Applying for an academic position doesn’t mean you need to look boring or stuffy. Express your personality, but if you’re not sure whether to wear something or not, err on the side of formality, and secondly on the side of comfort and simplicity. This doesn’t mean dress sloppily or to eschew all ornament; you do need to dress formally, but do not, for example, feel that you need to wear high heels to look professional.
This isn’t an attempt to police anybody’s appearance; rather, it should be taken as a list of things that you might not have thought about and may wish to keep in mind. It’s especially aimed at those who may be in graduate school and not yet had any experience going on a job market of any kind. (And, because of my own limited position, it’s also geared towards female-identifying individuals; please consider submitting a guide or additional tips that may speak to a broader array of experiences!)
- Consider the weather. Especially because most interviews and campus visits occur during wintertime, a low-heeled or flat boot/shoe is totally acceptable (for anyone), and will also decrease the very real chance of you turning an ankle as you trudge through unfamiliar, icy streets trying to find the interview location.
- You’ll be removing your coat before you enter the interview room, so feel free to go lightweight and wear a down coat (rather than heavy wool coat).
- If you use perfume/cologne or strong-smelling shampoo/hairspray etc., go very, very light. You’ll be sitting in a small, enclosed space with your interviewers, and you don’t want your perfume lingering long after you leave.
- Keep nails absolutely neutral: even subtle color can become very distracting when you start gesturing with your hands. Either leave your nails plain, get a subtle french manicure, or paint them in a very light taupe or peachy-pink.
- Bring a briefcase, satchel, or “adult” backpack large enough to carry your materials (see the Interview Packing List suggestions.)
- If you’re putting together an interview wardrobe entirely from scratch, it’s not going to be cheap: estimate a bare minimum of $300 if you’re buying new (although there are excellent deals on gently used officewear to be found locally and online). If you start early, you can also get significant deals by shopping during Black Friday/Cyber Monday, prowling eBay, and visiting your local Nordstrom Rack/Marshalls.