Friday, November 23, 2007

It Was the Suit That Got Me the Gig, It Was the Tear That Got Me the Girl

It's Black Friday, which of course can mean only one thing: it's time to go buy a tie for the APA.

Since PGOAT's been talking about what women have to wear for interviews, I figure I should pass along the best advice I got last year about how to dress. Committee Member #3 told me two things. First, you need to be comfortable. But second--and this is the really important thing--your outfit has to be completely forgettable. A search committee shouldn't be able to remember a single thing about what you were wearing when they're talking over your interview afterwards.

So how do you dress forgettably? My sense last year was, a suit's not going to cut it. They're way too dressy for guys. (Not so for women, who can wear a suit with an open-collared shirt and no tie.) The guys in suits at the APA stick out like they're wearing Hallowe'en costumes. Actually, it's worse than that, because they're wearing costumes, but it's not even Hallowe'en. They're wearing Hallowe'en costumes to job interviews, for god's sake.

So it's got to be a sport coat and tie. Anything less than that and you'll be the under-dressed guy.

So what kind of sport coat and tie? It can't be the awesome vintage ultra-suede coat you picked up at the Goodwill for $15. I know, I hear you--that's a really sweet coat. But it's not going to be to completely forgettable, is it? Seriously. Think about how philosophers dress. If you wear something that's actually cool, you might as well get a tattoo on your forehead that says, "Do not hire me to be a philosopher, because I am plainly not one."

What says, "I'm a philosopher! Hire me!"? Well, obviously you could get the job done with a shitty old sport coat that's two sizes too big because it was fitted when Reality Bites was still in theaters, jauntily paired with your alma mater's tie. And if you want to really trick that look out, you can wear huge glasses too. Because they make you look like an owl. Which makes you look wise. Which philosophers should be.

But even at the APA, we have to cling to some small measure of dignity, don't we? So put on a nice but understated sport coat and a nice but understated tie, and you'll blend right in. Which is exactly what you want to do.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. But here's the question: what do you do if you're applying for jobs in Business Ethics? I'm wondering to whether to splurge on a suit from, let's say, the Men's Wearhouse. Not a good one, in other words, but I'm thinking maybe two pieces of clothing should actually match. And then maybe sleep in it for a week so it looks philosopher's worn in.

Juniorperson said...

Well, unless you're applying for a Business Ethics job at a B-School (in which case you'll need the suit), I think dress as you would for any other philosophy job interview.

Anonymous said...

My impression is that plenty of folks wear suits for interviews. I think the hard question is what to wear at the smoker.

Anonymous said...

sorry, folks, but i don't do the tie-thing...and no, i'm not a prima donna or anything. but i nice shirt & jacket sans tie will just have to do...

i'm a philosopher. which means i'm too damned stupid to recall such practical matters as: "now which end do i loop and which end do i tuck?"

that's right...i wear the damned things so little that i can never remember how to tie'em. so to hell with it, says i.

Anonymous said...

I wore a suit and I got a job. (Dark grey, nothing too flashy). A navy sports jacket and nice-ish khakis or dress pants are the standard uniform. A *lot* of guys wear sweaters or sweater-vests with the sports jacket to convey the "I'm dressed up but still casual" image. Most everyone wears a tie.

Anonymous prima donna, I think you should consider wearing a tie--you're going to stick out in the crowd, in a bad way. I once ended up without a tie at a last minute interview (through the placement service) and the interviewers looked at me like I was wearing overalls. Maybe when Obama is president we'll finally all be liberated from ties.

Usually, smoker-wear and interview-wear are more or less the same kind of clothes, for job candidates.

God, I'm glad I don't have to do this bullshit this year.

Anonymous said...

How about suit with open collar button-down?

Anonymous said...

The two years I was on the market, I am pretty sure I wore the same thing to the smoker as I did during the day. Otherwise, I'd have needed four outfits instead of just two! I'm a woman, though, so the question here isn't a matter of ties and suits. I do think I changed into slightly more comfortable shoes, though. It's even harder to observe one's footwear during the smoker. Even though it's no longer actually a smoke-filled room, it's still kind of dark in there...

