What should I wear to an interview to be a teaching professor?
July 5, 2013 8:53 AM   Subscribe

I have an interview next week for a teaching professor gig at the local college. What should I wear?

After teaching an undergraduate class during spring, I've been accepted to interview next week as a teaching professor at a local college. The college is the local branch of a state university, and this isn't an interview to be a full professor, so it'll be 2 hours or so rather than 2 days long. Part of the interview is a 10 minute long presentation that I'll be offering to the hiring committee along with anyone else who's interested enough to show up. I'm planning on getting the presentation together this weekend, pulling material from the lectures I made for the class I've already taught.

I've never interviewed for an academic position before. I had to meet with a committee of three people last fall to line up my class for spring, but it was really informal. It also was during cooler weather, and my wardrobe is stronger for winter than it is for hot weather.

Since I'm short on money, I've been trying to cobble together an interview outfit from things I already own. I'm willing to go suit shopping if I need to, however. I have a couple of pencil skirt possibilities - a grey plaid and a black and white tweed - that can be paired with an informal black blazer and a white ruched shell. Would that be appropriate? I'm a touch concerned about the black and whiteness of it all. Would it be too formal? Or, do I need an actual suit? Should I be trying to wear something memorable? I know this is a minor thing, but I'm obsessing over it.

Also, is it important to have a nice bag? I usually carry a very informal grey bag (this one) but am willing to look for something nicer.
posted by terrierhead to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In general, you don't want to be less dressed up than the people you're being interviewed by (except for the president or dean, if you're meeting with them, who will always seem completely overdressed to be on a college campus). Unfortunately, what that means may depend on your field.

In my field, biology, and I think in most other science fields, you are describing perfectly appropriate interview clothes. I basically wore the same thing that you're describing to all my interviews, substituting brown or grey slacks for the skirts. However, fields vary in their dressiness. Certainly in business, everybody seems to wear suits all the time, even at the suburban commuter school where I teach. And in many of the humanities and social sciences, women especially seem to wear suits to interviews.

It may also depend on where you are: if you were interviewing here in Atlanta in July, we would be surprised if you showed up in a black wool suit and hose. My impression from my own interviews is that other parts of the country (the northeast) are more formal.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:09 AM on July 5, 2013

I think what you've described sounds fine. If you're worried about the monochrome issue, wear/find a bright piece of jewelry; a necklace, a bracelet, etc. Or let your shoes be the pop of color. No hose. Alternatively, keep the white shell and black blazer and find a more summery skirt. Something red or orange or purple would be great. I'd especially get a new skirt if your only skirt options are wool and/or tweed.
posted by cooker girl at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2013

What you described sounds fine. Actually I think the formality of the black and whiteness is good since you won't be wearing a full suit. But I don't think you need to purchase a full suit (though if you already owned one, I'd just go with that to be extra safe). I would avoid "memorable" unless your career is fashion-based or something. I'd definitely carry a briefcase or professionally acceptable bag. No undergraduate tattered bookbag is what I'm getting at.

I did a three day interview, and I'm in the arts. On travel and social days I wore dresses. On the interview/presentation day I wore a full pant suit (black with dark pinstripes and a comfortable shell that I wouldn't mind showing the whole of if it got too hot with the suit jacket on (which it occasionally did)). At the same time I was interviewing, the chemistry department had a candidate in and on her interview day she wore a pencil skirt and a long-sleeved dressy blouse/sweater that also looked appropriate.

Check out the now-defunct but still helpful Academichic if you'd like to actually see what some women wore to interviews in different fields and for differing levels of position.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:23 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

this isn't an interview to be a full professor, so it'll be 2 hours or so rather than 2 days long

What's the nature of the job? Because if this boils down to adjuncting or some other variety of casual employment, I wouldn't spend much money on interview clothes. I don't think it makes much sense to spend $200 on clother for an interview where the only semi-guaranteed pay is a few grand in one semester.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:57 AM on July 5, 2013

Nthing that the outfit you're describing is perfectly appropriate.
posted by BrashTech at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for the advice! I tried on the skirts and they're just slightly too small. I'm thinking of a Target or JCP run to grab a new skirt. Academichic rec'd a nice bag, so I'll be checking out Target, JCP and Nordstrom Rack.

The position is for a 9 month renewable contract, where I'd be teaching 3 or 4 courses per semester. My advantages are that I've got career experience in the subjects I'd be teaching and that I've already taught one of the courses - I wrote it from scratch for the past semester. One disadvantage, I don't have a PhD.
posted by terrierhead at 10:04 AM on July 5, 2013

I would use your meeting last Spring as guidance for your level of dress now. What was the dressiest thing that was worn at your meeting in the Spring? Certainly, you don't want to be less dressy than that. Since, as you say, this is a more formal interview than before, I'd maybe go even one level of dressyness further than that.

Knowing how to read the nature of the place is key. For example, for my current job, I was interviewing at a liberal arts school in the sciences, so I quickly figured out that anything north of jeans was going to be fine for the interview.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2013

I think the bag you linked to is too informal and will clash with the outfit you've described. Ideally you want to carry something that will fit a writing pad or portfolio comfortably, including materials you may be handed during the interview, such as a folder with school information. A leather tote bag in black would be the most unobtrusive choice, but if that's not within your budget, a plain nylon briefcase will also work.
posted by needled at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2013

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