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Prof L

I want to reiterate that the advice on that blog ('the professor is in') is absolutely atrocious. "wear tights rather than stockings" (tights? what am I, 12? Who owns *tights* still? And wtf are stockings?) ... don't order dessert, don't order wine, 'press and dry clean' your clothes, bring extras ... all of this is extremely paranoid.

If you want some wine, order some wine. If you don't, don't. And (duh) don't get drunk. Order dessert if you want it. Wear clothes that are nice for you. If you are the kind of person who feels comfortable in a suit, wear a suit. If you are like the rest of us, and think that a suit makes you look like a young (and very uncomfortable) Hillary Clinton, wear a nice shirt with a cardigan and a skirt or slacks. Similarly, some men show up in Mens Warehouse suits that they might have pulled from their dad's closets. If it feels weird for you, it probably looks weird, too. The key is that your clothes be forgettable. Standing out for being extremely and uncomfortably formal OR extremely informal/dirty/sloppy is bad. But there's a lot of space in-between. The vast majority of people need no coaching here. Don't sweat it so much.

The advice I do agree with there is make sure your clothes fit and are reasonably modest. No one wants to see your bra through gaping holes between buttons, or the view offered by a too-high slit of a skirt that's off-kilter. But often times these problems are caused by people wearing clothes they do not usually wear. Like I break out that nice shirt I haven't worn since 15 pounds ago, and it gapes. I can think of ONE time when clothes counted against a candidate and it was for reasons like this. We all saw things we didn't want to see because his pants didn't fit.

I think the best advice is to wear your favorite professional clothes and be yourself. People want to get to know you. And no one's going to judge you for wanting dessert or a glass of wine with dinner.

hmmm ...

Just one remark on wine
Do not drink more wine than the host who is drinking the most. Other colleagues will say. "Oh, great, another alcoholic"


Prof L's advice is good, I think. Your clothes should be forgettable - but I'd emphasize that as much as possible they should be forgettable *for you too*. You don't want to be too cold or too hot, because those things are distracting. You don't want shoes that will give you blisters or will make your toes fall off during a New England campus tour in January. I often wear dresses to teach, with leggings and boots in the winter. That's been sufficiently professional and extremely comfortable for fly outs. Good luck!

Assistant Professor

The advice from Professor L (and the critiques of the Professor Is in Post that feels very much as dated as it is) are great. I agree that you should wear what you feel (mostly) comfortable in, recognizing that many people might not feel "comfortable" in dressier clothing, but should wear a version of dressier clothing that looks neat and professional to you (and doesn't look or feel like a costume). Consider practicing your job talk or teaching demo while wearing the outfit you plan to wear when you give it for real! That is a good way to catch any issues you might have with the outfit that could inhibit your performance.

What is key to remember is that we all have slightly different views on how a "professional" does/should dress and there is a lot of variation within academia/academic philosophy and even more variation among people from different backgrounds, generations, geographical and educational settings, and also if you are applying to less traditional jobs for philosophers. Taking a look at the faculty profile photos of the department might help give a sense of the informality or formality that it expects (if everyone has headshots taken by the campus photographer in suits is a different vibe than if people submit their own photos from a hiking trip, or with their pets or kids, for example). But I have never seen anyone be critiqued for being "overdressed" as long as they wore something that they looked comfortable wearing.

Things I wore as a feminine woman job seeker on interviews: a dress with either a blazer or cardigan over it, a well-tailored but not stuffy suit with a sweater or shirt under it that allowed me to take the jacket off and still have an outfit on if I felt over-dressed in the full suit, simple pants with a turtleneck and blazer, and always flat shoes because there is so much walking between locations. J. Crew and Everlane are good suiting resources for women and if you know your size you can often find them on the online second hand markets (I wore a second hand suit that I had tailored and it was cheaper than buying something new). I also encourage bringing layers of jackets and other warm gear because you are often moving between buildings (in winter) and make sure these things fit over your chosen outfits without crumpling them. I encourage packing things that are wrinkle resistant if possible.

