "any man who doesn't completely conform in the way they dress might have sex with other men" undercurrent that defined American male heterosexuality until recently. If the latter is what you're trying to deal with (in terms of subconscious judgment), a suit is not necessarily a safe choice anymore."

As near as I can tell, you're saying that by wearing a suit, a man might be trying to avoid giving interviewers the subconscious impression that he has sex with men, but that wearing a suit is no longer a safe way to do that. Fair enough, I guess. But so?

You might also be saying that successfully looking like you don't have sex with men might be a negative. Perhaps.

I don't want to be dogmatic or claim that there is a single optimal choice. The stuff I said in my earlier post is for the vast majority of male grad students/early career philosophers on the job market, who I believe would do well to dress in a suit. Most of these people (rightly, in my view) haven't given much thought to how they dress in these kinds of settings. They--like I did in grad school and do now in my current academic position--dress very casually. But now they have to dress a lot better for the interview, and I think that the easiest way to do that such that one gives oneself the best chance of having the interview really be about substance is to wear a suit.

If someone has a pretty good sense of self and style, and can present him- or herself professionally in some other attire, or not be overly hetero-normative, or whatever, great. Seriously, I like interesting dressers. Most male philosophers are not like that, though.

The more likely mistake, and the one I really hate to see because some of my male colleagues have made it (though I of course cannot say that it cost them jobs), is dressing really badly. Ill-fitting pants, black shoes that look like basketball shoes, collar very loose w/ tie pulling it shut, small sportscoat, and whatnot.

Also, I don't quite get this:

That lack of confidence, and therefore the suit, might be completely justified in many or most cases, but it's silly to suggest that a suit is the primary or even preferred choice.

If the suit is completely justified in many or most cases, isn't it the case that the suit is the primary or preferred choice?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what all the fuss is about -- just be yourself, a suit or whatnot is fine, or even unwashed jeans and a pizza-stained shirt is fine. After all, we are Philosophers, not Lit Crit types, and the goal of the interview is to divine your intellectual qualities not your fashion sense.

Of course, if you're a woman you should dress up nice. No one likes a frump. But no one respects a slut, either, so don't go crazy. You shouldn't be too businessy, either, because a suit - especially one with pants - can make people think you're some kind of power-hungry bitch. So basically what works is an outfit that signals the right mix of smart, sexy, assertive, easygoing, fun, modest, charming, unthreatening, and available. Also, don't be too tall.

Anonymous said...

There are a ton of helpful comments on what to wear to an interview that I don't have yet. So I'm going to look really nice sitting home alone, perhaps despressingly drunk, on December 27th. Fuck.

Anonymous said...

From Anon803:

Yeah, Jesus would wear some nice comfortable and clean piece of clothing, such as a robe or kimono. But wait, everyone used to bring their slaves with them to important meetings - what if you need someone to fetch something for you during your interview, that's one of the great things that slaves used to do for their owners. Not bringing a slave to your interview is a sign of disrespect: bring at least one or two, maybe three, slaves with you to your interview - it shows that you take the interview seriously and that you want to express how seriously you take the interview.

Of course, this was a horrible argument for bringing, not to mention having, a slave anywhere two hundred years ago. It is just as horrible an argument today either for bringing slaves to interviews or for wearing suits to interviews.

Virtually everything I have read here on wearing suits is so institutionalized - it seems as though people do not realize how much they are rationalizing the perpetuation of stupid and perverse social norms that perpetuate all sorts of regretful and backward social phenomena, such as obedience to authority, etc.

Why aren't more people rallying support for wearing ordinary, clean, comfortable clothing to interviews?

The expectation for a male to wear a suit has the same motivation and moral status as the expectation for a woman to wear a long dress - with the difference being that gender stereotypes about clothing have harmed women much more and in more ways than men. The point, however, is the same.

Do you think the bankers did not give Ben and Jerry a loan to build a factory to manufacture more of their ice cream when they wore t-shirts, jeans, and dirty sneakers or roller skates to their loan/investment banker meeting?

We need more people like Ben and Jerry.

I contend that we can get jobs and impress search committees with our credentials and not with our clothing. Stop selling out. You've all been duped. Suit jackets and ties are incredibly outdated, inefficient pieces of clothing. Are most people too hoodwinked to see this?

Look at me, I'm anonymous said...

