Thursday, October 6, 2011

Request for Advice for Women In Particular About What to Wear for Interviews

An anonymous Smoker writes:

I'll be hitting the American and the European job market this fall. To avoid making a bad impression, I would like to know what conventions there are in academic interviews in the philosophy market. This varies a lot between disciplines (I've been told that in physics or computer sciences, people show up in t-shirt and jeans and successfully land jobs). I don't want to overdress, but I don't want to underdress either. I am especially interested in women's clothes, and also in the accessories (jewelry or not, makeup or not, length of heels, etc). Whenever I inquire about this to my mentors like my advisor, they remain very vague (e.g., just dress nicely), so it would be helpful to get specific information.

I don't really know anything about this, but one thing I have observed from following Mrs. Zero into such stores as Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Macy*s is that women have a lot more options than men when it comes to "dressing up," and not everything that would count as "dressing up" for a woman is the least bit professional, and that all this makes things tougher on women. So what do you say, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero


Elizabeth Harman said...

A woman on the philosophy job market should wear a simple suit, either a pants suit or a skirt suit. One can wear a bright colored blouse or thin sweater under the suit, but the suit probably shouldn't be a loud or bright color.
A modest heal is probably the right thing, though if you really prefer flats, that's fine as long as they'd look okay in a law office.
Simple, nice jewelry.
As to makeup: it's probably a good idea to wear some makeup, but it's not required if you hate makeup. (But note that most women will be wearing some.) You definitely should not wear heavy makeup, such as heavy eyeliner. Don't look like you're made up for a hot date.
Women should try to look good. You want to feel like you look good, so that you feel good about yourself. And as much as possible, try to feel like *yourself* even though you're not used to wearing suits. (If you're not.)
Women should be careful not to look like they are trying to look sexy -- nothing too low-cut, for example.

Anonymous said...

Wear a suit. Slacks or skirt, blouse, and suit jacket (I opted for pants suits, but I know plenty of women who have worn skirt suits and done fine). I wore makeup, but nothing like "going out" makeup. Just enough to not look like I just rolled out of bed. Basically: look professional. No, we don't tend to "look professional" in our every day lives as philosophers, but for an interview I'd say treat it as you would any professional interview in terms of how you apparel yourself.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

My advice: Wear a suit or something similar. Preferably pants, so that you can wear sensible shoes. (Recall that you might be going from hotel to hotel for interviews in the snow and ice.) I went on the market twice and the first year I was under-dressed (in a skirt and sweater that unfortunately made me look pregnant).

Cynthia Freeland said...

Hasn't this topic been done to death somewhere before--many times before? I could have sworn it was on here before, but can't find anything by searching. I'll endeavor to make suggestions based on many years as a woman in the profession and on some recent experiences of conducting interviews at the APA.

Many APA job candidates wear suits, though the interviewers tend not to. I don't think suits are generally regarded as necessary, but they are an easy choice if you can afford one since this is a uniform of sorts. For women I don't think it matters if the suit has slacks or a skirt. Just remember to wear something comfortable, not too tight or short, no high heels, shoes you can walk around in and stand in if need be. Nice slacks and a blazer could work and perhaps be cheaper than a suit for men and women. (I've known men who suffered terribly during interview season due to wearing brand new dress shoes. That's unfortunate. At least bring some back-ups.) It's also fine to wear nice slacks (or very neat and clean, not torn jeans) and a decent shirt, probably one with a collar and not a t-shirt featuring a band with skulls, etc. You don't want the clothing to distract from your presentation or dialogue. For this same reason I personally would advise against choosing bright flashy jewelry or loud ties, dangly earrings, etc. Avoid the obvious problems such as showing a lot of cleavage and/or wearing a fuzzy tight sweater. (Same for guys, please don't distract me by a shirt open to the waist and a lot of heavy gold chains!) Keep in mind that the eastern APA is usually in a cold climate and you may need a coat while outside, and/or a sweater/jacket indoors, but at the same time, sometimes hotel rooms are hot and stuffy and it is OK to remove a jacket if done gracefully with no fuss. The main things about presentation involve not so much dress, I'd say, as manner and manners: use good eye contact, speak clearly and not in too soft a voice (women can be harder to hear and many of us older folks have hearing loss!), smile some but not too much, show interest, don't rattle off your thesis spiel as if you have just done it 10 times before, etc.

Hope this helps and feel free to write me with more specific concerns or questions.

layton-fordham said...

