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SLAC Tenured Prof and Chair

I tend to operate this way and it has never let me down as far as I can tell. If I'm wearing a jacket, I won't wear a tie, and if I'm not wearing a jacket, I wear a tie (like with a sweater over a shirt or something similar). This way you're demonstrating that you're taking it seriously but don't look like you're interviewing for a corporate job as mentioned.

More important in my mind is to have reasonable lighting, be close to the camera and at the proper angle (not having it looking up your nose) and maybe most importantly of all, smile and show enthusiasm - this tends not to come across as well in video interviews so exaggerating it might not be a bad idea in my experience. For what it is worth, we've hired 4 times in 8 years and I'm basing my assessment on my own experience on the market and in hiring others recently.

Suits me

I think it does not hurt to wear a tie for a zoom interview. I do not know how things affect people subsconsciously, but anyone who gets an academic job should realize that there are contexts - like in meetings with senior administrators - where looking comfortable in a suit or jacket (or equivalent) is an asset.
Do you need to wear a different tie for the second interview ... No. People will not notice your tie, unless you wear a sponge bob tie in the first place.

Rolling Stone

More important, as others have noted: do not be backlit. Also, do not have your camera looking at you from below (i.e., don't have your laptop sitting flat on a desk, with you looming above it). Most important: prevent audio echoes by using headphones.

As far as clothing, as long as it is not distracting, I can't imagine anyone would care. For example, don't wear a band t-shirt. I wore a solid-color button up shirt to every one of my Zoom/Skype interviews in the past five years, and I got plenty of flyouts.


When discussing the merits of letters of recommendation, Marcus and others emphasize the importance of predictors of future success. This is because, I guess, they think that what matters when making hiring decisions should be a candidate's abilities to succeed in professional matters. But this thought is set aside when discussing attire. Whether someone wears a t-shirt as opposed to jacket and tie has no important connection to ability to succeed in one's professional activities. If consideration of things not predictive of ability to succeed should be eschewed in hiring, why not take a stand against it here? Why not say "This shouldn't matter, but bias or unreflective preferences or submission to convention make it important to wear..."?

Marcus Arvan

Non-mouse: good point! The issue here, I think, is that it is easier to change whether first-round interviews or letters of recommendation are used in hiring processes than it is to change implicit biases about how people dress. We can of course (and probably should) remind ourselves not to read too much into how people dress (which is, I think, a major reason that the workplace sartorial norms have become more casual over time). But still, there’s probably only so much we can do to combat biases like these (insofar as they can be subconscious and difficult to detect). For these reasons, I think it’s probably wise for candidates to care about this even if in an ideal world they shouldn’t have to.

Also, for what it’s worth, I think the tendency to judge people on how professionally they dress is (at least implicitly) assumed to track things that *do* matter for predicting future work performance. Consider the anachronistic saying, “You can judge a man by his shoes.” Why did people believe this (and why may some people still today)? The thought, as I was told growing up, was that it showed something about your character: if your shoes were shined, then that showed that you’re conscientious and pay attention to detail. I don’t know if any research that supports the inference from shoes to character. However, it *is* worth noting that certain factors of conscientiousness do predict future academic and job performance. https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.93.2.298

I think it is predictive traits like these that people *think* dressing style and interviews are good for measuring (“soft skills”). The issue, though, is that from a scientific perspective, if you want to know whether someone is conscientious, their accomplishments are a better representation of that then man how they dress or interview. Which is just another way of winding back to my general stance on these things: that a good hiring process should aim to minimize the role that interviews and how people dress play in hiring decisions. In other words, I agree with you!


Thanks for the response, Marcus! Two things:

You wrote: "However, it *is* worth noting that certain factors of conscientiousness do predict future academic and job performance." But this isn't exactly what the studies showed, right? Judging by the abstract, they (at best) showed a correlation in undergraduates between contientiuosness and academic performance, not *future* academic performance. This is a non-trivial point.

A more important point is that the best explanation of a candidate's wearing a t-shirt is personal style, not inattention to detail or lack of conscietiousness, at least when it is a candidate for a professorial position.

So, the studies you cited and the saying you mentioned are hardly relevant in this context. However, they could explain why someone (foolishly) believes that whether a candidate dressed "professionally" is an important consideration in making hiring decisions. Maybe that was your point.

Marcus Arvan

Hi non-mouse: You're welcome, and thanks to you for raising the issue!