9:33 -- Let's grant that the suit is all a bunch of instutitionalized mumbo-jumbo and there's nothing objectively good about it. (Although I don't see how the comparison to the slave thing is apt: having slaves is morally wrong, are you suggesting that so is wearing a suit?) Still, to break the institutionalized expectation requires that someone buck the system. Are you telling the least powerful people in the profession --- the grad students going out on this year's job market --- that bucking the system is their job?

Anonymous said...

Here's why a very nice suit is not always best. What does it say? Well, that you are willing to play ball. Is that always good? Not necessarily. Imagine that the folks interviewing you don't want someone who they might perceive as too admnistrative. That can happen, and I suspect it does a lot. No one wants a slob, but a lot of philosophers also don't want a colleague who strikes them as a potential administrative chronie. Much of this will depend on the history of the department that a candidate doesn't know about. But the very nice suit is not always best and it can make you seem far too 'corporate' to a search committee full of philosophers. It is one thing to play the game, it is another to play it too far and come off as that crappy administrative type that no one (well almost no one) likes.

Sam Page said...

This is the first year since 2003 that I have not been on the philosophy job market. I don't miss it. My "permanent" position was terminated last year and I am protesting by taking care of my kids and thinking about alternate careers. Best of luck to all of you on the market.

Anonima said...

Guys, suits or not, avoid pleated front pants *at all costs*. The man who looks good in that was not yet engineered. It is an atrocity. Please.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:33 wrote,

"it seems as though people do not realize how much they are rationalizing the perpetuation of stupid and perverse social norms that perpetuate all sorts of regretful and backward social phenomena, such as obedience to authority, etc."

But is this the reason we wear them (or generally distinguish dressing formally vs. informally) now? I think not. You're right that how we dress is determined by social norms, but it's precisely for that reason that certain modes of dressing communicate something. It communicates respect. I'd feel the same if the group interviewing me was sitting around in cut up jeans, ratty t-shirts, unshaven, looking like shit. It's a 2 way street here. So I don't see any "obedience to authority". Anyway, what are the supposed "all sorts of regretful and backward social phenomena" that are being perpetuated here besides "obedience to authority". And what's wrong with authority, for that matter (in principle, mind you)?

Polacrilex said...

Anon 9:33.

1. It is only appropriate to bring one's sex slave to an interview if the AOS is in 20th century philosophy with a focus on Foucault.


Here are some other helpful fashion hints specific to philosophy positions:

2. Togas and sandals are more than appropriate for Ancient positions, although one should always make sure to sit properly when interviewing in said toga so as not to show of one's olive branch or goat's gruff. Drinking hemlock during the interview to show one's devotion to Ancient thought is frowned upon.

3. It is only appropriate to wear a suit of armor when interviewing for a Medieval position.

4. Those philosophers specializing in Modern philosophy do wise to wear a powdered wig if they specifically focus on the work of philosophers of the 18th century. If working on anyone following Kant, it is best to forgo the wig, but wear knickers.

5. Philosophers of science should always wear lab coats over a shirt and tie. Pants are optional. Those working in philosophy of medicine may do the same, but to wear a stethoscope around one's neck is a bit much.

6. What to wear if you're a feminist philosopher depends upon what wave you ride.
6a. First wave feminist philosophers should simply smoke cigarettes during the interview. This shows everyone who has the power!
6b. Second wave: Do not wear a bra. DO wear comfortable pants or jeans. Shirts are optional.
6c. Third wave feminists often benefit from wearing black leather, which should always include gloves. Spiked collar optional. Fake mustache optional.

7. Philosophers of economics, as well as business ethicists, should dress in a similar fashion to the Monopoly man.

8. Wittgenstein scholars should dress exactly like Wittgenstein.

9. Those philosophers who specialize in American philosophy, especially pragmatism, should definitely wear suits, but all elements of the suit should be wrinkle-free. If a suit is unavailable, these philosophers should opt for a tuxedo t-shirt and black jeans.

10. Philosophers of language, epistemology and metaphysics should dress like lemmings.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't more people rallying support for wearing ordinary, clean, comfortable clothing to interviews?

It's a question of power. If you think there's a chance the interviewers care, you might wear a suit just to play it safe. It's one thing to support it, another to do it. I'm years away from interviewing, but I'd bet a higher percentage of male candidates wear suits than of male interviewers. Can someone confirm or disconfirm this?

Anonymous said...