I have not interviewed in academia, but at conferences and other professional events I usually opt for the feminine version of a suit: dress slacks, a button-down blouse, and a blazer. I have never felt out of place in that. I am sure there are other options, though, for people whose style is different that mine.

I would suggest this woman err on the conservative side of whatever she is considering. I suspect for a woman, this may be more important than the level of dressiness in being taken seriously. So if she opts for a dress I'd go for something with sleeves and that goes to near the knees, as a general rule of thumb.

Anonymous said...

The most important thing is that you feel comfortable in whatever you choose to wear. I think it is important to not draw too much attention to yourself with your clothing, while dressing in a way that helps bolster your self confidence and professional appearance.

I prefer to wear professional clothes that are feminine, but not too form fitting or revealing. For interviews I usually wear a suit - slacks and a jacket - with a simple top (I don't like button downs as they don't work so well on my figure), and low heels or flats. Especially for on campus interviews it is important to wear shoes you are comfortable doing a lot of walking in, as some sort of campus tour is usually included in your agenda. I wear a minimal amount of make up, just enough to look 'together' without looking 'done up'. And I wear simple jewelry that is not flashy - earrings and maybe a very simple necklace, depending on the shirt.

At the end of the day your clothes are unlikely to make or break an interview. Dressing in a way that will help you feel confident and as normal as possible, will however, help you interview well.

Mr. Zero said...

Hasn't this topic been done to death somewhere before--many times before?

Usually a "what to wear" discussion develops every year. However, since most of us are dudes, the discussion tends to focus on what dudes should wear and posts that address the needs of women get buried in the mix. So I agree with this correspondent that it would be nice to have a thread that focuses on interview attire for women.

Christopher Hitchcock said...

I am not an expert in women's apparel, but I want to second (or third) the suggestion to make sure what you wear is comfortable. You will be anxious enough without the need to constantly fidget because your clothes are itchy, too tight, etc.

For on campus interviews, especially, it can help to have something (a jacket or sweater) that you can put on or take off according to the demands of temperature. That also means that you should have something presentable under the jacket or sweater.

Elizabeth Harman said...

Cynthia Freeland's advice allows a more casual outfit than I would recommend.

Almost all job candidates are in suits and I think any job candidate not in a suit looks out of place, suggesting (a) this person doesn't know how things work, or (b) this person refuses to conform to professional norms.

I'm not saying it's great that things are this way, but that's how I think things are.

Mr. Zero said...

A small follow-up on the advice to wear something you are comfortable in: plan ahead a little bit, figure out what you're going to wear for the interview, and wear it as much as you can ahead of time. The only way to be comfortable in clothes like that is to be accustomed to wearing them, so you must get accustomed to wearing your clothes before the interview if you want to be comfortable in them during the interview.

BunnyHugger said...

I always wear a blazer and slacks to my interviews. No makeup, as I never wear makeup outside of costume parties. I feel comfortable in it and I think I look nice. On the other hand, the job I do have was the result purely of a phone interview, so perhaps I'm not a good person to take clothing advice from.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone else that you can't go wrong with a suit.

At the APA I wore a black pants suit with a dark blouse underneath on the first day and a dark, professional, knee-length dress the second day. On both days I wore stud earrings and a little makeup, just like I always do. On both days I wore black, 1-inch Mary Janes. I felt comfortable and confident in what I was wearing and was able to focus my attention on my interviews.

During my campus interviews, I wore the same black pants suit with a black blouse underneath on one day and if I was there for a second day I wore dress slacks and a white button-down shirt. Both days I wore comfortable black boots with a 1-inch heel. Afterwards, I was happy with the clothes that I had chosen to wear.

I also agree with Mr. Zero that you should decide on and wear your clothes ahead of time. If you teach, wear them while you teach. If you do a mock-interview, wear them during the mock-interview.

Good luck and have fun!

Anonymous said...

Lots of good advice here, especially re: looking conservative, feeling comfortable, and not making your clothes the focus.

Here is my fail-safe recipe for a professional outfit: slacks or suit pants (alternate option: skirt) + nice shirt + jacket + flats (alternate option: low heels). It helps to have most of your outfit in conservative colours, but feel free to throw in a shirt or a jacket in a bright colour if that makes you feel good. I don't really do makeup or jewellery, and I ended up with at least one job offer, so it seemed to work for me. Some of my friends did conservative makeup and small, pretty earrings/necklaces, and also got job offers.

