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What to Wear: Grad School Interview

  1. Jul 12, 2014 #1
    Okay, so I had a phone interview and I have an interview for a PhD program in Photonics this week. I know first impressions matter, so I want to know what to wear. I have a campus tour, lunch with the professor, a tour of the facilities etc. Online I'm seeing every suggestion from "not dirty clothes" to "a suit and tie". Any advice from this physics specific group? What did you wear? What do you expect those you interview to wear? Many thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2014 #2
    I never did a grad school interview, but I wore "business casual" (dress shirt, pants and shoes - no tie, no coat) when I visited campuses as a perspective graduate student. By that point, I had already been accepted.

    I think suit and tie would be good, but business casual would be good too. I would stop short of wearing a polo and dockers, just in case.

    You can maybe look up the professors pictures on their web sites. At one school I had a dept. head who wore jeans and sneakers to work. (But Im sure he didn't wear that to the interview.) At a different school I had a dept. head who wore a suit to work.
  4. Jul 12, 2014 #3
    Good call. I'm stuck somewhere between Khakis and an untucked, short hemmed button down (what I wear to work) and sport coat, slacks and a shirt/tie. At my last job interview, the engineer interviewing me seemed to question my practicality of wearing a charcoal suit in June. Same thing at the last wedding I was at. I was clearly overdressed and if it weren't for my friend rocking a suit and Bow tie I would have been a complete anomaly.
  5. Jul 12, 2014 #4
    I would say look nice. Maybe a tucked in button down, belt and dark jeans and nice shoes? Or you can go fancier.

    I never had an official 'interview' but I did meet a professor at a school. I wore a polo shirt, dark jeans and nice shoes. If that helps.
  6. Jul 13, 2014 #5
    People wear polo and khakis when they go to Olive Garden. This is a major special occasion. I wore a suit and tie to every single grad school interview session and I can't really remember anyone else at the interviews that didn't--or at least any male that didn't wear a tie.
  7. Jul 13, 2014 #6
    I'd say dress nice. But keep in mind you have to be comfortable in your outfit.
    It'll make you more at ease. Maybe that's because how universities are here (barely ever saw a professor/lecturer in a suit).
    A nice shirt, decent pants and clean shoes will go a long way.

    If you're sporting a beard, make sure it's trimmed a bit. Not be too rugged (3 weeks of not tending to a beard looks 'rough', avoid that).

    That's about all I would say.
  8. Jul 13, 2014 #7
    Being overdressed isn't good, but it's better than being underdressed. If you underdress, people are going to wonder whether you actually care about the interview--definitely not an impression you want to be giving off. If you overdress, people are going to wonder about your fashion sense, but at least they'll know that you cared enough to try.

    Edit: Just to share some of my personal experience with this, I've been both overdressed and underdressed for interviews. When I've overdressed, I've gotten a weird look or maybe a comment about how I'm "making everyone at the office look bad" or something. I've gotten job offers after being overdressed. One time when I was fresh out of highschool looking for a summer job, I underdressed for an interview (polo shirt and khakis) and I actually got sent home to "change into something nicer" before coming back for the interview. The whole thing was pretty embarrasing, and I didn't get the job. It was much worse than all the times I've been overdressed put together.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2014
  9. Jul 14, 2014 #8

    Thanks, I'm leaning towards a tie now, and perhaps a light sport coat? Also I'm meeting him for lunch I believe, is that generally more formal or less formal? Am I to assume it's black shoes only like a normal interview, or if I'm not wearing a suit are brown shoes ok?
  10. Jul 14, 2014 #9
    Yeah "business casual" (dress shirt, pants and shoes - no tie, no coat) is a happy medium, the suit wearers on the interview panel will appreciate the attempt at smartness, while the jeans wearing rebels will appreciate the rejection of the suit & tie.
  11. Aug 11, 2014 #10
    Also you might consider where you live. People seem to be a lot more formal on the east coast, as opposed to places like seattle where its acceptable to get married in a Seahawks jersey. Almost none of the professors at U of Washington wear suits to work.
  12. Aug 11, 2014 #11


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    I would wear a tucked in dress shirt, dress trousers, dress shoes. Bring a tie, but you can always take it off.
  13. Aug 11, 2014 #12


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    I, too, vote for business casual. Just make sure everything is ironed. Use a laundry service if you have to - just don't be rumpled.
  14. Aug 12, 2014 #13
    Always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  15. Aug 12, 2014 #14


    Staff: Mentor

    Wear socks...
  16. Aug 12, 2014 #15
    You may want to see Art of Manliness articles on interviews.
  17. Aug 12, 2014 #16


    Staff: Mentor

    Hopefully it will be changed to Humanliness...
  18. Aug 12, 2014 #17


    And honestly, I think whatever you go with will be fine. Just look nice. Meeting a physics professor doesn't require the same attire as going out for an investment banking interview. A shirt with a collar. If you want to be on the nicer side then a nice button down and slacks.

    When I went a met a professor I wore dark jeans a polo shirt. Then again it was California. So yeah :).
  19. Aug 12, 2014 #18
    Might be interestig if maverickmonk came back and told us what he actually wore last month, and if that choice felt like a good one or not.
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