You wear a suit to the conference interview because it's an interview for a white collar, professional job.

The "But I won't wear a suit at work" argument is specious. There's no presumption that you would. Do you think surgeons wear scrubs to their interviews? Do you think experimental scientists wear lab coats?

When you get your fly-out and have to do a teaching demo, then you can dress (on the nice side of) how you think you'll be dressing in the job.

A JD/PhD said...

The last 10 yrs, I've sat on 2 search committees for the philosophy dept, 2 for the college of law, and a search committee for a Dean (College of Humanities).

How you dress is important, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
I work at University where a majority of the faculty dress business casual (think the LL Bean catalog or Kohls).

But for the interview, not dressing right can hurt your chances and for some reason, women do a much better job of dressing than men professionally in academia.

For men, as mentioned in previous post, make sure the suit fits well - spend a little extra to get the suit altered so it looks good on you, if you're a size 46L, don't buy a size 44. Wear the suit a few times before the interview and get comfortable in it. If you never owned a suit, look at the suit styles on the Lands End catalog.

You won't get a TT track position just based on what you wore to the interview, but dressing casually isn't good - remember during the interview process you're evaluating us and we are evaluating you - at the same time during the interview process on campus you never know who you who you'll be meeting on campus - one more than one instance when we've had a candidate who really stood out, I made it a point on short notice to invite the VP for Faculty or an Associate Dean to meet with the candidate, this is a good sign - and believe me, you want to make a good first impression.

As an administrator I'm looking at every faculty hire beyond their academic credentials- In terms of salary I'm spending about $400,000 on a new hire for the first seven years before tenure. This cost includes salary, benefits, professional support (i.e. travel) etc. - I'm looking at such variables as, contributions to the university and community at large as well as your talents as an academic. Is this someone who in a few years I might want to invite to the president's sky box during a football game to take part in a meeting with a donor? Is this a candidate who I want representing the university to a community group? Is this a candidate who is going to get involved with the life of the university?

In today's brutal economic environment, a faculty candidate must be a good investment for the campus as a whole as well the philosophy dept.

Glaucon said...

I want to second Anon 10:19am's advice (along with the second Anon 12:14pm and Anon 9:33pm): "Don't look like a moron." Isn't there enough job-market insanity without adding haberdashery-induced neurosis to the mix? And whatever you do, don't worry about your shoes: no one is going to be looking at your shoes. As someone wrote on this blog (or Philosophers Anonymous) last year, if you're going to focus on anything, get a decent haircut: your interviewers will be spending their time looking at your head.

The idea that not wearing a suit indicates that you're not serious about the job or are a raving egomaniac strikes me as ludicrous. Ties are nice, but does anyone really think that you're going to get because you wore a sport coat and an open-collared shirt as you otherwise nail the interview? Maybe I'm deluded, but I just can't believe that...

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:11:

I said:

That lack of confidence, and therefore the suit, might be completely justified in many or most cases, but it's silly to suggest that a suit is the primary or even preferred choice.

You asked, rhetorically:

If the suit is completely justified in many or most cases, isn't it the case that the suit is the primary or preferred choice?

I suppose "primary" is vague here -- I have to admit I'm not entirely sure what I meant by it. "Appropriate" would have been better. By "preferred" I meant preferred by the interviewers, or preferred generally by interviewers of prospective academic professors. So in that sense, their preference does not follow from the candidate's justification.

More generally, I'm saying that a suit is an appropriate default choice for someone who doesn't know any better, because it is a default choice in the wider society, so it will at least suggest effort, if not knowledge.

A JD/PhD said:

As an administrator I'm looking at every faculty hire beyond their academic credentials- In terms of salary I'm spending about $400,000 on a new hire for the first seven years before tenure. This cost includes salary, benefits, professional support (i.e. travel) etc. - I'm looking at such variables as, contributions to the university and community at large as well as your talents as an academic. Is this someone who in a few years I might want to invite to the president's sky box during a football game to take part in a meeting with a donor? Is this a candidate who I want representing the university to a community group? Is this a candidate who is going to get involved with the life of the university?

1) You are likely not spending any money on the candidate, your institution is. Salaries don't generally come out of the pockets of administrators. Your language suggests the icky self-entitlement all too common to your kind.