Holly said...

My 2 cents: The best default option is a decent pair of slacks (not wrinkled, dirty, or holey; they don't have to be super-expensive for those on a grad school budget), a women's button-up dress shirt that still lets you move your arms/shoulders, and a crewneck or v-neck sweater to go over the top. And some kind of dark colored boring shoes you probably already own, slightly polished.

You can do something different if you feel like it, but I have consistently found this to a very safe default option. Wear as much makeup as you usually do, neither more nor less. If you buy new clothes for this, make sure you wear them on at least two occasion before you interview in them, i.e. find out ahead of time if the shoes give you blisters.

To be blunt, I have found women's suits to be hard to fit properly, so unless you pay for a tailor, you look like a kid playing dress-up.

In case this makes anyone less nervous: I bought half my interview clothes at Target and the other half at Gap. I did well in interviews and my clothing never played a role one way or the other. It was not noticed one way or the other, which really is a good way to go. No need to break the budget.

Prof. Kate said...

I adore turtlenecks and I'm always cold (especially at the APA, jeezuz), so my go-to interview outfit for the years, off and on, that I (successfully!) interviewed, was a single-layer turtleneck with dress pants or a skirt, and a jacket of some sort.

I've never worn a 'suit,' but the jacket really did spiff up my inevitable turtlenecks. I could shuck it without looking naked. I was exceedingly comfortable, because I was in a familiar and comfortable shirt, and never too hot or cold.

Women are disproportionately likely to be chilly people with lower blood pressure. When I get cold I actually shiver, my teeth chatter uncontrollably. To try to hide that, I clench my teeth and hold myself really tense, which comes across, er, badly.

Shoes, I always just wore black boots. Hey, I'm tromping through the snow in Boston to go to that gottverdammt APA hotel! No one ever seemed to notice the boots. Wear something neat, comfortable, and respectful of everyone's need to be comfortable and concentrate.

zombie said...

I'll reiterate what's been said before: simple, dark colored slacks and jacket, with pressed shirt or sweater underneath. Nothing low cut, nothing revealing. Socks to match your pants (that's a rule -- I didn't make it up.)

(Some body types are harder to fit in a jacket and buttoned shirt, but a dark cardigan or sweater will also work, as long as it looks pulled together.)

In my experience in grad school, at conferences, and as a prof, women in philosophy tend to dress more "professionally" than their male colleagues, and there is more variation in how male philosophers dress (jeans and sandals to tweedy types). What people on search committees wear: women typically wear what's been described above, or, if they are fashionable types, perhaps a nice, professional dress in neutral colors. Men either wear the old philosopher's uniform (corduroy blazer with elbow patches!), khakis, etc., or they wear a suit.

It's worth mentioning here that you want to dress up to the higher standard rather than the lower one -- say you have 4 or 5 interviews with different programs, and some of the interviewers will be more casually dressed, and some more suit-y. Dress up rather than down. No one will fault you for being a little overdressed for the room, as long as you're professional, but some might fault you for being underdressed.

Wear clean, comfortable shoes. (As has been mentioned above, pants allow you to wear a more casual dress shoe, or a boot, while your options are more limited in a dress or skirt.).You'll be wearing them all day, and you'll be walking in them. In my experience, you'll be standing around a lot too.

Same goes for campus interviews -- you'll see tremendous variation in how the people you meet will be dressed, but you're going to be meeting potential colleagues, students, and deans, so you want to dress to the higher (dean) standard rather than dressing down (like a student).

Anonymous said...

I can't stress enough how glad I was to have bought a quality pair of weatherized dress boots. They had a slight heel (maybe 2 inches), were water-proofed and looked professional. This came in handy during the Boston-nightmare snowstorm and the several campus visits in snowy places that I scored. You don't want to be wobbling on stilty heels at the smoker or struggling to keep up with faculty members on visits. Spend the money. Get good shoes, test them before your interviews.

(The rest: as people said, dark suit, with blouse/shirt in good taste, perhaps a cardigan to switch into when in more casual settings).

A point on make-up. I won't try to defend this comment. I think it's indefensible. But for what it's worth, I often think women who wear no make-up at all look tired, sick or as if they don't give a shit. Put a little mascara and blush on. A touch of color is the standard for important occasions, whether you think this social norm is justified or not.

BTW, I had 5 campus fly-outs and got a TT job, for what it's worth.

Cincinnatus C. said...