Anonymous said...

First, for those of you so down on MEN'S WEARHOUSE for having bad suits, you should actually check them out. Their cheapest suits can look a little cheap, but there are plenty of suits which are pretty inexpensive and still look good. Really, you'll need a suit for weddings and funerals, and if you ask mommy and daddy nicely, they might just buy you one for the holidays. Plus, you can get a pretty fly, overstocked designer suit at MW for several hundred bucks than retail.

But, forget my plug for MW for now. When it comes to interviews, I have to second the suggestions to anons that they must wear a jacket and tie (at least). This advice holds for all of you unless you think you are Dave Chalmers. Yes, there are a few gifted folks who can pull off a certain look based on their cvs, but unless you're sure you are a stud(ess), as they say on KID NATION, "Deal with it!".

Your goal should be to not upset people. This means that you shouldn't violate their expectations about what's appropriate. So, no tuxedos, no silk shirts/fancy-colored jean combos. I had plenty of fools tell me that you had to wear a grey suit as a guy at the APA. This isn't true. I wore a nice camel hair blazer and trousers (note, dockers, typically, ain't trousers, in this sense), and I closed 3/4 of my interviews (got next stage--job/campus visit). Some (typically older) folks will have expectations about what folks wear to interviews, and given how irrational the market is, it is pretty foolish to just expect to be above such expectations. Again, unless you are a superstar, dress with a little forethought. Everyone knows that you won't dress that way when you teach, but this is a special occasion, and you should think of it more like a wedding where you don't want to stand out.

As far as the open collar look, I'd recommend that for the smoker. Those of us who have taught for a while in cooler climes will have already adopted the blazer/cords/no tie outfit as a part of our daily lives, and I think that your interview suit, after dinner, minus the tie, also works well for the smoker. At a minimum, loosen the tie, unbutton the top button. But, I also think you can wear a blazer and trousers at the smoker (without any tie) and be fine. This, too, is fine when on a campus interview, during dinner, but not with the deans. You'll need to dress up sometimes...

Another issue is the dress shirt. I recommend oxford/broadcloth (Read:thick cotton, no crazy poly blends) for the shirts. You must not be able to see through them or sweat through them in normal (interview) circumstances.

Finally, I can't stress enough that you must be comfortable. Those folks who make fun of those of us in suits often pick on those who really never wear such stuff. If you're on the mkt for the first time and don't wear suits/jackets/ties normally, you need to practice. To comment on the original post, I don't think anyone comfortable in a suit will ever stand out in the way he suggests. That's what's great about the grey flannel suit--you can just wear it with a decent tie, shirt, and shoes (and for the love of god a belt!) and just be yourself, as long as you have worn a tie enough to understand how it affects your body temp. So, I agree that the suit can be cumbersome for some, but that fact shouldn't keep many folks from wearing it comfortably, or wearing it comfortably after some practice.

Good luck, all.

Anonymous said...

I guess most of really need just to "suck it up" and follow one or more of these written and/or unwritten rules of fashion for interviews and conference activities. However, I think it reflects an incredibly pathetic and superficial state of our culture. Of course, most people do not believe it is so superficial or pathetic. One side on this issue is being duped big time, serving - often unconsciously - social functions that maintain power and monetary (im)balances...

Can you imagine what Socrates might say in response to this fashion advice? Or how about Jesus?

Silverlining said...

I just found this blog this morning, and I've been wondering what I should wear! My plan is a skirt suit with heels (I'm female). I can't imagine not wearing heels with a skirt, anything else looks like something the cat dragged in! And we don't want to look like that, do we girls? But I don't see why the men can't wear suits as well. Personally, I love seeing a man in a suit, and I can't imagine that others would not feel the same way. My mother always used to say "first impressions are all you've got, my dear." So might as well make it a good one boys!

Anonymous said...

If you are a guy and you DONT wear a suit and tie you might stand out. I would advise wearing a suit like everyone else. Its a rite of passage

Good Luck
TT-Employed-at-Leiter-Ranked-School.