2) Would you dare screen scientific candidates this way, or do you just rely on how much grant money they'll pull in? I hope you're not at a research university, as you're apparently willing to screen based on traits like chumminess that should only be relevant to a small percentage of faculty (not much room in those sky-boxes). This is quite distinct from service, of course, which can be provided in a variety of ways.

3) Of course you have a law degree ...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and on this:

It also relates to the strong "any man who doesn't completely conform in the way they dress might have sex with other men" undercurrent that defined American male heterosexuality until recently. If the latter is what you're trying to deal with (in terms of subconscious judgment), a suit is not necessarily a safe choice anymore."

To which you (anon 10:18) said:

As near as I can tell, you're saying that by wearing a suit, a man might be trying to avoid giving interviewers the subconscious impression that he has sex with men, but that wearing a suit is no longer a safe way to do that. Fair enough, I guess. But so?

I am pretty much saying that, but the context is a bit more complicated. Primarily what I'm saying is that there being a single rigid standard of dress for men in recent history is related to this factor. In many European countries, if a guy finds a hat he thinks he looks good in, he can just wear it, it's not a big deal (not necessarily any hat, but a wide variety of hats). In the US, a hat choice will have to be pre-screened based on the degree of "friendly" harassment from friends it is likely to illicit, with that harassment mostly relating to whether it makes you look gay. If you don't think a great deal of male heterosexual culture continues to revolve around this sort of thing, I think you're crazy. (The strange thing is that if the hat-wearer turned out to actually be gay, it would be pretty much fine with a lot of these folks. But that's still how the culture works.)

However, larger cultural changes have broken down some standards of fashion, so wearing a suit doesn't automatically trigger subjective impressions of "normalness". Depending on the person, you'll look normal or abnormal. It isn't likely to be held against you in the moral sense, but it might be in the epistemic sense. Of course, other people will expect you to wear a suit, just because of the occasion. People are different. It's complicated.

adeimantus said...

Anon 6:13am:

but I'd bet a higher percentage of male candidates wear suits than of male interviewers. Can someone confirm or disconfirm this?

Well, I was on the market some time ago (more than a decade ago), and since then I've seen only my own colleagues at interviews, so my sample of interviewers is smallish and biased. But from what I've seen, yes, the percentage of interviewees wearing suits is much, much higher than the percentage of interviewers wearing them.

The JD/PhD administrator guy seems to live in a completely different academic world from mine, by the way. Very alien. Our administrators have virtually nothing to say about whom we hire, and if they had any they would be much more interested in whether the candidate could bring status to the university than how she or he dresses.

Anonymous said...

I've been on the hiring side of the table twice and, as a woman, I couldn't tell you if most men were wearing suits or nice slacks with a sport coat. It would, however, been the rare man who wasn't wearing a coat and tie (though as long as he was wearing something that was nice and looked as if he cared that we thought something positive about him it wouldn't have mattered).

My vague recollection is that most women *don't* wear skirts but, instead, nice slacks and a blazer, but, again, this is only a vague recollection. If you are not used to wearing skirts or dresses, then don't do it just for the interview.

Those of us hiring don't expect you to have really dressy wardrobes; we certainly don't. We are interviewing lots and lots of people (as many as we can fit in while we're there) if you are going to stand out in our mind because of your attire, at least be conscious of the impact you could be making and err on the side of caution (what that means to you, you'll have to decide).

We are fundamentally looking to hire a colleague who is going to be a good teacher, add to our department and be someone we will enjoy spending most of our waking ours with.

m.a. program faculty member said...

Put me in the 'don't look like a moron' camp. All you want to do, really, is not stand out. Otherwise, just dress in a way that you feel comfortable with, physically and psychologically. If putting on a nice suit makes you feel more confident, terrific, go ahead and wear one; you'll be fine. But if you prefer slacks and a sports jacket, no problem. I'd probably put on a tie, myself, but I think that a nicely ironed, non-stained, open-collar button-down shirt would be OK if that floats your boat.

Jeans would be a mistake. So would a daffy duck tie. The 'dress as you'd teach' standard is too lax; I teach in t-shirts or flannel shirts, depending on the weather, but interviewing in that getup would be inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

Will these people tell me what the salary is in the interview?

Anonymous said...

No! Do not ask about salary. That's not even determined with the administration until they are ready to make you an offer.

Anonymous said...

"In today's brutal economic environment, a faculty candidate must be a good investment for the campus as a whole as well the philosophy dept."