Oh, the candidate isn't wearing make-up, evidently doesn't give a shit, that's a 0.7 deduction.

BunnyHugger said...

Anon 6:27:

I won't try to defend this comment.

"I won't defend this highly insulting remark, but I'm going to throw it out there just the same"? I'd hope for better from a philosopher.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the most important thing is to be comfortable. I tried on suits, jackets etc for the job market but I looked completely ridiculous in all of them. That sort of "professional wear" simply does not suit my figure. I felt silly, like an imposter and even inadequate. I was worried that I wouldn't make the grade if I couldn't wear one of those suits since that was all the advice I got about what to wear from my department. In the end I opted for the sort of things I wear in the classroom (skirt and shirt usually) and it was fine. And I second Cynthia's advice about shoes! If you take new shoes, bring a spare pair for back-up. My first time interviewing at the APA, I had nice new shoes which gave me nothing but pain and I unexpectedly had to walk to nearby hotels for some of my interviews. For on-campuses make sure your shoes are comfortable -- they involve a lot of walking!

Anonymous said...

I think the point Anon 6:27 is trying to make is that although she doesn't think it OUGHT to be the case that women ought to be wear make-up, it IS the case that women will be perceived differently (perhaps only subconsciously) if they don't. FWIW, I know that I appear older and more mature when I wear make-up, especially a little eye make-up; this is probably especially true since I am blonde, so my eyelashes tend to blend it rather than providing definition without make-up. Should this matter? In an ideal world, no; but we don't live in one.

Anonymous said...

One more thing from the 3:30 anon (apropos of 6:27 and 2:19): If some typical piece of job market clothing makes you feel fake, don't do it. Ignore the people who tell you it's absolutely mandatory, or remind you repeatedly about how the little things count in other people's eyes. Within the category of "conservative", there is a lot of wiggle room, so pick an outfit that you can live with.

The jacket and button-down shirt feel fake to 2:19; makeup feels like drag to me. Maybe failure to wear the exact uniform comes with subtle social costs. But you know what comes with unsubtle social costs? Behaving like an insecure freak all day because you're dressed in a way that makes you really uncomfortable.

If you don't much care either way, wear the standard stuff described by Harman, but if parts of it make you really uncomfortable, for God's sake swap them out for something you can live with.

I am wide awake and healthy, which means I don't give a shit. When it comes to social anxiety, I recommend less giving a shit for everybody.

Anonymous said...

Bunnyhugger, 6:27 here. I assume a good philosopher, as 6:44 demonstrated, can make the distinction between the knee-jerk biases some of us have and our more considered judgments about the way we wish we judged. That was my point. You can write me off as an asshole, but I take it some people on this thread do want to know what kind of little biases are out there. If something as simple as putting some mascara on can make you look more professional, then that's information some would like to have. . . whether or not all people find it helpful.

How is this any different than noting that wearing blue jeans makes you look lazy and like you don't give a shit, even though in an ideal world, philosophers shouldn't be judged on their crappy clothes? Chill the fuck out.

Anonymous said...

This thread is really depressing. I would recommend wearing something that makes you feel like a well-dressed, together, version of yourself, whether you are the "torn cloak" kind of philosopher or a more sartorially adventurous kind.

I never ever wear flat shoes in public (they make me walk like a duck) and wouldn't dream of ditching my heels for an interview. But then I know how to walk in heels, and if you don't, don't practice at an APA interview. I would never dream of wearing one of those boring bank-manager suits that so many commenters here seem to be fond of. They make young women look like secretaries, and remove all personality instantaneously. There are plenty of better, professional-looking alternatives if you are not the bank-manager kind.

I also resent the "no-makeup, for-god's-sake-hide-your-breasts as best as you can" advice. It all plays to the stereotype that a body that looks stereotypically female cannot be a body with a philosopher's mind. Many women are curvaceous, and it doesn't make us stupid. And in many cases, it simply cannot be hidden unless we wear a sack. Women of certain ethnicities tend to have more curves than others, so the sentiment behind this kind of advice rubs me the wrong way. Sure, avoid cleavage if you can, but must we really go *out of our way* to hide our bodies to be taken seriously, while our male colleagues can wear shoulder pads as much as they like and still be taken seriously?

