This interview is at a liberal arts college and will be 15 minutes. Is it necessary to wear a suit to this sort of interview or is it okay to wear a dress pants, dress shirt, and a tie?

Update: There seems to be some confusion about what I mean by 15 minutes. I meant that the interview is scheduled to be 15 minutes long. This is a math TT faculty interview at a SLAC.

I appreciate the good answers that I received below. Thank you.

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    Well the pants certainly don't matter Jan 31, 2021 at 5:23
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    Does this answer your question? Dressing etiquette for interviews in academia Jan 31, 2021 at 6:16
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    It may be true that different departments dress differently. Perhaps the Law School faculty wear black coat, white shirt, and tie; whereas the Art Department faculty may be OK wearing a sweatshirt with "Def Leppard" logo on it.
    – GEdgar
    Jan 31, 2021 at 12:48
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    @Buffy I read it to mean that the interview will be 15 minutes long, not in 15 minutes time. A 15 min interview for a TT position does seem unlikely though... Jan 31, 2021 at 14:34
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    In math most SLACs do an initial round of 15-30 minute interviews before narrowing down their list. Traditionally these were done at JMM but even before the pandemic a lot were moving online or at least gave online as an option. Jan 31, 2021 at 15:44

3 Answers 3


I hope this doesn't come too late to help you, but, for the possible benefit of future readers....

Let me suggest that appropriate wear for such an interview, assuming it is with faculty and possibly students, would be something like what you would typically wear to a face-to-face teaching session or lecture in that place. I don't remember ever wearing a tie to teach in a forty year career, for example. And yes, this might be somewhat less formal than you would wear to a face-to-face interview, but not necessarily.

For an interview with a dean or provost (which might happen at a small school) step it up one notch. A jacket over an Izod, perhaps. (I've dated myself with the Izod ref, I realize).

You need to project professionalism appropriate to your field and the position you seek, not formality. They aren't the same.

But there is another issue I'll mention for the ZOOM generation. Pay attention to the background of what is seen in your session. It is much better if it has a scholarly look (bookcases, say) than a messy room. And try to arrange it so that there won't be interruptions (family, pets, phones, ...) during the session.

Finally, note that this is a US perspective. There are other places that are more formal and others less formal than here. But if you consider what is typical dress for teaching (and/or research) in that place you should be fine.

If you are interviewing at a place with a different academic culture than what you are familiar with, note that many colleges and universities have set of faculty pages with photographs. That can give you a guide as to what that particular faculty is comfortable with.

  • 8
    I would go so far as to say that the background counts as part of your outfit.
    – ObscureOwl
    Jan 31, 2021 at 16:54
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    What is an Izod? Jan 31, 2021 at 18:03
  • @AzorAhai-him-, IZOD (Izod Lacoste) is a sportswear brand, but the word normally stands for their signature polo/golf shirt. It was good quality and was ubiquitous about 35 years ago. Lots of faculty had 10 or so of them in different colors. They still exist, but are now sort of rare. Old guys may still have a few in the bottom of their shirt drawer. Their logo then was a signature crocodile. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izod_Lacoste
    – Buffy
    Jan 31, 2021 at 19:11

My supervisor gave advice to another PhD student in our group doing post-doc interviews. He mentioned that since the zoom setting is more relaxed it is good to just wear a dress shirt, but if the interview is on-site, it would be better to go for the suit and dress shirt.

My partner also did a couple of tenure-track interviews and he went for the dress shirt which seemed totally fine.

These interviews were in the field of CS though.

  • 1
    People in CS wear ties for postdoc interviews? No kidding?
    – user151413
    Jan 31, 2021 at 16:51
  • you are right. I edited the answer.
    – ABIM
    Jan 31, 2021 at 17:55
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    People in CS wear suits for postdoc interviews? No kidding?
    – user151413
    Jan 31, 2021 at 19:55
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    That they do. At least, here in Europe :D
    – ABIM
    Jan 31, 2021 at 20:23
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    Interesting. Never saw this with mathematicians or physicists. (Faculty interviews is different.)
    – user151413
    Jan 31, 2021 at 22:04

This depends on the college. What you want to wear for a Reed interview or a Washington and Lee interview will be different. Most likely it's okay to ask them.

  • 10
    "I don't know how to dress" is not an appropriate message to send to a search committee. Jan 31, 2021 at 6:17
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    @AnonymousPhysicist: In my experience (from both sides), it is perfectly acceptable to ask and sometimes even expected that you ask. Search committee members know that each school (and sometimes each department) has a different culture and there is no way for an outsider to know what is appropriate without asking. Jan 31, 2021 at 6:28
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    @AnonymousPhysicist: It's actually not so easy to find out. There are some colleges where all their faculty turn out to be white people from their region, half of whom are alumni, and they start wondering why they have trouble hiring more diversely. A lot of times it's because their hiring process is expecting candidates to guess their local culture in various ways. Expecting candidates to guess your culture is not an inclusive practice, particularly if your culture is peculiar, as the cultures of many liberal arts colleges are. Jan 31, 2021 at 6:56
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    Sure, there are secret cultural differences which put applicants from a different culture at an unfair disadvantage. But clothing is not one of them. Clothing is not a secret. Jan 31, 2021 at 8:07
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    Asking if it's suit and tie or business casual isn't a weird question. It's pretty routine.
    – user133933
    Jan 31, 2021 at 15:05

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