A quick note: that was just one study, and I would have linked to more if I wasn't commenting on my phone. My understanding (from speaking with my IO-Psychology PHD spouse) is that there is a lot of research showing that particular facets of conscientiousness (e.g. dutifulness) are moderate to large predictors of academic and job success whereas other facets (including neatness!) are not. You can begin here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscientiousness#Academic_and_workplace_performance

Anyway, I agree with your overall point about dress! My point was merely that I think people take dress style to be indicative of things that matter: personality and character traits related to job-performance. I entirely agree that it's probably foolish to make such inferences. And indeed, I looked to see if there is any empirical research on how people dress actually predicting personality traits, etc., and I didn't find any.

I just figured that it's probably good to bring out into the open why many people probably think style of dress might matter.


Understood. Thanks!


First, I find the dress code in academic philosophy difficult, since it is so loose and varies from country to country/institution to institution. I always wore a suit without tie at the Skype interview and a suit with tie at the interview (especially in England). I never knew whether I was under- or overdressed (but I felt overdressed more often).
Second, I find it strange, if each aspect of the job interview is assessed from the narrow perspective of potential research output (although I agree that this is the most important aspect and I appreciate what I learn from Marcus about the science behind it). We are not only hired to write papers, but also to do service, for instance. Hence, you might have to negotiate funding for the department with the administration or engage with institutions (government, business) outside the university where dress codes are different. Dress codes are a (more or less silly) convention and if you abide to a dress code you show that you are willing to follow (more or less silly) conventions. The administrative (self-)organization of the university is full of these social conventions. And we have to participate in it. To give an overblown example: A candidate might be a nudist whose personal style is going naked. We nevertheless expect the nudist to show up dressed at work. And the nudist demonstrates the willingness to get dressed at work by getting dressed at the interview...
To summarize: we face tasks in academic philosophy for which non-essential features are important. Marcus, you actually pointed to such an additional task in your discussion of personal websites (which is a pretty similar case to getting dressed in way that is seen as appropriate) and argued for having a personal website--something that is not at all decisive for doing good research...


I just had an "on-campus" (but not really) interview with Zoom meetings spread over 5 days. I am a woman. For my "big day" with job talk and teaching demo, I wore a sort-of-turtleneck black blouse with a navy blazer and very present/sparkly necklace and matching earrings. I really could only accessorize my face, neck, and shoulders since nothing else was visible. In an in-person interview, I probably would have worn an elegant blue dress for the second day, but when I tried it on for Zoom, it did not look that dressy because, again, you could only see the shoulders and neckline, and the V neckline brought attention to my "naked" collar bone area. So for the other days I ended up choosing a dress with a collar and a flowered blouse with a necklace. I did wear two of the outfits twice because I was meeting with totally different people on the different days. I agree with the OP that it's better to err on the side of overdressing. I would just try everything out on Zoom and wear what you think makes you look your best (on Zoom). As others have said, pay attention to the lighting, background, sound, and camera angle. Practice with friends and ask them for feedback on your outfits!

Prof L

You want your clothes to not be noticed, typically. Unless you are a loud dresser, then you do you. But the rest of us who are just trying not to make a mistake: men can wear a button up shirt with a blazer. Women the same or a cardigan. —No one will object to that.

I’ve found that blouses can look a little unprofessional on zoom—is that a professional-looking blouse or just a cotton t-shirt? Hard to tell over zoom. Buttons make things easier.

Newly TT

Unrelated to attire but still relevant generally: invest in a good webcam and microphone. I actually think it makes a big difference, since you come out in HD and with good sound quality instead of a pixelated mess with tinny audio. I bought a webcam and mic set for all of my Skype interviews last year, before COVID made Zoom a thing. It happened that I could repurpose the same camera and mic for online teaching nowadays, but I think that it's worth it regardless! It's like a $100 investment and if it makes a difference, it pays off big-time.

Mike Titelbaum

Many schools have been doing first-round interviews online for years now. (So this is one area where the move to something like Zoom predates the pandemic.) My experience has been that in those interviews, candidates wear something pretty close to what they would wear in a live interview. I’m not endorsing this practice, but I think folks should know what others have been doing.

SLAC Tenured Prof and Chair

Also note, as has been mentioned, that where you are interviewing matters. I interviewed for, and received job offers from, numerous philosophy jobs in the UAE. At one point a Dean mentioned my attire (a suit) and commented on how male profs there were generally expected to wear suits and he sort of checked it off his list (that I was capable and prepared to dress professionally). Truthfully, I fell into this and didn't know in advance, but keep in mind that not everywhere operates on North American standards of dress either.

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