My first APA interviews many years ago were almost cancelled after I missed my connecting flight in Europe (a broken nose-wheel, we were told). I eventually made it to Boston (via St Paul, Minnesota), but my luggage was nowhere to be found, so I only had the clothes I had worn for the flight: bright fuchsia low-cut V-neck, brown wool pirate pants with orange stripes, high-heeled boots and a lovely Calvin Klein wool jacket with fake fur on the lapel. Since I didn't have any other clothes, I did my first five ones wearing exactly that, trying to keep the jacket on to prevent the stench of a transatlantic flight the day before from becoming too tangible. At least they met the real me, heels and all, and not some pretend-bank-manager me. I ended up having some extremely interesting philosophical discussions and if I'm not misremembering, at least one of my job offers that year came from a department that interviewed me that day.

Worst interview dress conundrum: an on-campus interview at a very prestigious university when I was eight months pregnant. They sure don't make maternity bank-manager suits, that's for sure. And your body *will* show.

CTS said...

I think (now) 5:02 makes a good point about the advice we give to one another: if we think it is ok to tell other women to not show cleavage or to not wear bright colors/big earrings, etc., why is it not acceptable to suggest that no makeup might have an adverse effect? I often see that ties are recommended for men. It makes no sense to me, but it seems to be a cultural marker.

Further, I would note that the hideous lights in many hotels really do wash out skin tones and turn lips bluish. I think this can be disadvantageous for both men and women; in our culture, women have the advantage of being able to wear makeup to offset those effects.

By the by, if someone prefers a simple dress to suits, she should ‘say yes to the dress.’

priestly said...

Some people (men and women) want their interviewer not to notice or remember what they're wearing. That's perfectly reasonable, and I believe several commenters, including Harman, are assuming that's the goal. Since, as these commenters say, a large majority of women on the job market are in fact wearing suits of some kind and wearing a small amount of make-up (and I have no idea what shoes they wear -- I'm a man and I don't notice shoes), the advice of these commenters is sound. More to the point, they have some knowledge useful in answering the question, "What will make me blend into the crowd?"

But other commenters are answering a question about personal style or ideology. Don't wear revealing clothes, don't worry about wearing revealing clothes, I love turtlenecks, women who wear no make-up look like they don't give a shit... The truth is that almost *nobody* is in any position to tell women what clothing actually helps them on the job market. The fact that one commenter wore fuchia and refused to dress like a secretary and thinks maybe she got a job offer out of one of those interviews is completely useless information.

I didn't mean for this to be a rant. But really, take this thread with a grain of salt, if you're a fifth year grad student woman. From the early comments you got the information about what *most* women will be wearing at the convention. And nobody here -- not me, not Mr. Zero, not Harman, nobody -- knows how you can use the biases, conscious and unconscious, of your male interviewers (almost all of them will be male) to your advantage.

TSS said...

Since we're talking about female-specific job application worries, this seems like a good place for my slightly thread-jacking question about overseas jobs: When one doesn't have vast experience with foreign travel,how does one find out whether the country in which one is about to apply for a job is a decent place to live as a Western woman? A couple of recent job postings are in Turkey, Singapore, and Bangledesh. Are any of these awful places to be female? If you don't have friends who have lived there, how do you find out? What say you, fellow Smokers?

Note: verification word "zativ": Can I adjust to the zativ customs in these places?

zombie said...

People other than bank managers wear suits (and ties, and dress shirts and shoes). I doubt I ever looked anything like a bank manager wearing my cheap suit.

Nobody ever said women should avoid wearing heels. If you're comfortable in heels, wear them. If you're not, don't. You don't want to be staggering around APA like a drunken sailor because your shoes hurt, or you don't know how to walk gracefully in heels.

The advice being given here (because asked for) is fairly generic job-seeking sartorial advice for someone looking for a professional job. Is there room for personal expression and style within the constraints (justified or not) of job-seeker fashion? Of course. No one here has said otherwise. Will some succeed in spite of (or maybe because of) being fashion rebels? Sure, why not? There are exceptions to every rule. But it strikes me that the question here was along the lines of "what are the rules (broadly construed) for dressing for APA interviews?" not "how do I express my individuality as a philosopher through my clothing during an APA interview?"

You've got your whole life to dress as you please. It doesn't strike me as unduly onerous, or evil, to have to dress differently for an interview. That's equally true for women and for men.

BunnyHugger said...

Anon 6:27 didn't say "your interviewers might think that you don't give a shit if you don't wear makeup," which is legitimate though depressing. The comment was "I often think women who wear no make-up at all look tired, sick or as if they don't give a shit" (emphasis mine). Anon 6:27 also didn't say "wearing no make-up sends a signal that you don't care enough about social conventions to bother dressing up for an interview," which would also arguably be legitimate. Rather, the remark was, in part, specifically aimed at saying people look unpleasant.

