Surviving and thriving and getting that professional archives position.

Welcome. If you're here, you're probably wondering how to get some job--maybe the perfect professional archives position or maybe just something you can use as a springboard--and you're seeking advice on how to do that. From searching for advertisements to writing a resume or cover letter to making it through the interview. And hopefully even beyond.

No guarantees, you probably already know a lot of this, but maybe some help from a lot of people who want to make sure that good candidates get good jobs. If you've got better advice? or need further explanation? Please share in the comments.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Interview part 3: what to wear, what to wear

I threw this in as a gimme. I really had no idea what to expect. And since I didn't have any idea of what to expect, I just did a fill-in-the-blank question. And let respondents have at it. The majority of answers fell along the lines of business or business professional. I'm not certain if that means something specific to you. Business professional would mean suits to me but apparently it didn't to some of our respondents. 53 people answered this question. I was going to try and define this in numbers and what I quickly realized is that almost none of these people who provide definitions are using professional or business professional or business casual mean the same thing by it. So maybe this is a more anecdotal type of answer rather than a statistics type.

So for those who mentioned professional somewhere in their answer, here's description where provided:
  • Professional (with no further explanation): 5 counts
  • Professional and neat: 2 counts
  • Neat and professional, but business suits not expected/required.
  • Professional attire-doesn't have to overdress but neat and professional. To me a tie or business suit is overdressing.
  • I assume professional attire and demeanor. (This isn't entirely about clothes, is it?)
  • Professional, even if the job only requires business casual on a daily basis, the person should put their best foot forward and show that they are taking the interview seriously
  • Professional. Need not be formal business attire i.e. men do not necessarily have to wear ties, and women certainly do not have to wear skirts, but the attire worn should be businesslike as well as neat, clean, and otherwise presentable.
  • Professional, it does not have to be overly formal but it should look as if they care about their appearance and making a good impression
  • Professional. Men: suit or at least slacks and nice sweater. Women: ladies suit or nice slacks/skirt and sweater. Personally I like to see a little personal pizazz in there--tie reflective of his personal style or a fun scarf for her--but that's just because I want to see their personality and that they can be both professional and individual. Certainly not a deal breaker though.
  • Professional, better than what you usually wear to work, if you're hands-on
  • Professional, but does not need to be too dressy
  • Professional, but logical for the weather, length of interview, and location.
The professional/business combination:
  • Business professional (with no further explanation): 4 counts
  • our professional business attire which includes shirt and tie, jacket optional. I expect the candidate to find this information out for themselves. That lets me know something about them if they take the time to find out that info on their own.
  • Business/professional - we are in a corporate setting.
  • business professional - suits for men and women
  • Professional business attire, no exceptions
Business without professional or casual mentioned (that's coming in a moment):
  • Business (with no further explanation): 5 counts
  • business attire (tie & button down shirt for men, suit-coat optional).
  • Businessy but can be more creative than corporate.
  • Business attire. While the workplace is fairly casual dress, the interviewee should be their best dressed.
  • Business attire for women. Jacket and tie for men.
  • Business attire. Jacket, not necessarily suit.
Okay, can you see why I'm having a tough time doing counts? Looks like some of the ones who want professional attire consider suits to be business attire and some of the ones who want business attire consider suits to be professional attire. I swear, if I ever do this again, I'm going to find drawings of people in several different modes of dress and ask respondents to click on the ones they'd accept.

And on we go. For the ones who mentioned casual in some fashion as okay:
  • Business casual (with no explanation): 2 counts
  • At the minimum, business casual
  • As all of our hires have been graduate level students, I expect the candidates to wear, at the very least, business casual attire.
  • Business casual - as they would wear to the position on a meeting day. Formal suit/dress not required, but should be well groomed and neatly dressed.
  • professional casual. for a woman, pants are fine. for a man, khakis and tie are fine.
  • business attire to high-level business casual
  • We have a casual atmosphere so attire is less important but we would expect the person to be dressed in nicer clothes rather than street clothes but casual dress clothes are ok. I think this is highly dependent on the institution, work environment and the position. I wouldn't recommend casual to job seekers.
And last but not least, the very few that didn't mention business, professional or casual specifically:
  • dress respectfully. don't show a lot of skin. cover tattoos. remove facial hardware from piercings.
  • Smart, clean. Tie not required for men, but makes a better impression. No jeans.
  • We assume the candidate will never look better than on interview day.
  • Dressed in a suit or jacket.
With the exception of the third line in that last section (never look better than on interview day? Yikes. That was coming out of a private non-profit, by the way) and a few who were willing to accept casual, looks like most are aiming for you to be fairly well dressed and nobody is going to ding you too badly for being overdressed. The person who said a tie or suit was overdressing was one of our respondents from an academic institution, but then so were all the ones who wanted men to wear a tie. I don't know that we had any respondents from couture houses or fashion magazines: all bets could be off in a situation like that.

I typically wear a suit to interviews, or a jacket/skirt combo that can pass for one usually in fairly moderate colors. I have a terrific chartreuse suit that I will never wear to a job interview (though I have worn it to SAA a couple of times.) I'm more comfortable in skirts--which for me translates to greater psychological security during the interview--but I don't assume that candidates will wear skirts. Especially since it seems as if we've been doing our recruiting and interviews in winter and pants really are much more suitable to the climate. I've worn high-heeled pumps (no open toes or sandals ever, no matter how terrific the pedicure) to less than temperate locations, but I got more than a few strange looks and I ended up having to explain my rather peculiar coordination issues (I'm safer in heels than flats) which was probably more work than it was worth. I'm somewhat amused by the fact that I usually have to explain my tendency to wear heels--somebody eventually says something or worries aloud about the distances we're covering--when there was a time that the assumption was made that female candidates would be wearing such footwear. I'll also note that I too tend to assume that candidates will wear flats or low heels for the comfort and longevity factor but I'm not going to assume heels are overdressing. I suspect most of the rest of our respondents would disagree with me on that.

Whatever you decide on your shoes, they should probably be of a piece with the rest of your outfit (no trainers with suits, please) and in good condition. Sandals for men or women probably aren't sufficient. Same for any other accessories you might be bringing such as a laptop bag or such: the hot pink backpack that's so nice for the plane ride probably isn't the best option for hauling around at an interview. Is it going to matter much? Probably not, and from my perspective, any place that decides not to hire you because your attache wasn't leather probably isn't a place that you--the non-leather-attache-owning-candidate--would be comfortable working at.

Conclusions? I'm not sure I have many. Dress well, dress neatly. Only take chances with your attire if you're fairly certain it will be accepted or if you're certain you don't want to work at a place that couldn't deal with your fashion sense. Any of our recruiters who are doing the voyeur thing want to add anything? Any applicants have a specific outfit they want an opinion on?

Next up, heading into the interview questions section. And the next one is the entry for which writing it scares me more than any other single topic in this blog: the personality questions. Let's see how many people I can offend, hmm?

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