The question says it all.

I am shortlisted for a campus interview at a state school in California. I was wondering about the dress code? Should I wear a suit or would it be too much?

EDIT: It's for CSU math position in Northern California.

  • 4
    Depends on the field. – Elizabeth Henning Nov 25 '18 at 21:13
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    Just wear what you think is aporopriate. The location of the school doesn't even matter. Sort of like saying wear a cowboy hat to an interview in Texas. – Sean Roberson Nov 25 '18 at 22:07
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    @SeanRoberson No. There are often regional differences within an industry in what is considered to be appropriate attire, and this includes academia. – Elizabeth Henning Nov 25 '18 at 23:35
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    Based on the username, I'm assuming the department is math, but it would be good to specify this as the answer would be very different if this was for a position at a business school. – BrianH Nov 26 '18 at 0:26
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    University of California vs Cal State might make a bit of difference. A suit is never wrong. – Jon Custer Nov 26 '18 at 1:21

I'm honestly just guessing here, but I'd think something along the lines of Business Casual or Smart Casual. Both of those are ambiguous, of course, but I think you'd stand out in a suit.

Of course San Francisco is more formal than LA or Berkeley, but academics in most fields are pretty laid back. If the interview will be long and includes evening events, you might want to have a suit available.


As a general rule of clothing, it's better to be overdressed than underdressed. In that spirit, I would err on the side of dressing a bit more formally than what you anticipate to be "normal" for interviews in your field.

In my interviews, I have seen candidates in the full range of clothing, from jeans and t-shirt all the way to a full suit and tie. Personally, I usually wore simple suit pants and shoes, a simple jacket, and either a long-sleeved shirt or a nice and well-ironed polo shirt. I usually combined a dark-ish suit with a more colorful, less formal, shirt.

That said, it probably does not matter much at all. As I said, I have seen people wear all kinds of clothes to their interview, and I have never seen a correlation with interview success one way or the other.


I believe the only correct answer is that you should call the admissions office of whatever program you're applying to and ask. Everything else is just guessing.

  • 4
    The tags say tenure track and job search so the admissions office is probably not going to be informative. – StrongBad Nov 26 '18 at 13:44
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    facepalm That's what I get for reading the questions too quickly. – eykanal Nov 27 '18 at 0:43

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