Anonymous said...

reckon that just means more job-openings for the lot of you...'cause i'll be that jackass sans tie. again, i shall re-iterate: i ain't wearing no tie!

Johhny Cash said...

Anon 7:41am: You mean jacket and tie, not suit, right? In my experience, most men do not wear suits at the APA (where by suit I mean the standard definition of pants and jacket being made out of the same material).

Men: Wear jacket and tie and nice shoes, but not tuxedo shoes. Either white or blue shirt is fine (but for god sakes make sure the tie matches your shirt and jacket). This isn't a political statement. This isn't a commentary on the state of affairs of philosophy. This is just what adults wear to meet perspective employers, especially in the winter in an east coast city. So suck it the fuck up.

PS If you absolutely, positively cannot be comfortable in a tie, then you shouldn't go for the Oceans 11 look instead. Find a conservative way to dress with a wool sweater and slacks or something like that. Remember committee member #3's excellent rule: you don't want them to remember your clothes.

Anonymous said...

Rules (for men) to Dress By (At least for the Eastern)

1. SUIT! Seriously. Most places interview around 10-15 people, so why do you want to immeditely group yourself with the two other schlubs wearing khakis and a blazer. Suit. Make sure that you get it fitted too; no matter how hot the suit, an ill fit makes you look like a bum. Unless you are allergic to style, there is absolutely no good reason to avoid the suit.

2.No linen suits either, Mark Twain. It's December and you are not on Safari.

3. Try not to over-impress. You walk in with a $5000 Thom Browne suit straight off of the 2009 Spring line, and everyone will say "Wow, look at that awesome suit. What a Jerk-Off!"

4. Buy two nice dress shirts and two nice ties, but make sure that they go with one another, that way, you have 4 outfits instead of two (flyouts).

5. Please do not wear trainers with your suit, even at the smoker.

6. Hide tattoos and piercings if possible.

Bonus Tip: Two beer maximum at the smoker. Once you get the job, show off your drunk dancing, bugs bunny tattoo and ten facial piercings all you want, but until then, play it cool, man, real cool.

Good Luck!

JP said...

I don't get it. Why wouldn't you want to stand out by looking your best? There are too many applicants and not enough jobs; blending in sounds like exactly the wrong thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for people on the other side of the table: how much do you actually see of candidates during the interview? I mean, you're sitting at a table, you see the shirt and tie and blazer. When the candidate is close enough to identify who it is, the shoes might not even be visible, or at least obvious. Smoker and on-campus are a different story, but for the campus interview at least, I'd think questions of suit versus blazer and of shoes are pretty much irrelevant (though high tops would probably stand out).

Liberal Arts Prof said...

OK, OK. How did the Brooks Brothers Bots find this Blog?

Male dress code for applicants from the standpoint of a hiring member:

Suit? Fine by me.
No suit? Fine by me too.

Blazer and Khakis is absolutely fine. But do suck it up and wear the tie. I say this painfully as I HATE ties, but I think it is the best move. I personally wouldn't care, but there are plenty who do, so dress conservatively.

As for the blending in advice. It is good. This process should be about your ability to present your ideas and teaching persona. Don't distract us with packaging that is either too slick or too crumpled.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the growing consensus that a suit and tie is a must for the interview. But what about at the smoker? Open collar surely, no? Or at least not a suit and tie ... Oder?

Anonymous said...

I wear a blazer and tie, maybe with matching pants and maybe not, whenever I'm at the conference: sessions, interviews, smoker. I might loosen the tie at night after sessions and interviews are over. I think that's the right strategy. It's a professional event, so you want to look professional. And I think that, if it communicates anything, it's that I'm focused on my ideas and not my clothes. Dressing down systematically seems too much like a sartorial strategy. Whereas I'm the guy who buys four of something when I find clothes I like.

Anonymous said...

Check out "Frump and Circumstance" in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Don't be a slob. Go and buy a tie.

Johnny Cash said...

For the smoker, you are safest wearing the same thing you were wearing earlier in the day, possibly loosened up. Removing the tie is probably OK, but I wouldn't recommend it to my students. Just be conservative in this situation.