I just want to teach and do research

Matt said...

Always wear a white t-shirt under your dress shirt. No one wants to see your nipples and/or chest hair.

This really is important, especially if you're wearing a white shirt. Many white shirts can be seen through and you'll look like a gross slob if you don't have on an undershirt. Also, if you're nervous, a bit warm because of your jacket, and sweating, an undershirt helps keep you from pitting out. Many of the other bits of advice seem optional to me- shirt color, etc. But this is important (and cheap.)

Anonymous said...

as a member of a search committee, I've found the following also to be quite important.

Be good-looking and charming. We don't want to look at ugly, awkward people. Neither do our students. Be socialable and communicative, polite and respectful and at the same time outgoing. Have lots of personality and be able to put on display in the most appealing way! Also, be warm and modest. Avoid any display of common vices.

If you can pull that off, wearing a jacket, slacks and a tie (for the boys) is good. That way, we won't notice what you are wearing.

With that out of the way, can people please help me? I don't know what to wear in the interviews. I want to wear jeans and a collared shirt, but I feel like it's unfair to the candidates we are interviewing by dressing down. On the other hand, I don't own a suit.

Anonymous said...

A lot of these responses surprise me. I'm curious how many of the people in the "Men must wear suits or they look unprofessional so NO JOB! and Women must wear skirts or they look like lesbians so NO JOB!"-camp actually come from philosophy or if they are working in some other humanities field or are (like "a JD/PhD") administrators at heart.

I'm also pretty surprised to hear things like "If you wear a T-shirt to teach undergrads you're being disrespectful" or "Wear a nice watch".
I always thought that philosophy was more like physics or (maybe) math in the way dress was considered. That is, you're taken less seriously the more dressed up you are (other things being equal-ish), at least when giving a talk or something like that (I don't know about job interviews).

The idea, as I understood it, was that if you had to dress well to win your audience over, then you're ideas weren't good enough to impress your audience on their own.
That's not to say that dressing like a slob is a good idea on a job interview. Though I would think that a job candidate who was obviously going out of their way to dress to impress might arouse suspicion about their confidence in their own philosophical ability, but I could be way off the mark (or, as someone else already said, they might look too much like a super-corporate administrative-y douchebag, and then nobody except JD/PhD would hire them).

Certainly not looking like a moron is the best advice (I think someone said to dress as if you're being taken out to a nice-ish dinner and want to look appropriately dressed and grateful. This is a good idea. Though, it might be better to dress like you're being taken out to dinner immediately after you had to work (teach etc.), so wear something that wouldn't look out of place in either setting.).
Of course, if you're interest isn't really philosophy but rather chumming around with white-haired potential donors, then you better start looking through some watch catalogs.

Anonymous said...

I was at the APA last year as a job candidate. Here is what I saw:

It seemed that 90% of the male job candidates were wearing (matching) suits. The rest were wearing a coat and tie.

It seemed that 75% of the women were wearing (matching) suits with pants. Perhaps 20% or less wore (matching) suits with skirts. The rest didn't match but still looked nice, with either a jacket or a nice sweater.

If you want to blend in, it seems better to blend in with the other job candidates. Granted, this means you may not look like the interviewers look, but of course not--this is a situation with a power differential and the onus of formality is on you. They don't expect you to wear what you wear teaching. This is a job interview. It's a big deal. You show your seriousness by dressing up. If you've never been to the APA, you may be surprised at how formal it is compared to philosophy in general. Even some interviewers dress up when they otherwise wouldn't, as a show of respect to the job candidates.

Anonymous said...

I do think there's something in the suits-for-women-are-a-bit-wierd line of thought. Very few professional women wear suits, so they do look more formal.

For my last interview I wore a nice, tailored grey suit and a collared shirt. I got the job, but I looked like a banker, and I ended up taking off the suit jacket before going into the interview, because it felt like a bit much. Since then, i've discovered a range of outfits that make me feel like a grown-up academic, not a management consultant. They usually involve a well-tailored pair of trousers, and a nice sweater (a black turtleneck, while not something I gravitate towards, seems to give the right level of conservatism - I'm blonde and curvy, and anything that downplays this seems good). I think I'll give this a go at the APA, unless I walk in and feel hideously underdressed, in which case I'll run straight back to the power suit.

Anonymous said...

I have always dressed in a gimpsuit for my now very many philosophy job interviews