Given that more than one person (but, of course, notably me) had previously remarked that we don't wear makeup, it comes across as an insult. And I think someone who hedges by saying "Hey, I can't defend this, but I'm just putting it out there -- you look like hell!" should be called on it.

Anonymous said...

I agree about suits and APA interviews - it's hard to look good in other options (though I've tried various non-suit possibilities and felt reasonably okay). The trouble is that it is terribly hard to find suits that fit women well.
None of us will actually be able to afford this, but if we could, it would be so glorious to have suits custom made: (check out the beautiful options here:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I am actually going to comment on this, since I have a hard time believing that people don't know by this age how to dress for an interview, but here goes:

I don't think full blown suits are necessary for men, but a jacket is, I think, a necessity. Skip the elbow patches though. I once saw a guy on the job market who was wearing a navy blue jacket with a vest and a striped tie with elbow patches. Much to his chagrin, I referred to him as "prep school" the whole time.

I don't have the online identity YFNA for nothing, as some of you may have already decided :)

As for women, I think we can mix and match -- skirts with a nice blouse and a cardigan. Mismatched pants with a sport jacket, etc. A scarf maybe to dress up a white button down blouse (though I say: say "no" to black and white. It makes us look like waitresses). I really don't think this a hard question. As for make-up: it's supposed to invisibly make you look better -- so do that, though I really don't believe SC members will pay much attention to this. I hope!



BunnyHugger said...

I realize that the debate -- if it can really be called that -- between me and Anon 6:27 is essentially old news at this point. However, in deliberating about things later I realized I was unnecessarily shirty in the exchange and I'd like to offer apologies for my tone. I did and still do take exception to 6:27's remark, but I could have expressed the disagreement better than I did.

I come here in part for the camaraderie; at times it gives me needed solace to talk with (or more often, listen to) those who suffer some of the same frustrations and anxieties as I. It does me little good (especially since I'm not anonymous here and so my less flattering remarks will be remembered) to go out of my way to pick fights. I'd rather enjoy the company.

On a more useful note, several have made remarks that I substantially endorse. I think 2:13 ("don't do what makes you feel like an insecure freak," which is how I would feel wearing makeup) and priestly have the best comments.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I didn't wear a suit. Buying one that would fit me would have cost more than I am worth. I wore a tailored dress shirt in a boring pin-stripe, a k-mart black cardigan, and a knee-length grey, a-line skirt. I wore tights and a pair of sedate, square heels that I bought at a resale store. Though I normally dress like a 12 year-old boy, I practiced in my dress outfit and felt perfectly comfortable. I don't normally wear makeup, but I wore a little bit, really just a bit of concealer. So look nice and normal and, more importantly--have a good project, be intelligent, and be philosophically engaging, since that's what matters! I got four on-campus interviews, and I prefer to think what I wore had nothing to do with my success on the market. Since I got my job, I have purchased some nicer cardigans, though I still mostly dress like a 12 year-old boy.

Ben said...

I just saw this and thought it might be relevant:

Maybe not helpful, as such, but at least crazy advice for women is not confined to philosophy...

Anonymous said...

Dress for the job you want to have, I'd say. Wear the sort of clothing you would wear if you were already employed as a professor and were being asked to go to a somewhat formal occasion (as a job interview is). For me, that means a pantsuit of the sort you get at a nice department store for under $100--a matching jacket and pants. You can make this look more formal with a collared shirt in a neutral color, or less formal with a sleeveless shell or sweater in a more interesting color. For shoes, I'd go for something closed-toe and comfortable, since you're likely on your feet all day.

I don't think it hurts to be a little over-dressed and corporate-looking for the interview. It shows that you're taking it seriously and are capable of cleaning up for such occasions. If you get invited for an on-campus interview, there will invariably be some occasion to wear a nice sweater and slacks, presenting a less buttoned-down appearance. However, I want my colleagues from Day 1 to think of me as someone they are comfortable with as a leader. So I dress as if I were a department chair attending a somewhat formal event, or as if I were a female Dean or Provost. I think this is especially important if you are female (due to the sexism in this field), and for anyone who is timid. Sometimes having your "armor" on in the form of an attractive suit makes you feel correspondingly more confident and professional.