Also, DO NOT DRINK AT ALL if you are a candidate. Get a club soda with lime or something. Mostly, you aren't going to end up talking very much to hiring committees (if at all). But if you do, having beer breath or any sign of intoxication isn't good. And this is for roughly the reason that Liberal Arts Professor suggests: Us younger folks don't care about this sort of thing very much. But there are lots of people around that do care (and who are looking to hire a nice young man). This is another one of the easy things about the hiring cycle that you have 100% control over (unlike how people, say, react to your writing sample). Such things are no brainers and shouldn't be fucked up.

I stick with my guns about no suit, but will admit that a casual suit (properly tailored, worn with ease) is fine. The thing is that a properly cut *casual suit* usually costs a lot more (sometimes 2 or 3 times more) than the functional equivalent sport jacket and slacks. So unless you want to burn a lot of money at a high end men's store, it isn't an ideal option.

A dressy dark suit is just too much in this situation. And a navy pinstripe looks too much like banker if you are on the job market.

Instead of thinking you have to do a blue blazer and tan slacks (which several commentators seem to have in mind), try a tweedy medium brown, or a hounds tooth, or something like that and wear dark slacks like black, grey (very in this season anon 8:57am!), olive, or even navy.

assistant professor said...

None of the men we interviewed last year wore a suit. Several didn't wear a tie. Nobody cared. (And most of them got jobs with other depts, so we weren't the only ones.) When I was on the market a few years ago there were a lot more suits; I bitterly resented wearing mine when the committees were made up of slobs. So I think the norms are relaxing somewhat, at least for men.

Top tip: if you buy new shoes, wear them a little before the conference starts, or your feet will be agony.

JP said...

Johnny Cash sez: "This is another one of the easy things about the hiring cycle that you have 100% control over (unlike how people, say, react to your writing sample)."

I doubt I have significantly more control over what hiring committees think of my outfit than I do over how they receive my writing sample. Fashion tastes can be stunningly idiosyncratic. The same is true of philosophical opinions, of course, but presumably to a much smaller degree (or our field is in worse shape than I thought it was!).

TT asst prof said...

Most of the comments here are wrong, seems to me. Or, at least, the advice of Committee Member #3 is wrong. Dead wrong.

If what CM3 meant was that you shouldn't look like a dork and be memorable as such, that's probably right. But it's probably not right that you shouldn't have a memorable style. To put this another way: Why the hell wouldn't you want to make an impression? We know from past experience that almost everybody else will look like a dork; so why should you look like a dork too?

Let's put it yet another way: If you're such a lame ass that you can't get your groove on and figure out what looks good and what doesn't look good, for god's sake, just go conservative. Tie, coat, tailored slacks. It won't hurt you, so long as you're not wearing your father's Searsucker. Or, (barf), khakis and loafers.

If, on the other hand, you have at least one of your eyeballs trained on the outside world, you should be looking to fit the persona of someone who is put together. You can do that by making an impression with _what you frickin wear_....

If a suit ain't your thing, pull off something else; but think of it in terms of what you want to convey. If you want to convey that you are a graduate student, dress all haggard and shit, like a graduate student. Hell, swab your eyes with isopropyl if it'll do the trick. If you want to look like a professional philosopher, dress like a professional who takes his life seriously. Get a good suit, or some outfit that conveys who you fancy yourself to be.

I swear: reading this stuff could make a person's head explode. There are thousands of styles of suits in the world, and bankers aren't the only people who wear suits. If you don't like the banker look, don't dress like a banker. Dress like an internet tycoon or an aspiring director. That's young, that's hip, and that's professional.

assistant professor said...

<< If you want to look like a professional philosopher, dress like a professional who takes his life seriously. Get a good suit, or some outfit that conveys who you fancy yourself to be.>>

No, if you really want to look like a professional philosopher, dress like a homeless person.

Try to be smart at the interview, but don't make yourself uncomfortable. If you dress up, get used to the clothes; some people put a suit on and look like the defendant, because they so clearly aren't used to anything except t-shirt and jeans.