Since we are talking about wine and dessert: it is always okay to just ask what other people are doing and not try to guess! Some programs can't pay for alcohol, for example. Some are happy to have a drink and dessert because work is paying for it all. If you don't want a drink and others are ordering one that is okay too and no one needs a reason. I remember one person telling me at an organized dinner that the restaurant "has a great cocktail program" which allowed me to say "If you are pointing that out then I guess it is okay then for me to order one!" (We all got a cocktail, it was great, I got the job.)


The Kelsky article recommends La Canadienne boots...which cost $565. Yikes! If you are on a tight budget (in the USA), thrift/consignment stores and bargain outlets like TJ Maxx, Marshall's, and Burlington are your friends. Rent The Runway is also a good option: they have nice coats and professional outfits from designer brands which you can usually rent for about 1/5 the price.

Lipstick: I SWEAR by Rimmel Provocalips. It's a long-wear that really does last the advertised 16 hours and (in my experience) basically never needs touching up, even after greasy meals or coffee. (Make sure you pack makeup remover, though - this stuff is no joke.)

From my own experience: don't count on the hotel providing shampoo or a working iron!


Agree with Professor L -- don't overthink it. I usually wore something that was half a step above my usual teaching outfit (so, I'd either have a shirt + black cardigan, or blazer, and slacks). I have never felt underdressed, but have since seen candidates who were *definitely* overdressed.
Anyway, you'll have enough other things to worry about on the visit, so wear something you like and are comfortable in.

Re. anonymouse comment: absolutely right. My worst ever flyout experience was a campus visit in the US, traveling from Europe (so, no portable electrics or shampoo). The hotel (or whatever they put me up in) didn't have an iron; they also happened to have the worst-smelling shampoo and shower gel I have ever seen (something like men's Old Spice from the 80's, that not even my dad would use... it was truly awful). It kind of bothered me all day. So yes, if you can, take your shampoo, perfume, or whatever you wear.

Outfit Tips

- It’s probably better to be overdressed than underdressed for any interview because it will convey that you’re serious about getting the job.
- Dress for the weather and a lot of standing and sitting. If it’s a cold/snowy place, layers are key because you may be walking between buildings in the cold and sweating from indoor heaters kicked up! Have a sweater or blazer to wear just in case you need to cover any sweat spots under your arms. For thin shirt material and layering too much, this is more likely to happen.
- Do the mirror test with your outfit standing and sitting: if you’re wearing high rise dress pants, the material will bunch in an unflattering way at your midsection, and if you’re wearing a skirt, you’ll see if it’s too short or immodest.
- Wrinkle-tips: look online for how to pack a suit properly to minimize the need to iron it at the hotel. Also, if there is an iron, make sure your clothes *can* be ironed. Check that it doesn’t hurt your outfit by testing it on something you don’t plan to wear. I had an iron that had residue on it, and would’ve left marks on my white shirt! You can also hang your clothes in the bathroom with steam from the shower to get out some wrinkles, but careful not to get them wet!
- Don’t limit your outfit search to what’s available in stores or your closet! Borrow clothes from friends! I shopped for scarves for a while, and I couldn’t find one that was a good weight to add color to my outfit. A friend had a box of scarves and lent one to me that was perfect.
- In case it helps to have another data point on what other women have worn, I had a fly out to a cold/snowy place last season (resulting in a job offer), and I wore a simple button down shirt, light weight colorful scarf, knee-length skirt, tights because of the cold, booties with a walkable block heel, tailored blazer, and a nice peacoat. I packed a sweater in my bag just in case. I was glad I did! It was more comfortable than the blazer when I was eating meals, and it helped *dress down* my outfit a little for the dinner with the committee at the end of the day. Also, I wore makeup like I always do (with a bold lip color), which some people advise not to do. I think that keeping my makeup the same as I’d normally wear it was a critical way to feel like I was still myself in clothes that I otherwise don’t wear!

Hope those tips help! I overthink this stuff, but it usually works out. Trust your gut. Best of luck!

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