Oh, and shave, but don't shave in a big last-minute hurry so that you cut yourself and bleed copiously over your collar during the interview. (It's happened.)

Committee Member #3 said...

tt asst professor thinks I am wrong and that you should take the APA as a chance to get your grove on. I don't think so, and I say this as someone who, like John Patrick Mason, likes the feel of a suit. The basic look of the APA is more like a dental convention than a night out in Vegas. If you are wearing something that looks nice and fits well you will be better dressed than 75% of the attendees. And this can be done without wearing a Hugo Boss suit.

Liberal Arts Prof nailed it above: "This process should be about your ability to present your ideas and teaching persona. Don't distract us with packaging that is either too slick or too crumpled." You want to look professional (i.e. not crumpled and not a dork) but you also don't want to look like Steve Jobs or George Clooney.

So if you want to wear a suit, where a nice one that isn't too dressy. Much easier to find a nice sport jacket and slacks and spend your time thinking about how you will talk about your dissertation and teaching.

Liberal Arts Prof said...

In case I wasn't clear:

Jacket and Tie = Yes, absolutely
Suit = Not necessary, but OK
Flashy Suit = I wouldn't, but YMMV

And yes, this IS one of the few things you can control in this process, so do it.

And do bring spares for everything. One of my good friends ended up getting food-poisoning from the hotel cafe and puked all over his freshly ironed trousers about 20 minutes before his only interview was to begin. He was able to run back to his room and change in time to get back.

Were this an American movie he would have, even after that, gotten the campus visit, the job, and the girl.

But because it is about an academic job search it's an Albanian movie, so he's still adjuncting at his degree institution. Maybe puke-stains would have impressed the SC. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

Um, first of all, most of you are writing as if the only job-seekers will be men. For example, wearing a jacket and tie is only (arguably) necessary if you are a man. Please be cognizant that there are women on the market, too.

Second, remember that although you are interviewing with philosophers, you will be officially offered a job by the dean/provost. You are not just representing philosophy-world when you have a job, but you are representing a large [multi-)billion-dollar institution, and some folks may get the willies if you can't even dress nice for your big interview. Maybe not everyone, but some people.

-anon (male) job seeker

Anonymous said...

Hey anon 10:20. I think this thread is about APA interviews, where there will not (likely) be any deans. It sounds like APA attire and on-campus interview attire may diverge somewhat. Also, there was a thread about women's attire a few posts ago. This thread is intentionally focused on men.

tt asst prof said...

Okay, I'm back.

I've been on both sides of the table, and I've talked with lots of people about the job market.

I think you should start looking now at professional business styles and start getting your groove on. You can look professional by playing with the suit look a bit. The suit isn't required, but it's a very good and safe bet. You won't go wrong by leaning into tradition.

On the other hand, I don't think a tie is mandatory, as some do, but you'll have to make a judgment call. If you forgo the tie you need to compensate with something else. I've seen some people wear scarves, though that's risky. Don't wear a bolo. You'll fly the dork flag with that one. You can go with an open collar, but not if you're wearing a white shirt, or a button down collar, with nothing else interesting. If you wear striking vertical stripes, it's probably better to go with a subtle tie. If you wear colorful diagonal stripes, or shirts with nice stitching, it's probably better to forgo the tie altogether.

Oh, and buy a nice belt; and polish your shoes; and wear your shit around town so you start to feel like your clothes match your person.

Much of this will depend on what fits the part -- your part, whatever that is. If you're an analytic epistemologist, bring a slide-rule and wear a pocket protector. If you're a Continental Marxist, wear wool trousers. And most importantly, if you're an existentialist, DO NOT wear that fucking beret!

What you should all be thinking is _how to fit the part_. You want to show that you're a force to be reckoned with; that the faculty will not be embarrassed to bring your case to the dean; that you can teach without being ridiculed for looking like you're fifteen-years-old.

More random thoughts: I'm at a Research I University now, on the 25-35 Leiter scale, but when I was a graduate student I helped conduct interviews for my liberal arts college.

One dude came to his interview with what was plainly a hangover. Needless to say, that was stupid. Another person looked like he had just rolled out of bed. That didn't win him any points, and because he didn't win any points, the burden was heavier on him to win points in other areas. He didn't. He seemed to treat his job like he expected it to roll out of bed with him. One woman came decked out as a goth. That was a little off-putting, because it was hard to take her seriously; and hard to imagine that she would _fit in_ at the liberal arts college, extremely progressive though it is.

And here's another cautionary tale: one person we interviewed came from a Leiter top-five school. This person was clearly super-duper smart, but a little too much so. He even dressed the part. He looked like he was born in a dusty bookstore. As a result of this, we nixed him. No fly-out even. He wouldn't have fit in with the school. Matter of fact, he didn't get a job anywhere. I followed his career for a few years after that. Same story for a few years in a row, though he did finally land at a satellite state university.

You want to fit the school, the department, and your role in that department. That will depend, largely, on what your role is. You all need to ask yourselves that question seriously now: who are you? Who do you want to be? What do you want to convey?

Just as you do when you write your papers, you should get feedback on outfits, on interview technique, on responses. Videotape yourselves. Wear your clothes to mock interviews. Take this seriously. The job market is a NIGHTMARE that you do not want to relive any more than you have to.

Good luck!

tt asst prof said...

BTW: nothing I say above should be taken to suggest that now is not the time for you to impress the committees with your work and research. (Plainly, if you look and talk like KFed, you're a moron who doesn't deserve a job in philosophy.) What I'm trying to say is simply that you need to figure out who you are, in many more ways than one. This involves dress as well. So, get your groove on.

What you do not want to do is to figure that out _at the interview_. By then it's too late.

Nate said...

Since some people brought up the "smoker". I was wondering, when is it? Also, are interviews grouped on selected days of the conference or are thy spread throughout?

If these questions shouldn't go here, perhaps PJM could make a new post on these logistical matters.

bob said...

I agree with Nate. It would be good to hear more about the smoker. In addition to Nate's question, I'd be interested to hear about the value of the smoker. Is it necessary or valuable to attend? Can it be skipped without decreasing your chances with schools you interview with?

assistant professor said...

Suits are expensive. I think for a grad student a good blazer is a better bet than a cheap suit, especially bearing in mind the dangers of spilling something on your pants; it is a good idea to have a second outfit, and not many grad students can afford two suits.

Nate, there will be a couple of smokers, although they aren't called that any more. Usually the conference runs from the 27th to the 30th and the smokers take place on the night of the 28th and the 29th. Most interviews will be on those days too, although some depts interview a dozen or more people and they'll spill over on to the last morning, probably. Last year we interviewed someone on the first evening, because everyone was in town early, but that is rare.

At the smoker many depts (but not all) will reserve a table where you can sit and meet some of the search cttee, along with other people from the institution, including their grad students who are looking for jobs. It's a huge ballroom full of tables and people milling around catching up.You don't need to dress as formally as you would at the interview.

Most job hunters are encouraged to go, and it's probably a good idea.

Go the night after your interview. Your interviewers really ought to invite you if they will be there, but don't freak out if they do not, since they may have forgotten. Don't just walk up to the table and say you enjoyed the interview. Think of something that was said at the interview and bring it up, or ask a specific question. Or try to drag the conversation around to something that you wanted to mention at the interview. You will, I assume, have googled the interviewing dept before you get to the conference, and will be well primed about their program; if you don't use that knowledge at the interview, do so at the smoker.

But don't just think of the conversation at the smoker as a second interview, since you'll probably just talk to one or two people and the atmosphere will be a lot different. Also, since it is more informal, you can be a bit freer, and ask more questions about the institution and its neighborhood. Or talk about jazz; you can let the conversation wander a bit. You have the chance to be yourself a bit more, since interviewers aren't expecting the android you get at interviews. People are more likely to hire someone they can talk to; so think of it as your chance for a bull session, including, but not limited to, philosophy.

And let me second what was said a few comments ago: get as many people at your institution as you can to run at least one mock interview for you. Encourage them to be brutal in their feedback. Videotape it if you can and go over it. My dept ran 3 mock interviews for me and I went over a tape with my advisor. Practice really helps. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and the better you will do.

Anonymous said...

Sports coat, gray, dark blue or black; chinos; an utterly forgettable tie; white or blue shirt; dark shoes, dark socks. That's the ticket, believe me. No suits, no flashy anything--unless you are competing Emory of Duke.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest that someone start a new thread on the smoker?

tt asst prof said...

"Sports coat, gray, dark blue or black; chinos; an utterly forgettable tie; white or blue shirt; dark shoes, dark socks. That's the ticket, believe me."

Sure. Blend in. Be forgettable. Don't dress to impress. Look like you're a manager at Target. After all, interviewers just want to get into your mind. They can't be distracted by the flashy get-ups of real professionals.

Whoever wrote this comment probably drives a car held together by duct tape -- hell, it works! -- runs WordPerfect on a 286, and thinks that the only relevant question regarding wine is between white or red.

Philosophers who think like this lack imagination. More than this, they're unrealistic about what goes on in philosophy and academia more generally.

Chinos died in the eighties. If you're digging that far back, you might as well wear a powdered wig.

Anonymous said...

Just another data point: I did not wear a tie to interviews last year and I got a good tt job. On the other hand, I only got one on-campus interview, and I suppose I may have missed out on some others for want of a tie.

I wore slacks, nice shirt, cashmere sweater, and corduroy jacket.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed this? A commenter writes,

"And let me second what was said a few comments ago: get as many people at your institution as you can to run at least one mock interview for you. Encourage them to be brutal in their feedback. Videotape it if you can and go over it. My dept ran 3 mock interviews for me and I went over a tape with my advisor. Practice really helps. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and the better you will do."

Am I the only one who thinks the idea of videotaping mock interviews is utterly ridiculous? Are we so caught up in the ridiculosity of the job market that we can no longer recognize when something is truly bizarre? I can understand going over a videotape of yourself if you are a professional athlete or enterainer. But an academic job-seeker analyzing videotape of a practice job interview? The fact that it might succeed in making you interview better does nothing to diminish my feeling that this is utterly gratuitous and borderline tacky. It's like kids hiring expensive coaches to craft their college application essays--it may give them an edge, but there is something fundamentally disturbing about it. It makes the process even more of a choreographed performance than it already is, and it creates an arms-race: if a small number of people are giving interviews that have been rehearsed and analyzed to the point of ultimate slickness, everyone else needs to do so as well or face a disadvantage.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing job-seekers for seeking out this sort of feedback. I'm criticizing the system that's allowed us to think this sort of feedback is appropriate. We might think that this sort of thing helps to reduce anxiety and make us feel more confident. But surely there is, on the whole, a lot more anxiety being generated by a system in which candidates are so ruthlessly scrutinized that they deem it necessary to analyze videotapes of themselves.

After all, the "performance" of the interview is only loosely correlated with the sorts of skills we are being hired for. If I was being hired mainly to teach a large lecture class, and if new hires were selected solely on the basis of a one-hour teaching presentation in front of a large lecture hall, then I suppose it might make sense for me to have someone tape me giving such a lecture and offer criticism so I could refine it. It would be the same if I were a voiceover artist and I was developing a demo tape to send to radio stations. But the APA interview is not me giving a demonstration of the main skills for which I will be hired--namely teaching and research. (Though it does give some evidence as to collegiality and on-the-spot reasoning ability.) Rather, it is just a job interview. Wouldn't it be great if we could make it less of a pageant?

assistant professor said...

Yes, the system is dumb. There is good empirical evidence that interviews give you at best no good information about someone's ability, and may give you negative information. That's why Princeton's philosophy dept. stopped interviewing people.

But while the system in place you have to deal with it. Therefore you should give yourself every advantage.

Anonymous said...

I can't really afford to get my groove on, any more than I can afford to know much about wine or I can afford to drive a car not held together with duct tape.

The cheaper stuff at Men's Warehouse is going to have to do.

you people are insane said...

Are you fucking kidding me? I'm dropping out tomorrow.